The State Department’s got 99 problems with Iran, but a 20% increase in their nuclear stockpile ain’t among them, according to Marie Harf. Pressed by the media for an answer on a New York Times story about the sharp increase in material during the Obama administration’s negotiations, Harf pronounced herself and her team “perplexed” at the concern. “There are some real issues, serious ones that we have to resolve in these talks,” Harf responded yesterday, “but this just isn’t one of them.”

See if this response fills you with confidence (via the Free Beacon):

Our team read that story this morning and was quite frankly perplexed because the main contentions of it are just totally inaccurate.

First, the notion in the story that western officials or U.S. officials involved were unaware of this issue or not understanding of what this entails is just absurd. Under the JPOA, Iran can fluctuate its numbers in terms of their stockpile. They can go up and down as long as at the end of fixed date they are back down below a number. So in the first two instances, the JPOA and the extension, that’s exactly what they’ve done. They’ve gone up, they’ve gone back down, and at the end of it, they’ve been where they need to be, and we fully expect that will happen again.

I would also say that the notion that Iran is doing something they’re not supposed to be doing, again is jut not accurate. They are permitted to go up and down under the JPOA as long as at the end of it, again they’re where they need to be. And then finally I would say, and you may have more questions, the notion that this is some obstacle is just patently absurd. They are permitted, again, to do what they are doing here, and they’ve always gotten where they need to be and we expect they will again.

And look, there are some real issues, serious ones that we have to resolve in these talks, and this just isn’t one of them. What matters is that they have committed already, and we said publicly to reducing their stockpile whenever this implemented 300 kilograms. The notion that this is some big issue of concern of negotiation is more manufacturing a controversy than actual reality. Everyone who read that story this morning was totally perplexed by it.

So these are the things we’ve learned from Harf:

  • The State Department considers concern over a 20% increase in Iranium nuclear stockpiles “absurd”
  • The entire team is “totally perplexed” why the New York Times would report on it
  • However, it’s apparently true, even while being “totally inaccurate,” because it’s “absurd” to think the State Department wasn’t already aware of it
  • Harf keeps repeating herself over and over to convince people that it doesn’t matter

A 20% increase in stockpiles during a negotiation isn’t “manufacturing a concern,” it’s a concern over manufacturing. Iran wants to manufacture nuclear weapons, and an increase in manufacturing the material needed to eventually make it should concern those who claim Iran is a trustworthy partner in negotiating an end to their weapons program. What Harf is doing is manufacturing a case that (a) the Iranians are misunderstood and (b) the State Department is smarter than everyone else, including the IAEA and the actual data.

Harf herself refutes (b) in this rambling, substance-free whining about the New York Times story. This dismissive, flip attitude about Iranian nuclear stockpiles — hey, no worries, we like totes got this! — makes the arrogance and naïveté of this State Department and White House effort all too clear. Not exactly a confidence builder in smart power here.