Today’s briefing by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spanned many topics, everything from the impending release of the IAEA’s report on Iran’s nuclear program to the actions of the Congressional ‘super committee’ to the proposed Keystone natural gas pipeline.
On the Iranian nuclear report, Carney’s common refrain was that he wouldn’t comment on a report that hasn’t been released yet, but he did expound a little bit on what the Obama administration expects to see when the IAEA releases its report this week:
We certainly expect it to echo and reinforce what we've been saying about Iran's behavior and it's failure to live up to its international obligations and it will, I'm sure, echo our concern about Iran's nuclear program. What I can also say, because of the leadership of this president, we have mobilized the international community in a way that has never existed before to take action to pressure Iran, to isolate Iran. We now have in place the most aggressive, isolating and debilitating sanctions regime ever. And that regime has had an impact, as the Iranian president himself recently noted. We continue to focus on a diplomatic channel and it is because of the kind of consensus that we've achieved at the international level among our partners and allies in dealing with Iran that we're able to continue to isolate and put pressure on Iran and to insist that Iran get right with the world and live up to its international obligations.
Just a day after a large anti-pipeline protest literally surrounded the White House, Carney was asked again about how involved the president will be in the final decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project:
This process, as we have said all along, resides as housed within the State Department. Both as called upon by an executive order that pre-dates this administration and by tradition that long pre-dates that. The process is an open one that in a sense while State Department runs it, it is required to take in input from a variety of agencies in the executive branch and it is absolutely going to take into account the criteria that the president laid out in that interview that you referenced with the television station in Omaha. And that includes both the jobs impact, the economic impact, public health impact, environmental health impact – all of those things here are very important to this process. In the end we fully expect the decision, the resolution of this issue, the determination, will reflect this president's views – it's his administration, the Obama administration – the State Department very much is a part of the Obama administration.
Somewhat interestingly, Carney avoided a questions about whether President Obama would commit to veto any bill that would weaken or get around the budgetary sequester if the ‘super committee’ fails to reach a compromise. Here’w what he said:
Congress passed this legislation not that many weeks ago – and created the sequester precisely because it was supposed to be onerous and designed to hold Congress' feet to the fire and force action. We think Congress ought to focus on its job and that it ought to move according to that legislation.