White House Iran Gaffe: Administration Rushes to Correct Claim Iran 'Has' Nuclear Weapons Program

The White House blamed a "clerical error" last night for a statement claiming that Iran has nuclear weapons, which if true would have constituted a clear violation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released the statement Monday, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a press conference outlined why he thought President Donald Trump should abandon the nuclear deal.

Donald Trump during his presidential campaign in September 2015, speaking at a rally organized by the Tea Party Patriots against the Iran nuclear deal in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. In the White House, Trump has continued to signal his hostility to the Iran deal. Getty Images

"These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people," the statement from Sanders read.

The statement contradicts the official position of the U.S. intelligence community, which says that Iran has suspended its nuclear program.

Trump has in the past strongly criticized the deal, and said that it has done nothing to curb Iranian aggression in the Middle East or curtail its ballistic missiles program. However, he has never accused Iran of breaking the agreement and attempting to build nuclear weapons.

The White House was quick to correct the initial statement, changing the word "has" to "had" in line with official intelligence assessments and the view of international monitors.

"Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people," read the revised statement.

NBC News reported that the White House blamed a "clerical error" for the mistaken claim.

So I called out White House Iran statement @Hardball because it contradicts CIA & Pompeo testimony that Iran is obeying nuclear deal. Who knew there's a White House clerk with the power to say HAS nuclear program instead of HAD weapons program. In the past NSC cleared statements

— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) May 1, 2018

Trump is widely expected to scrap the nuclear deal, under which Iran agreed to increased international inspections of its nuclear facilities in exchange for economic sanctions imposed by the West being lifted.

In his press conference Monday, Netanyahu claimed Israel had evidence that Iran had covertly sought to develop a nuclear weapon, and lied to the international community about it.

At the White House earlier Trump would not be drawn on what he intends to do when the May 12 deadline for ratifying the deal comes round.

"I'm not telling you what I'm doing, but a lot of people think they know," Mr. Trump said. "And on or before the 12th, we'll make a decision."