The false pretenses under which the Iran deal was sold

Ben Rhodes (AP file )photo

Ben Rhodes (AP file )photo

It isn’t often that a member of a presidential administration volunteers to deconstruct the entire image that administration has built for itself. It’s even more rare for the person who volunteers to do such a thing has been directly responsible for crafting that image from the beginning. Yet, that’s exactly what we have in the extraordinary piece New York Times Magazine recently published about “the aspiring novelist who became (Barack) Obama’s foreign-policy guru.”

That erstwhile novelist is Ben Rhodes, whose official title is Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications. Another way of describing his job is: spin-meister for national security issues. What makes the piece about Rhodes extraordinary — it’s certainly not the stylistic aspects — is how transparent Rhodes and his colleagues are about their efforts to obfuscate.

The piece has been widely discussed for a few reasons, notably the Rhodes quote about how the people covering international affairs even for many major publications are “27-year-olds” who “literally know nothing” — the implication being that the administration can tell them whatever it wants about what’s going on overseas, including the wisdom and consequences of its own policies, and they’ll buy them. This is a bit unfair to 27-year-olds, because the piece makes abundantly clear that even media voices of an older vintage are in on it, too, relaying thoughts from the “echo chamber” of “freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal” at “think tanks and on social media.”

The overwhelming impression given by the piece is that the image is the substance with this administration, at least when it comes to foreign policy.

Recall the mantra, as the Iran deal was being sold to hesitant Democrats and a skeptical public, that it was crucial to building up the “moderates” who’d recently won elections in Iran. Some of us pointed out at the time that this was a misnomer since, whatever the positions of those elected, those truly in charge of the country were the hard-line clerics and military officers. As it turns out, the alleged “moderates” weren’t even in place during the crux of the negotiations:

“In the narrative that Rhodes shaped, the ‘story’ of the Iran deal began in 2013, when a ‘moderate’ faction inside the Iranian regime led by Hassan Rouhani beat regime ‘hard-liners’ in an election and then began to pursue a policy of ‘openness,’ which included a newfound willingness to negotiate the dismantling of its illicit nuclear-weapons program. The president set out the timeline himself in his speech announcing the nuclear deal on July 14, 2015: ‘Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not.’ While the president’s statement was technically accurate — there had in fact been two years of formal negotiations leading up to the signing of the (agreement) — it was also actively misleading, because the most meaningful part of the negotiations with Iran had begun in mid-2012, many months before Rouhani and the ‘moderate’ camp were chosen in an election among candidates handpicked by Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The idea that there was a new reality in Iran was politically useful to the Obama administration. By obtaining broad public currency for the thought that there was a significant split in the regime, and that the administration was reaching out to moderate-minded Iranians who wanted peaceful relations with their neighbors and with America, Obama was able to evade what might have otherwise been a divisive but clarifying debate over the actual policy choices that his administration was making.”

This account is supported later in the piece with more details about the time frame of the talks, which makes perfectly clear the Obama administration did not wait for any moderation in Iran to begin exploring a deal to remove sanctions. This is actually more logical than the administration’s official explanation, given how dubious it is that the new regime — “chosen in an election among candidates handpicked by Iran’s supreme leader,” who most certainly isn’t a moderate — is any different from its predecessors.

Of course, as we can see from the way Iran continues to test ballistic missiles, as recently as this week, the very idea the regime is “moderate” is completely bogus. Considering how this administration showed it was ready to upend a longtime, bipartisan consensus on U.S. policy toward Iran without any changes from the latter, it’s no wonder Tehran feels these provocations won’t cost anything.

There’s more worth reading in the piece, including a send-up of the “sign of strength” line that is parroted by the administration’s apologists from time to time when one of its foreign policies blows up in its face. Give it 20 minutes of your time.

Reader Comments 0

72 comments
Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Obama thought to himself "mission accomplished" when Iran took that patrol boat and humiliated our sailors.

Bruno2
Bruno2

@Lil_Barry_Bailout I won't go as far as you in believing that Obama is cheering the demise of the US, but I am bothered by his rejection of American Exceptionalism.  That would be like Nick Saban saying that the Crimson Tide is ok, but that there are a lot of other great teams out there to admire. What?@#!?

I'm guessing that a good bit of the positive reaction to Trump's open nationalism is in reaction to Obama's wishy-washiness.  Libs don't want to hear that and start chanting "Bin Laden, Bin Laden", but that's how the man in the street sees it IMO.

MarkVV
MarkVV

On might even feel a moment of sympathy for conservative blog hosts, who must all the time keep coming up with attacks on the Obama administration, resulting in such scrapping of the bottom of a barrel as Kyle’s attempt based on the laughable David Samuels’ story, containing such pearls as the accusation that the President was “actively misleading” the public about Iran by a “technically correct” statement.

Of course, one can hardly be so naïve to expect that Kyle would write another column responding to the facts stated in the article in Politico by Joe Cirincione, cited here earlier today.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

IMO, not enough attention is given to Valerie Jarrett being Obama's top adviser and having been born in Iran.

Her parents were Americans working in Iran and they took her to London when she was five.

However, one has to wonder if she has an affinity for Iran which has influenced Obama?

Making the deal was obviously more important to Obama than the details of the deal.


Penses
Penses

@JohnnyReb @Hedley_Lammar

I saw a great comment on another site which said that liberals that trust Obama are too stupid to realize he's lying to them and those smart enough to realize that don't care - since the ends justify the means.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@JohnnyReb  IMO, not enough attention is given to Valerie Jarrett being Obama's top adviser and having been born in Iran.


Good god you cant be serious.

Penses
Penses

@Nick_Danger @JohnnyReb

ROFL. If you were to conquer your Google-phobia, you might be able to answer those questions without needing to be spoofed information from fellow bloggers. ;-)

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Hedley_Lammar @JohnnyReb you Libbies are extremely gullible when it comes to Obama and his deceit.

I would not be surprised of anything coming from him and his group.

He is very good at lying while looking directly into the camera with a straight face.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

We've been "gainfully" Grubered yet again.

The Art of OBAMA'S Schpiel.

The "gift" that keeps on giving American citizens the finger.

Penses
Penses

@FIGMO2

LOL. Do you know the story of Barnum 's "Egress"?

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Why it should be a surprise to anyone that the Obama administration would deceive the public is amazing.

The administration has deceived the public from almost the start on everything from economic measures to Obamacare to the group responsible for the Benghazi fallen.

Time after time economic data is reported only to be corrected later unfavorably.

Claims of deporting more illegals than past presidents are the result of new accounting under Obama where if an illegal is turned back at the border he is counted whereas before he was not counted.

You can keep your doctor,  you can keep your plan.

The unemployment number is low because of the millions who stopped looking for a job.

And, it was a terrorist attack on the Benghazi compound, not a protest that got out of hand due to a video.  Protesters do not carry around mortars.

No one knows why, but the email trail of Lois Lerner can't be found on the IRS scandal of attacking conservative groups.

And low and behold, the emails of Hillary's tech guy on the private server cannot be found at the State Department.

Soooo

If you think the Obama administration is the most transparent and the first in many years without a scandal, you are either blind or extremely naive.

The big question is, how on Earth has the Republicans let all this and I'm sure much more happen under their noses without doing a thing meaningful about it?

No wonder Trump is getting the votes. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@JohnnyReb Trumpo has gotten about 40% of GOP voters who showed up.


Good job running down all the phony scandals though.


JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Hedley_Lammar @JohnnyReb you are sooo yesterday, or actually, so Monday.

He got over 70% in yesterday's voting, and the previous two primaries won every county in every state.

Try to keep up.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@DwightGlover 

Samuels's story seems to make a lot less sense than Rhodes's does. 

Gotta think Kyle's "expose" is a big nothingburger, this time. 

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

I like the Iran oil on the market,  it would be there because the rest of the world likes it too.  Nice job on your country.

lvg
lvg

@DaltonbywayofBickley Nothing reported by Rhodes or Kyle  indicates a lack of transparency. Moderates in Iran have been reaching to U S since release of the two hikers in 2012. See my post below. I guess Obama and Kerry should have contacted Kyle and GOP mouthpieces while sensitive negotiations were going on with  lives at stake.

lvg
lvg

How about the image of a President who says he is going to invade and neutralize the Axis of Evil - Iraq , Iran and North Korea and then does nothing when Iran and North Korea start arming themselves with nuclear weapons after Iraq is taken over by the US. Then same President sits back and does nothing to stop the nuclear arms race he created?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

When patriot-genius Obama isn't being incompetent (Libya) or cowardly (Syria), he's undermining democratic allies and strengthening Islamofascist Iran.

He and those who support him are traitors.

lvg
lvg

@Lil_Barry_Bailout How's that Congressional resolution for US miltary action in Syria coming along?

lvg
lvg

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @DaltonbywayofBickley You mean like challenging the Saudis who are the source of Radical Islam? or killing Ben Laden or helping Iraqis defend themselves against ISIS by forcing them to have a unified government and military or killing dozens of top terrorists by drone and special forces. Yeah all signs of a traitor. Can't trust those kind of people.

lvg
lvg

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @lvg Yes when majority of Americans are against military action expanding in the Mideast and Syria in particular.

lvg
lvg

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @lvg Depends on why we are there. If it is to combat ISIS and terrorism -No. That war was authorized in 2001. If it is to combat Assad, the Iranians and Russia- definitely yes.

Penses
Penses

ROFL. Who is Ben Rhodes? A Gruber by another name. If anyone doesn't realize what a liar Obama is, he is an ostrich.

lvg
lvg

@Penses Republicans have a much better equivalent to Rhodes- Dan Sinor or the US "Baghdad Bob" whose  job was to put out false stories about the war in Iraq under Bush. He was Romney's top foreign policy adviser.

Kyle would not dare write about him and his whoppers that he fed the media. Of course when the Black Muslim from Kenya hires someone to act as PR person on foreign policy briefings especially on sensitive negotiations and security issues, the Cons pounce and claim foul. That is why Trump is their man.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Funny being sold a narrative of lies and deceit coming on the heels of a corrupt Administration ( Iraq War ) that DID lie to us and got 5,000 + servicemen killed in the process.


As mentioned before this is a mountain out of a molehill.


And yes Iran is moderating. Rapidly. As shown by their elections. I realize the old guard still has control. But that too will change.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iran-state-media-moderate-reformist-bloc-wins-more-seats/2016/04/30/53f8a0c2-0e9b-11e6-bc53-db634ca94a2a_story.html

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar "As shown by their elections. I realize the old guard still has control. But that too will change."

Don't hold your breath waiting for change to come while "the old guard" still selects the candidates allowed to run for office.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

This is supposed to be a surprise?  After Obamacare was sold with lies and deceptions, why would anyone credit this regime with being honest brokers?  They seem to be focused solely on accomplishing something that they can point to as Obama's legacy. They hope to elect a Democrat to succeed him in order to prop up these disingenuous "accomplishments, otherwise they face having the truth get out there.  


And Kyle, you were promoting giving Obama TPA authority to negotiate a deal, like we could trust him to do what is right for America.  Now even Hillary sees that we were sold out as usual by this regime. 

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Hillary's outrage over TPA is as fake as the wrinkled, flabby covering over her robot frame and circuit boards.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@RafeHollister  "accomplishments, otherwise they face having the truth get out there.


How long will it take for the "truth to get out there" ?


And Kyle, you were promoting giving Obama TPA authority to negotiate a deal, like we could trust him to do what is right for America. 


You can see the Trump nomination encapsulated right here.


They honestly think Obama wants to harm America intentionally.  Presumably because he is secretly a Muslim or some other nonsense.


Whatever I though about Bush, and I thought he was an idiot, I never questioned he was doing what he thought was the right thing.



Penses
Penses

@Hedley_Lammar @RafeHollister

"Whatever I though about Bush, and I thought he was an idiot, I never questioned he was doing what he thought was the right thing."

Some people wouldn't recognize an idiot if they saw one in the mirror. Guess you didn't know that Gore and Kennedy likewise had C averages in college, huh?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RafeHollister You have to understand what TPA is: the ability to negotiate an agreement which is then voted up or down. The "voted down" part is still possible. But not having TPA basically makes any deal impossible, because other nations aren't going to subject themselves to agreeing to something the U.S. Senate can then turn into something quite different.

Being for TPA and being for a particular deal produced under TPA are two different things. The former makes it possible for something to happen; the latter determines whether it should happen or not.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@Kyle_Wingfield @RafeHollister Trump has openly stated that whatever policy he has is negotiable.  I wonder how that will work since compromise is not acceptable by social conservatives?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

If social conservatives compromise, does that mean we'll only kill HALF a million unborn children per year?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

1. According to both Biden and Obama, he did.

2. When you're President, you accept the situation you inherit and manage it the best you can. Obama threw away our soldiers' hard work and sacrifices and gave rise to ISIS.

lvg
lvg

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Yeah that includes Petreaus plan of paying huge bribes to Sunnis in Iraq to stand down. Because Of GOP those bribes dried up after Bush left office. Maliki made sure Sunnis had ample reason to revolt. Too complex for Lil Barry and his ilk.