‘Experts’ spinning the US into an Iran deal

The goal is to spin first the media and then public opinion towards agreeing that a nuclear Iran is a great idea


WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes talks to members of the news media during a preview of Tuesday night's State Dinner for French President Francois Hollande at the White House February 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. The media was also given a tour of the Blue Room 'to highlight AmericaÕs strong, longstanding relationship with France and the unique character of our bilateral relationship by showcasing some of the early French influences and artifacts that have been in the White House for centuries, and can still be seen today.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

April 15, 2021 11:37

The Obama administration knew it would never get its nuclear deal with Iran through Congress. That’s why it never tried.

That’s why the deal is known by a word salad as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It’s also why the State Department has admitted that the JCPOA was “not a treaty or an executive agreement” in US law.

The American public never liked the JCPOA, either. When Pew Research surveyed public opinion in September 2015, 49 per cent of Americans disapproved and only 21 per cent approved. A mere 18 per cent believed that relations between the US and Iran would improve. The Obama team spun the Iran Deal faster than an illicit centrifuge. “We created an echo chamber,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s close adviser, boasted to the New York Times.

The administration, Rhodes said, identified “who was going to be able to carry our message effectively” and how to use “outside groups like Ploughshares” (a foundation that opposes the spread of nuclear weapons). The result, the NYT said, was that “legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think-tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters”.

No voice has been more resonant in the pro-Iran echo chamber than Trita Parsi. He is the founder and leader of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC); this is odd, as he’s not an American citizen. He’s also the executive vice-president of a new think-tank, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. That too is odd, as the Quincy Institute advocates for perhaps the most irresponsible statecraft of all, putting the mullahs on “a glidepath” to nuclear weapons — Henry Kissinger’s words, not mine.

NIAC presents itself as a grassroots organisation but it depends on large donations from the Rockefeller Foundation and none other than the Ploughshares Fund. Similarly, the Quincy Institute claims to represent a groundswell of popular opinion, while taking donations from the Koch brothers and George Soros.

Like J Street, the Soros-funded left-wing group that the Obama administration embraced, these groups claim to represent a constituency in DC. In reality they’re “astroturf” groups, reflecting the political ambitions of their founders and the often misplaced idealism of their funders.

Parsi and NIAC have repeatedly been accused of being too close to the Iranian regime. In 2007, Parsi launched a defamation suit against an Iranian-American blogger who had claimed that NIAC was lobbying for the Iranian government. A judge dismissed the case in 2012.

The case exposed emails showing close co-ordination between Parsi and Javad Zarif, who is now Iran’s foreign minister and was then its ambassador to the UN. The Washington Times asked two former FBI officials to examine emails in which Parsi helped to arrange meetings between Zarif and members of Congress. Both officials concluded that there were grounds for investigating NIAC for violating the Foreign Agent Relations Act (FARA).

In January 2020, Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Mike Braun wrote to the US Attorney General asking for a formal investigation into potential FARA Act violations by NIAC.

Their letter accused NIAC of “blaming the United States government for Iranian-backed militias’ repeated attacks against US forces in Iraq”, and NIAC staffers of “deflecting blame from the Iranian regime for shooting down a Ukrainian civilian airliner” by tweeting “conspiracy theories”.

“NIAC’s relationship with the Iranian regime and its role amplifying regime propaganda in the United States have been the subject of discussion in Washington DC for years,” the senators noted. They also noted that, back in 2008, NIAC’s acting policy director, Patrick Disney, had admitted that NIAC’s work required registering under the FARA Act: “I believe we fall under this definition of ‘lobbyist’.”

Parsi insists that NIAC is independent of Tehran. The same cannot be said for Kaveh Afrasiabi, who was arrested in January. “For more than a decade,” the FBI charges, “Mr Afrasiabi was allegedly, paid, directed and controlled by the Government of Iran to lobby US government officials, including a Congressman; and to create and disseminate information favorable to the Iranian government.”

The Quincy Institute has Andrew Bacevich and Stephen Walt, and they’re both serious analysts of the failures of American interventionism. But the rest of the Quincy roster is a catalogue of cranks whose reviews of each other’s books roll more logs than a Canadian woodsman.

In the Quincy echo chamber, everyone agrees that Israel is a problem and that the Abraham Accords are bad. The goal is to spin first the media and then public opinion towards agreeing that a nuclear Iran is a great idea. If that’s responsible statecraft, then Trita Parsi has a civilian-use nuclear programme to sell you.


Dominic Green is deputy editor of the Spectator’s US edition

April 15, 2021 11:37

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