Spinning and Spinning: The Ceiling Fan State Department

Have the Obama White House, the U.S. State Department, and part of the Washington media, press, and TV been engaged in a vast left-wing conspiracy to lie to and deceive the American public about the nuclear deal with Iran?  One might think so, since no U.S. official or politician has been held responsible for the tangle of lies, attempt at censorship, and linguistic equivocations on the issue.

The great Machiavelli observed that "occasionally, words must veil the facts.  But let this happen in a way that no one become aware of it."  This seems to have been the objective of Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser in the White House.  Finally, he revealed that in his role as spin doctor, he had deliberately misled the media, the Washington foreign policy establishment that he called "The Blob," and the country as a whole, over the nature of U.S. negotiations with Iran over the nuclear deal.

Rhodes co-opted part of the willing press corps and created what he called an "echo chamber" of journalists to convey a narrative that the U.S. had opened negotiations because a more moderate Iranian government had come into office after the seemingly moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran in 2013.

But in fact, he lied.  Secret negotiations had started more than two years earlier in 2011 in Muscat, Oman, when the extreme anti-American Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was still president of Iran.  The talks were attended by then-senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi with the knowledge, if not perhaps the approval, of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameinei.

It was not the U.S., but Salehi who broke the story of the meeting, saying he became aware in 2011 of President Barack Obama's desire to meet bilaterally with Iran.  This meeting was followed by another one comprising lower-level preparatory talks on July 7, 2012 in Iran that was attended by Jake Sullivan, deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Not coincidentally, the MIT-educated Salehi became president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and was the Iranian party to the nuclear deal.

Connected with this issue is the shameful story concerning the attitude of the U.S. State Department toward the Fox journalist James Rosen and its evasions of the truth.  Rosen at a press conference in December 2013 had asked the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki a straightforward question: "is it the policy of the State Department, where the preservation or the secrecy of secret negotiations is concerned, to lie in order the achieve that goal?"  He asked the question because of the statement made earlier in February 2013, by State Department then-spokesperson Victoria Nuland, that there were no secret direct talks with Iran at the time on a government-to-government level.  Salehi's information directly contradicts Nuland's statement.

Psaki replied to Rosen, "I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress.  This is a good example of that."  Some time later, Fox News found that the exchange, about eight minutes, between Psaki and Rosen had been deleted from the State Department's official website.  

At first, in May 2016, the erasure of the exchange was explained by Elizabeth Trudeau, director of the State Department press office, as a "glitch."  A few days later, on June 1, 2016, the current spokesperson, Rear Admiral John Kirby, admitted that it was not a glitch, but that the video had been censored and deliberately erased.  He did not know by whom, but he did know that an official in the State Department public affairs office had made a special request to a technician to remove the eight minutes.  It is hard to believe that no one in the White House or the State Department recalls who ordered the deletion.

Interestingly, Admiral Kirby thanked James Rosen, and by implication Fox News, for bringing the whole matter to his attention.  Equally interesting, the parties involved have been not reprimanded, but promoted.  For herself, Jen Psaki, who stated she had no knowledge, nor would she have approved of any form of editing or cutting any briefing transcript on any subject while at the State Department, is now White House communications director.

Victoria Nuland, former ambassador to NATO, is presently assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

Ben Rhodes told at least part of the truth when he finally confessed that there were discreet channels of communications established between the U.S. and Iran in 2012.  But Rhodes is still at the White House, spinning the fable that the Iran nuclear deal was beneficial for the United States.  In view of the now revealed censorship, lies, and misleading statements concerning the Iran nuclear deal, it is important to inquire into two issues: the exact concessions made by the U.S. in reaching the deal and the nature of the spinning by the "echo chamber" on other issues.