With negotiations coming, the Iran apologists are back

Defenders of the 2015 deal stuck to their case even after evidence was exposed, proving that Iran had a nuclear-weapons program and retained the knowledge to restart it at a time of their choosing.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif address reporters before their bilateral meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York on Sept. 26, 2015. Credit: U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif address reporters before their bilateral meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York on Sept. 26, 2015. Credit: U.S. State Department.
Dr. Eric R. Mandel
Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network, senior security editor of The Jerusalem Report and a contributor to The Hill and The Jerusalem Post. He regularly briefs member of Congress and their foreign policy advisers about the Middle East.

Will the United States and the Iranians meet to avert a military crisis, perhaps renegotiating the nuclear deal?

Negotiations are coming. There was even an unconfirmed report from i24TV a few weeks back of a meeting between Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) and U.S. officials in Kurdistan’s northern Iraqi capital of Erbil.

Before negotiations begin, you would think that longtime defenders of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA—would be on the defensive, especially after the promised moderation of the regime not only never materialized. In fact, Iran’s nefarious activities actually increased.

Iran’s complicity in the Syrian genocide, ethnic-cleansing of Sunnis, suppression of its own people, attempt to seek dual-use nuclear material in Germany and its thumbing its nose at U.N. Security Council Resolutions against missile development should have humbled the supporters of the deal.

According to a July 27 Wall Street Journal news story, “Iran has long argued … it has no interest in fielding nuclear weapons.”

JCPOA defenders’ support for the Iran nuclear agreement wasn’t diminished even after overwhelming evidence of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program was exposed when Israel surreptitiously removed tens of thousands of pieces of damning evidence from Iran, proving beyond a doubt that Iran had a nuclear-weapons program and retained the knowledge to restart it at a time of their choosing.

Yet defenders and the “experts” they quote spun it down to the point that what should have been a shocking revelation was minimized in mainstream outlets. Many interested people never fully learned about its full extent because they listened to echo chambers that quote experts without identifying their political leanings.

In 2011, NPR’s public editor published an article, “What to Think About Think Tanks?”

She wrote “Lots of things drive NPR’s audience crazy. One I totally agree with is this: NPR often does a lousy job of identifying the background of think tanks or other groups when quoting their experts. NPR also rarely explains why listeners should pay attention to the experts it chooses to quote … when quoting someone, they should go the extra distance to tell the audience why this person has been chosen and what message they are pushing.”

According to the article’s statistics, only right-of-center think tanks were identified, while left-of-center organizations, such as the Brookings Institute, whose political leanings are well-known inside the Beltway, were not mentioned to their audience. Unfortunately, National Public Radio is considered by many people to be an apolitical centrist media outlet, when in reality, like almost every other media outlet, right or left, consciously or unconsciously, it editorializes its news to fit its narrative, often by choosing whom to interview.

Understanding the news in context is vital for our democracy and an educated citizenry. As the U.S.-Iran rivalry heats up and Iran agreement supporters are back defending Iran, it should be noted that they incomprehensibly continue to ignore Iran’s human-rights abuses, its involvement in the South American drug trade with Hezbollah that is part of the American opioid crisis, and its export of terrorism throughout the world.

This month, Brookings foreign-policy expert Suzanne Maloney defended Iran’s recent aggressive military actions as simply “an attempt to negotiate.” That well may be true to increase their leverage, but what went unsaid was that Iran had all the leverage and benefits over the West until U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew last year from the JCPOA.

Where Maloney and other supporters of the JCPOA go off the rails is their projecting Western negotiating standards on a revolutionary Shi’ite Islamist regime, while ignoring the 40-year history of misleading Westerners who were outsmarted during the 2014-15 nuclear negotiations.

The Iranians will likely be forced back to the negotiating table, but it isn’t because they want to be there. To defend the Iranians actions such as shooting down a $100 million American drone, placing mines on tankers in international waters, hijacking a British tanker and spoofing false GPS coordinates in the Persian Gulf endangering international shipping, she inexplicably calls these acts just “breathless headlines.”

Her solution is based on a false analysis: “What happens next depends largely on the Trump administration.” Sorry, Ms. Maloney, what happens next is up to the Iranians.

Her remedy sounds like Iranian talking points. The Trump team must “compromise on its maximum-pressure strategy” and offer “sanctions relief as the price of admission.” In other words, unilaterally give up America’s newfound leverage that was achieved with sanctions.

In trying to make Iran seem like a legitimate international actor, she claims a recent meeting in New York between the isolationist Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has very little constituency on either side of the aisle, and the Iranian foreign minister has “now effectively normalized” contact between the two nations.

The claim that the “polished” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose perfect English has enamored JCPOA supporters while purposely misleading them time and again, is simply testing the waters for negotiations may be true, but he is not our friend, nor the one in control.

The ayatollahs and the IRGC call the shots, and Zarif’s charm shouldn’t fool anyone, as he represents a nation that is one of the worst human-rights abusers in the world—hanging gays routinely and imprisoning dissidents in horrific conditions.

Sounding more like publicist than journalist, Brookings’ Maloney described, “Zarif’s media appearances and private meetings … have conveyed a flexible even cordial message. He offered compliments toward Trump with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria,” another JCPOA cheerleader and Iranian defender.

Have we learned nothing from the last round of negotiations or Iran’s use of religiously sanctioned dissimulation to advance their goals?

Maloney does get it right when she says “the Islamic republic has made an art form of pairing diplomacy with force, exploiting Zarif’s unctuous charm alongside a punch in the face from the Revolutionary Guard.”

She was correct in stating that the Iran deal was the “first time that the international community managed to “slow the clerical regimes’ steady progress to nuclear weapons capability.” But the Obama administration falsely claimed that the deal will end their nuclear-weapons program, not simply slow it down for a short period of time. At that time, the center-left Washington Post editorial board had it right when it said, “When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.”

Without giving credit to Trump she wrote, a “funny thing happened on the way to the breakdown: Iranian official now appear to be negotiating” similar to the secret talks the Obama administration had with Iran in Oman. That was when the administration reneged on its promise to our ally Israel and the Gulf States to keep them in the loop, knowing that Iran’s nuclear program was and is still an existential issue to them. No wonder we now see the strange bedfellows of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and the Saudis working together on security and intelligence for shared interests.

With negotiations likely coming, citizens should know by now that today’s media, right or left, advances a particular agenda, so we must go the extra mile to get all of the information in context regarding Iran to make fully informed opinions.

Hopefully, the last negotiation taught us, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

The author is director of MEPIN (Middle East Political and Information Network), a Mideast research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign-policy advisers, Knesset members, journalists and organizational leaders. He is a regular columnist for “The Jerusalem Post” and i24TV, and contributes to JNS, “The Hill,” “The Forward” and JTA.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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