The Obama administration reportedly used a propaganda machine of experts to sell the worthiness of the Iran nuclear deal through reporters and social media.
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication for President Barack Obama, orchestrated the story of the Iran deal and helped sell it to Congress, and the American people, as outlined in an interview he gave with The New York Times, published May 5.
Rhodes created the version of the Iran nuclear deal story that has been told to Americans: In 2013, the Obama Administration began negotiating with Iran after moderates took power in the country, which created a more agreeable political situation.
The talks actually began in 2012, at least a year before Iran held elections and had changes in its cabinet, Rhodes says. That change was reportedly seen as politically useful to the Obama administration and it used it as spin for the Iran story.
To gain support for the Iran nuclear deal from Congress, Rhodes employed manipulative measures.
A war room was established for the deal's communication teams and a collection of arms-control experts were assembled. The experts would use think tanks and social media to source material for reporters on the deal while negotiations were happening.
“We created an echo chamber," Rhodes said of the group of experts. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”
“We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked,” Rhodes said.
There were also people working online to analyze what senators and those close to them were seeing, and make sure that any negative comments did not go unchecked and commented upon.
Rhodes said he is proud of how he sold the Iran deal.
“We drove them crazy,” he said of opponents to the deal.
Rhodes denies deceptive measures were used.
“Look, with Iran, in a weird way, these are state-to-state issues," he said. "They’re agreements between governments. Yes, I would prefer that it turns out that [Iran's President] Hassan Rouhani and [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif are real reformers who are going to be steering this country into the direction that I believe it can go in, because their public is educated and, in some respects, pro-American. But we are not betting on that.”
Rhodes’ ability to manipulate information to sell the Iran deal to reporters through his experts may be because of their inexperience, he says.
“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change.
“They literally know nothing.”
When White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked to comment on Rhodes’ interview, he said the administration is proud of the “strong” and “principled” case made for the Iran nuclear deal, Fox News reports.