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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How Obama and Ben Rhodes played America for suckers on the Iran Deal

A network of advocates, experts and messaging specialists the White House says helped it sell the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 actually began to campaign for such an accord four years earlier, before the real negotiations started.

Last week I was leaked e-mails and documents from an internal listserv operated by the arms control nonprofit Ploughshares Fund. That foundation has come under scrutiny after the New York Times Magazine quoted top White House foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes boasting how the foundation amplified the White House message in 2015 on the Iran deal. Rhodes told the magazine that supporters of the deal comprised an "echo chamber," suggesting the independent experts were tools of a White House media campaign.

But the messaging work from Ploughshares on Iran began long before there was any Iran deal and long before Rhodes convened his regular meetings with progressive groups on shaping the Iran narrative.

Beginning in August 2011, Ploughshares and its grantees formed the Iran Strategy Group. Over time this group created a sophisticated campaign to reshape the national narrative on Iran. That campaign sought to portray skeptics of diplomacy as "pro-war," and to play down the dangers of the Iranian nuclear program before formal negotiations started in 2013 only to emphasize those dangers after there was an agreement in 2015...

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