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Open letter to POTUS: White House manipulation and misrepresentation of the Iran deal narrative

A recent New York Times magazine article by David Samuels detailed how White House advisor Ben Rhodes convinced you, Mr. President, to embark on a deceptive campaign to sell the Iran nuclear deal to Congress and the American people.   

The article describes how your administration told the American people that it was critical to make a change in our policy with Iran now and pursue serious negotiations because there was a “new political reality in Iran.”  We were told, “moderates” came into power as of 2013 and we needed to take advantage of that reality.  

In actuality, this idea, that moderates are in power, “was largely manufactured for the purpose of selling the deal.”  Negotiations were well under way even before so-called “moderate” Hassan Rouhani was elected as President of Iran.

So, your administration misled us about when it actually started negotiations with the Iranian regime, and about whom it was dealing with.  The administration was unequivocally negotiating with hardliners.

However, perhaps the more damning revelation in the article is not what your administration did with respect to its actions with Iran. It is what your administration did with respect to the American people, the United States Congress, and our alliances with other nations. 

The article states: “By obtaining broad public currency for the thought that there was a significant split in the regime, and that the administration was reaching out to moderate-minded Iranians who wanted peaceful relations with the neighbors and with America, Obama was able to evade what might have otherwise been a divisive but clarifying debate over the actual policy choices that his administration was making.  By eliminating the fuss about Iran’s nuclear program, the administration hoped to eliminate a source of structural tension between the two countries, which would create the space for America to disentangle itself from its established system of alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Turkey.  With one bold move, the administration would effectively begin the process of a large-scale disengagement from the Middle East.”    

The utter disregard and arrogance that this administration has shown for the American people and Congress reveals its disdainful attitude – one unbecoming and completely inappropriate for the President of the United States.  

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, actually believes that policy makers in this country are incapable of rational debate—“I mean, I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote, but that’s impossible.”  

In believing this, though, Mr. Rhodes ensured that we did not have that opportunity.  They took advantage of the fact that most newspapers no longer have foreign bureaus, so the reporters are largely ignorant of what is happening on the ground. Or, as Mr. Rhodes describes the situation, “they literally know nothing.” Mr. Rhodes stated that reporters now call the White House to find out what is going on.  And, the White House is happy to oblige, with its own set of facts.  

This administration set up a “war room” and framed the deal as a choice between peace and war, it made sure “that no potential negative comment passed without a tweet,” and created an “echo chamber” that ensured what was stated and restated were “things that validated what [they] had given them to say.”  

Of President Obama, one senior official said, “He is a brilliant guy, but he has a real problem with what I call the assignment of bad faith.  He regards everyone on the other side at this point as being a bunch of bloodthirsty know-nothings from a different era who play by the old book.”  

Instead of bringing Democrats and Republicans together, your administration has so divided the parties that I have had to withdraw my amendments (seeking to prohibit the use of federal funds to purchase Iran’s overproduced heavy water, which is in violation of the Iran deal) due to the threat that all Democrats, at your behest, will vote against the overall bill, the National Defense Authorization Act.  Read the backstory here.

So, the White House took it upon itself to “eliminate the fuss” about the nuclear program of Iran, and while denying it, move toward what it saw as the more critical step: to disengage the United States from the Middle East and dissolve or at least call into question our alliances with countries that we have typically had friendly relations with.  

Mr. President, you cleverly killed two birds on your agenda with the single stone of the Iranian nuclear deal—boosting Iran’s influence and withdrawing the U.S. from the Middle East.  The problem is, you and your advisors never admitted until now that you were doing this so, it was never honestly debated.

These are the kinds of momentous decisions that should be debated on fact and evidence.  The future of the world is at stake, and while an “echo chamber” may manipulate public opinion, that doesn’t change reality and it doesn’t show respect for the American people to compete with a true global threat.  

Unfortunately, in this life, we have to deal with the facts as they are, not what we want them to be. Wishing for Iran to be a responsible actor or for an unstable world to become stable in a vacuum does not make it so.

It will be up to the next President, working with Congress as an equal partner and dealing honestly with the American people, to clean up the mess that inevitably comes when America withdraws from the world.

Congressman Doug Lamborn represents the Fifth District of Colorado. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, he currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, and is also a member of the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. 


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