- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2016

A top national security adviser to President Obama is attempting damage control over the Iran nuclear deal.

Ben Rhodes is trying to explain his damaging comments that appeared in a lengthy New York Times magazine profile, which described how the White House spun inexperienced journalists about Mr. Obama’s foreign policy and suggested that the administration’s narrative for the Iran deal was misleading.

“We believed deeply in the case that we were making: about the effectiveness of the deal, about the value of diplomacy, and about the stakes involved,” Mr. Rhodes wrote on Medium.com. “It wasn’t ‘spin,’ it’s what we believed and continue to believe, and the hallmark of the entire campaign was to push out facts.”

In the magazine article, Mr. Rhodes described the White House’s manipulation of journalists covering the president’s foreign policy.

“The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns,” he said. “That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

The Times’ article also said the administration’s storyline for the Iran deal “was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal” to the American public. The president and his aides said they moved forward with the deal to take advantage of moderates in Iran coming to power in 2013, when in fact Mr. Obama’s closest advisers knew he was eager to reconcile with Tehran much earlier.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said the administration “can spin it anyway it likes, but this was a bad deal.”

“Before this president leaves office, we must do everything possible to prevent his administration from making further concessions to Iran,” Mr. Ryan said Monday in an op-ed. “This includes blocking any attempt to make it easier for the mullahs in Tehran to conduct their trade in dollars.”

The speaker said the regime in Tehran has only grown more belligerent since the deal, contrary to the administration’s reassurances.

“The defiant and emboldened regime in Tehran continues to sponsor terrorism across the region, test-fire ballistic missiles inscribed with ‘Death to Israel,’ and abuse the basic human rights of its citizens,” Mr. Ryan said. “For all its stagecraft, this administration’s deal has fallen flat in front of one key audience: our allies.”

Mr. Rhodes‘ comments are causing blowback in Israel, where the government opposes the deal. The Times of Israel said the revelation proved that “the background to nuclear talks with Iran was misrepresented in order to sell the impression of a more moderate Iranian regime and thus gain greater American public support for an agreement.”

In his post on Medium.com, Mr. Rhodes said Mr. Obama made no secret that he would pursue a deal with Iran when he first ran for president in 2008.

He also said the administration “did aggressively make the case for the Iran deal during the congressional review mandated by statute last summer,” and that the White House’s sales job in the media was aimed partly at correcting “inaccuracies” from opponents.

“Given our interest in making sure that any misinformation was corrected, and that people understood our policy, we made a concerted effort to provide information about the deal to any interested party, including to outside organizations and any journalists covering the issue,” Mr. Rhodes said. “Of course the objective of that kind of effort is to build as much public support as you can — that’s a function of White House communications.”

He said a review of reporting about the Iran deal shows “plenty of tough journalism and scrutiny.”

“Indeed, I hardly remember last summer as a time of glowing reviews about the Iran deal,” Mr. Rhodes said. “Opponents of the deal were more than capable of ensuring that their arguments were given prominent attention online, on opinion pages, and on television. And that only made it more of an imperative for us to answer hard questions.”

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