Group That Helped Obama Sell Iran Deal Drafted Talking Points Smearing Critics as ‘Pro-War’

Iran's historic agreement with world powers went into force on January 16, ending a 13-year standoff over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme and lifting punishing sanctions on its economy

An arms control group tied to White House efforts to sell the Iran nuclear agreement to the public helped to craft talking points for a network of advocates, experts and messaging specialists on how to frame Iran’s nuclear program while attacking opponents of dialogue with Tehran.

Writing at Bloomberg, reporter Eli Lake reveals he obtained “leaked e-mails and documents from an internal listserv operated by the arms control nonprofit Ploughshares Fund.”

In August 2011, Ploughshares and its allies formed the Iran Strategy Group, which worked, Lake reported, to create a “sophisticated campaign to reshape the national narrative on Iran,” and to play “down the dangers of the Iranian nuclear program before formal negotiations started in 2013.”

Part of the strategy singled out Iran dialogue critics who advocated military strikes, with a deliberate effort to label them as “pro-war.”

“On a messaging note, it would be best to describe them as ‘pro-war,’ and leave it to them to back off that characterization of their position,” the list serve advocated.

Lake revealed a specific set of “talking points” when it comes to engaging with the media and public on Iran.

Back in 2011, the Iran Strategy Group drafted a set of talking points called “Key Points on Iran and Nuclear Weapons.” Joel Rubin, the director of policy and government affairs for Ploughshares between 2011 and 2014, wrote in an e-mail to the strategy group, “We believe that this paper will help each of you to clearly enunciate, with confidence, a consensus view on how to argue for a sound U.S. policy towards Iran.”

The talking points — drafted by Paul Pillar, the intelligence analyst who was the lead author on the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate shared with Congress before the Iraq War — stressed that diplomacy was the best way to decrease the likelihood Iran went nuclear and that bombing Iran’s facilities would be counterproductive.

But the talking points also included “An Iranian nuclear program is not imminent”; “An Iranian nuclear weapon is not inevitable”; and most controversial “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, the United States and the West could live with it, without important compromise to U.S. interests.”

Lake noted that Obama himself has repeatedly contradicted the last talking point, with the president numerous times warning that Iran could face military consequences if it abandons the deal.

In an email to list members on Aug. 20, 2013, Ploughshares President Joseph Cirincione asked grantees to “create a social media, web, expert push that carries our main points into the media and policy discussions in the first 12-24 hours.”

Added Lake:

He recommended that the points the group pushed in the media should include the argument that making enough highly enriched uranium for a single bomb “is just one step in a long weaponization process,” and that while Iran’s decision to start the Arak plutonium reactor was not good, it was “also just one step in a long alternative path to nuclear material for a weapon.”

Ploughshares communications director Jennifer Abrahamson released the following statement in response to Lake’s column:

“As a nonpartisan public foundation dedicated to reducing nuclear threats, Ploughshares Fund is proud to have supported a network of longstanding experts that helped stop Iran from building a bomb without starting another war in the Middle East.”

The involvement of Ploughshares in selling the Iran agreement to the public was revealed in an extensive New York Times Magazine profile of Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes titled, “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru.” The article contains interviews with Rhodes and scores of top Obama administration officials.

Robert Malley, senior director at the National Security Council, explained the genesis and execution of the marketing plan to sell the Iran deal.

Malley said “experts” were utilized to create an “echo chamber” that disseminated administration claims about Iran to “hundreds of often-clueless reporters” in the news media.

In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

Rhodes told Times reporter David Samuels that the marketing strategy took advantage of the “absence of rational discourse” and utilized outside groups, including Ploughshares.

When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “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.” He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents.

In a recent article, Associated Press revealed Ploughshares has funded National Public Radio since 2005.

Think tanks funded by the Ploughshares Fund include the Arms Control Association, Brookings Institution, and the Atlantic Council, the AP reported.

Unmentioned by the AP is that the Ploughshares Fund is financed by billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

Besides $100,000 to NPR last year, the AP reports:

Ploughshares has funded NPR’s coverage of national security since 2005, the radio network said. Ploughshares reports show at least $700,000 in funding over that time. All grant descriptions since 2010 specifically mention Iran.

“It’s a valued partnership, without any conditions from Ploughshares on our specific reporting, beyond the broad issues of national and nuclear security, nuclear policy, and nonproliferation,” NPR said in an emailed statement. “As with all support received, we have a rigorous editorial firewall process in place to ensure our coverage is independent and is not influenced by funders or special interests.”

Ploughshare’s president was interviewed on NPR, the AP reports:

Another who appeared on NPR is Joseph Cirincione, Ploughshares’ president. He spoke about the negotiations on air at least twice last year. The station identified Ploughshares as an NPR funder one of those times; the other time, it didn’t.

Cirincione was an adviser on nuclear issues to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Ploughshares documents show funding last year to other groups to “advance its nonproliferation agenda,” according to the AP.

The Arms Control Association got $282,500; the Brookings Institution, $225,000; and the Atlantic Council, $182,500. They received money for Iran-related analysis, briefings, and media outreach, and non-Iran nuclear work.

Other groups, less directly defined by their independent nuclear expertise, also secured grants.

J Street, the liberal Jewish political action group, received $576,500 to advocate for the deal. More than $281,000 went to the National Iranian American Council.

Princeton University got $70,000 to support former Iranian ambassador and nuclear spokesman Seyed Hossein Mousavian’s “analysis, publications, and policymaker engagement on the range of elements involved with the negotiated settlement of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Ploughshares says it has awarded hundreds of grants “whose aggregate value exceeded $60 million.”

A previous investigation by this reporter showed Ploughshares has partnered with a who’s who of the radical left, including Code Pink, the pro-Palestinian J Street, United for Peace & Justice, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and Demo, a progressive economic advisory group where President Obama’s controversial former green jobs czar, Van Jones, has served on the board.

The group says its mission is to support the “smartest minds and most effective organizations to reduce nuclear stockpiles, prevent new nuclear states, and increase global security.”

Ploughshares is in turn financed by Soros’ Open Society Institute, the Buffett Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Another Ploughshares donor is the Tides Foundation, which is one of the largest funders of the radical left. Tides is funded by Soros.

Ploughshares has donated to the Institute for Policy Studies, which calls for massive slashes in the U.S. defense budget.

It has also financed the International Crisis Group, a small organization that boasts Soros on its board.

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.