Politifact is at it again. The so-called fact-checking authority has given Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) a “false” rating for his claim that President Barack Obama promised to “dismantle Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for dismantling the sanctions” at the outset of negotiations.
— PolitiFact (@PolitiFact) July 22, 2015
However, it is Politifact that has its facts wrong–100% wrong.
Politifact acknowledges that President Obama promised to dismantle Iran’s entire nuclear program in 2012, when he touted that promise in his re-election campaign.
However, Politifact says, by the time negotiations formally began–Sep. 26, 2013–Obama had dropped that demand.
The first problem with that claim is that negotiations began before that date. There had been five secret back-channel meetings between the Obama administration and Iran, dating back to early 2013.
The Associated Press reported that talks had begun even earlier, in 2012–even as Obama was telling American voters that he would dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.
The talks were led by Jake Sullivan, an aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
The July 2012 meeting is one of the Obama administration’s earliest known face-to-face contacts with Iran and reveals that Sullivan — who moved from the State Department to the White House earlier this year — was personally involved in the administration’s outreach to the Islamic republic far earlier than had been reported.
Furthermore, other, international talks with Iran were held early in Obama’s first term. In 2009, then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice said that the U.S. was in “intense negotiations” with Iran. The president had also been attempting to reach out to Iran’s leaders from his first days in office.
However, even if the timeline starts where Politifact wants it to begin, Politifact is wrong and Cotton is right.
At a joint press conference after their meeting at the White House on Sep. 30, 2013, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the negotiations with Iran that had just been revealed.
CBS News reported: “President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from a meeting Monday united on the fact that Iran must show concrete proof that it is dismantling its nuclear program in order for the U.S. to lift any economic sanctions” (emphasis added).
In their remarks, Netanyahu explicitly called for the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. Obama did not disagree, and said the following (emphasis added):
What I also shared with the Prime Minister is that, because of the extraordinary sanctions that we have been able to put in place over the last several years, the Iranians are now prepared, it appears, to negotiate. We have to test diplomacy. We have to see if, in fact, they are serious about their willingness to abide by international norms and international law and international requirements and resolutions. And we in good faith will approach them, indicating that it is our preference to resolve these issues diplomatically.
The “international norms and international law and international requirements and resolutions” to which Obama referred included six UN Security Council resolutions that called on Iran to stop all nuclear enrichment activity.
So Cotton is absolutely right. It may be true that Obama started fudging his promise when formal negotiations began. Yet the American public had been led to believe that Obama’s goal was still to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.
All of the above facts are a matter of public record.
The question is: why would Politifact lie?