In the exchange, James Rosen asked, “Is it the policy of the State Department, where the preservation or the secrecy of secret negotiations is concerned, to lie in order to achieve that goal?” And the State Department’s then-spokesperson Jen Psaki replied, “, I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that.”
Earlier, it had been revealed that the Obama administration had indeed participated in secret, bilateral talks, separate from the six-party talks that would ultimately lead to last summer’s nuclear deal. The administration, however, had denied that this was the case when asked directly, thus setting the stage for Rosen’s challenge in December 2013.
The Fox News reporter saw fit to look up the video record of his earlier exchange because of its bearing on the controversy that emerged last month about the administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear negotiations, after it was revealed that Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes had deliberately shaped a narrative of Iranian “moderation” and conveyed it to the public via media outlets that he described as an “echo chamber.”
When Rosen found the relevant section of the video missing, a State Department official initially attributed it to a “glitch.” But the Wall Street Journal notes that on Wednesday, the department’s current spokesperson, John Kirby acknowledged that the deletion had been made intentionally, although it was apparently unclear on whose order.
Kirby said that the action was “not in keeping with the State Department’s commitment to transparency and public accountability.” And Psaki insisted that she had no knowledge of “any form of editing or cutting” and would not have approved it. Nevertheless, the manipulation did take place, and so it is certain to have a further negative impact on the reputation of the Obama administration where transparency on the Iran nuclear negotiations is concerned. For opponents of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the overall White House policy on Iran, this can be expected to be treated as another piece of evidence demonstrating a pattern of public deception.
To whatever extent this enhances the discussion of the administration’s handling of the issue, it will also contribute to the discussion of its motivation for that handling. Many of those who have criticized the administration for a lack of transparency or for manipulation of the media have also suggested that these things are indicative of that administration’s commitment to preserving the July 14 agreement at any costs. This has in turn led to accusations that the Iranian regime is exploiting that situation in order to get increasingly greater benefits from the administration.
Such accusations were presented on Thursday in an editorial that appeared at News Target. It described Iran as blackmailing the White House with repeated threats to walk away from the nuclear deal if the Iranians do not see sufficient benefit from sanctions relief and foreign investment.
The editorial went on to suggest that this promotional and developmental role had been carried out by the administration not only by encouraging those who were interested in investing in the Islamic Republic, but also by exerting pressure on those who represent a counter trend. That is, some have described the administration as bullying individual US states that have elected to maintain or intensify their own legal sanctions on Iran, in protest of the White House’s policies.