Hey @TheIranDeal, I have some questions—actually, lots of them…writes Ben Cohen/JNS.org

July 24, 2015 by Ben Cohen - JNS.org
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This week, a bunch of journalists, foreign policy wonks, and assorted pundits received an email from the White House that began with the legendary words, “Hey, I’m Ben Rhodes, a Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama.

For the past few years, I’ve been working closely with America’s negotiating team, which was tasked with finding a way to achieve a diplomatic resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

The Twitter page of @TheIranDeal. Credit: Twitter.

The Twitter page of @TheIranDeal. Credit: Twitter.

Don’t you just love that “Hey,” greeting? So informal, so accessible, so confident, so quintessentially Obaman. And it didn’t end there.

“Last week,” Rhodes continued, “after two years of tough negotiations, our team along with our international partners achieved just that.”

Perhaps anticipating a chorus of “Oh no, you didn’t,” Rhodes added that “it’s important that everyone here and around the world understands exactly what’s in it and how it’ll work.” And then came this assurance: “This is a strong deal, with significant constraints on Iran’s nuclear program, and unprecedented access to Iranian nuclear facilities—including 24/7, continuous monitoring.”

So what do you do if you still have doubts? The purpose of the round-robin email from Rhodes was to announce the latest PR initiative from the White House, in the form of a Twitter feed with the handle @TheIranDeal. (If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had done the same, the Obama administration and its sympathizers would now all be whining about “hasbara,” the Hebrew word for public diplomacy, but let’s leave that aside for now.)

According to Rhodes, @TheIranDeal is “dedicated to delivering the facts and answering your questions about the deal and how it enhances American national security.” What that means—and here, Rhodes was explicit—is ensuring that America isn’t dragged “into another conflict in the Middle East.” In other words, the choice is between agreeing to this lousy, feeble deal or risking the lives and limbs of our troops in an Iraq/Afghanistan redux. But if you’re still not convinced, you can send comments and questions to @TheIranDeal, and they will be answered. As the Twitter page declares, “Tweet us your questions, and we’ll set the record straight.”

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes addresses journalists on the coming year's foreign policy priorities of the Obama administration at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, DC, on January 29, 2014. More recently, Rhodes introduced @TheIranDeal Twitter handle, which the White House says will “set the record straight” on the nuclear agreement between world powers and the Islamic Republic. Credit: U.S. State Department.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes addresses journalists on the coming year’s foreign policy priorities of the Obama administration at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, DC, on January 29, 2014. More recently, Rhodes introduced @TheIranDeal Twitter handle, which the White House says will “set the record straight” on the nuclear agreement between world powers and the Islamic Republic. Credit: U.S. State Department.

As of the afternoon of Wednesday, July 22, more than 24 hours after the Twitter feed was launched, and with more than 12,000 followers already signed up, @TheIranDeal had published exactly 19 tweets. They were all pretty platitudinous, more or less, for example, “Why #IranDeal is a vital step: Problems like sponsoring terror or detaining citizens made more difficult to resolve if Iran acquired a nuke.” As for answering the difficult questions, I saw no evidence of any effort to do so. Two questions I sent them remain, at the time of this writing, unanswered, and dozens of friends and colleagues have told me that they were hearing the same virtual silence.

Maybe the White House is short-staffed. Maybe President Barack Obama’s confidant, Valerie Jarrett, has suddenly decided she doesn’t like the idea. Maybe they don’t know how to answer the difficult questions. I can’t say for sure, but what I do know is this: With @TheIranDeal, the Obama administration has pledged itself to a direct dialogue with the citizens of this country and with the global public at large. So we need to hold them to account and bombard them with questions and comments.

In that light, I modestly offer some suggestions, in no particular order, as to what you all should be raising. There are any number of topics—the lifting of sanctions, the support for terrorism, the Iranian backing for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the weak inspections regime, the woeful human rights situation in Iran—that must be addressed. All you have to remember is to keep your questions within Twitter’s 140-character limit. Oh, and maybe start off with the word “Hey,” since this is now apparently an acceptable addition to the lexicon of political terminology.

  • Hey @TheIranDeal, how will you prevent the sanctions windfall coming Iran’s way from being used to kill more Syrian kids?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, if Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, why is the regime only “called upon” not to undertake ballistic missile activity?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, why are you claiming “24/7 continuous monitoring” when the Iranians have at least 24 days to approve inspections?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, what’s your response to nuclear expert Olli Heinonen’s claim that the 24-day window will make hiding nuclear arms development work easier?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, why are you taking Gen. Qassem Solaimani, a man responsible for the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, off the sanctions list?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, how do you assess nuclear expert David Albright’s claim that installing new centrifuges will lower Iran’s break-out time to a few days or weeks?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, what leverage do you have if the Iranians refuse full disclosure of the Possible Military Dimensions of their nuclear research?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, how will you monitor the underground Fordow enrichment facility if the Revolutionary Guards won’t let International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, can you explain how legitimizing Iran’s nuclear program—begun clandestinely—will improve human rights in that country?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, does it bother you that Iran’s Supreme Leader addressed a “Death to America” rally one day after this deal was announced?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, what will you do if Iran’s National Security Council refuses to ratify the deal?
  • Hey @TheIranDeal, to quote President Obama, are “all options” still on the table?
Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen

There are hundreds of similar questions that can be asked, but I hope you get my drift. The White House believes it can sell the Iran deal in the manner that one might sell a hot fashion designer—putting Obama on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” plastering social media platforms, and creating a general zeitgeist that anyone who opposes this deal is not only nuts, but probably someone who voted for George W. Bush.

Keep blitzing @TheIranDeal with questions. Keep demanding answers. Just because they are silent, it doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.

Ben Cohen, senior editor of TheTower.org & The Tower Magazine, writes a weekly column for JNS.org on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He is the author of “Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014).


2 Responses to “Hey @TheIranDeal, I have some questions—actually, lots of them…writes Ben Cohen/JNS.org”
  1. Paul Winter says:

    Good bunch of questions Ben, but here are a few more:
    Hey@TheIranDeal, why is the USA now the protector of Iran which calls itself the USA’s enemy?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, why did Obama run to the UNSC for the world to guarantee Iran’s safety?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, why cut any deal with Iran while it is in violation of its UN commitments by declaring war on Israel, a fellow UN member?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, will the USA and the world attack Israel if it attacks Iran, even if only by cyber warfare?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, why did the UNSC accept the deal thereby rescinding its six Chapter VII resolutions passed for Iran’s violation of its NPT undertakings?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, why give Iran 24 days notice of inspections when it signed the IAEA’s Special Protocol that allows for just TWO hours notice of inspections?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, why does Iran need notice of inspections if its nuclear program is just for peaceful purposes?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, how come Iran insisted on keeping its rocket program off the table?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, ever ask Iran what ICBMs are for other that delivering nukes?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, why weren’t countries most affected, particularly Israel, included in the negotiations?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, wasn’t the P5+1 acting like colonial masters used to act in the bad old days?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, why is there no move to impeach Obama for selling out its allies, its principles and ultimately endangering the USA?
    Hey@TheIranDeal, why not impeach Obama for his latest, most egregious demonstration of his support for revolutionary islam?

    • Paul Winter says:

      And one final
      Hey@TheIranDeal, the release of billions to Iran, allows it to buy the S-300 anti-aircraft system from Russia, which is under sanctions for invading the Ukraine, by using money now mainly under the control of the USA.

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