Ben Rhodes, the Iran Deal, and News Spinning in the 21st Century

The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru by David Samuels.

In this article in The New York Times, Samuels provides an insider’s view on the person of Ben Rhodes. Rhodes is deputy national security adviser for strategic communications to President Obama and, according to the author’s sources, “the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself”.

I find two aspects of this long article especially interesting.

The first aspect concerns the way the US administration has been using new information technologies “to spin” the news.

“The easiest way for the White House to shape the news is from the briefing podiums, each of which has its own dedicated press corps … But then there are sort of these force multipliers … We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple of people … and I’ll give them some color … and the next thing I know, lots of these guys are in the dot-com publishing space, and have huge Twitter followings, and they’ll be putting this message out on their own.”

The second aspect regards details on the US-Iranian negotiations leading to the JCPOA.

In particular, on the when, the who, the how, the where, and the why the negotiations took place.

With regard to the WHY, Samuels writes that “by eliminating the fuss about Iran’s nuclear program, the administration hoped to eliminate a source of structural tension between the two countries, which would create the space for America to disentangle itself from its established system of alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Turkey. With one bold move, the administration would effectively begin the process of a large-scale disengagement from the Middle East.”

I am personally not so sure about the goal of “disengagement” from the ME but I do share the opinion that there was the idea within the Obama administration of “disentangling” the United States from a controversial/constraining/complex system of regional alliances. This does not mean that the administration wanted to abandon their ME allies, rather, that US officials wanted to make the United States less dependent on them and freer to design its own foreign policy in the region.

The full article can be read here


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