The Media Continues Its Iran Deal Myth-Making
“The great enemy of the truth,” John F. Kennedy once observed, “is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.” Both myths and lies surround the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 accord reached between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran over the latter’s nuclear weapons program.
And few myths have been as enduring as the myth that Israel’s security establishment supported the so-called Iran nuclear deal.
Gilead Ini, a senior research analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), punctured the falsehood when it was first introduced in 2015. At the time, the pitch to sell the Iran Deal was in full swing.
In September of that year, The New York Times published a graphic that highlighted Congressional opposition to the Obama administration-brokered deal.
Initially, the graphic included a column headed “Jewish?” to highlight whether the Democratic lawmaker casting votes on the JCPOA was Jewish or not. Not content with regurgitating the antisemitic dual loyalty canard, the newspaper falsely asserted that the debate over the deal “divided Jewish constituents between those who saw the deal as a threat to Israel and those who backed it as a way to avert conflict between Iran and the United States.”
That most Americans, Jewish and otherwise, were skeptical of the deal on its merits was a fact to be ignored or obfuscated. Instead, many JCPOA boosters propagated the line that it was “this deal or war.”
This lack of nuance was extended in additional media reports, which claimed that Israel’s security establishment supported the Iran nuclear deal.
In fact, many of the experts cited by press outlets as “supportive” were deeply critical of the JCPOA.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, for example, referred to it as a “bad deal.” Forward journalist J.J. Goldberg implied that Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israel’s military intelligence, favored the agreement when, in fact, he was lukewarm at best. As CAMERA noted at the time, Yadlin had called the JCPOA “problematic,” even adding: “this is not a good deal … you also could call it a bad deal.”
Indeed, other Israeli security experts who were often cited as supporters, such as Efraim Halevy and Israel Ziv, were less than enthusiastic in their expressions of the deal’s merits. Ziv, while believing that the deal “is not particularly bad,” argued that “there is no one in Israel who thinks the nuclear agreement is a good agreement.”
Yet, more than half a decade later, the media is continuing to publish reports on both the JCPOA, and Iran’s nuclear program, that are missing essential context.
Take, for example, The Washington Post.
On December 9, 2021, the newspaper published a report entitled “Israel opposed the Iran nuclear deal, but former Israeli officials increasingly say U.S. pullout was a mistake.” The publication of the dispatch coincided with ongoing negotiations in Vienna between the United States and Iran.
Israeli officials, Post reporter Shira Rubin asserted, have “warned that economic sanctions on Iran are not deterring it from dangerously advancing its nuclear program.” She adds: “while Israel had applauded President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the accord in 2018,” former Israeli officials have “concluded that his ‘maximum pressure’ policy built primarily on sanctions has failed to prevent Iran from increasing the quantity and quality of its enriched uranium.”
To bolster the argument, Rubin quoted Yoel Guzansky, the former head of the Iran desk on Israel’s National Security Council. Guzansky said that “the nuclear deal was flawed, but at least it put a lid on Iran’s advancement, which we don’t have now.” Another official, Raz Zimmt, said that the pullout “may actually have accelerated Iranian nuclear progress.”
The Post’s report claimed that former Israeli officials said that the JCPOA “subjected Iran to restrictions and to international inspections that held in check crucial elements of the nuclear program,” whereas sanctions have achieved far less.
Yet, there is no real way to measure Iran’s nuclear progress. The JCPOA itself did not require Iran to disclose its nuclear history. Additionally, it isn’t accurate to imply that Iran was subjected to a stringent inspection regime under the deal, because the deal’s terms prohibited the inspection of military sites and didn’t allow immediate access. The yardstick, from the very beginning, was broken.
Put simply: it is impossible to know the full extent of Iran’s nuclear progress — a fact that the deal didn’t solve, and arguably made worse. But what is known is that Iran was, in fact, cheating and lying about its nuclear program — a fact that makes the JCPOA’s loose inspection terms even more troubling.
An October 2018 report by the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington, DC-based think tank, analyzed documentation that Israel had seized from Tehran in a daring intelligence operation. This “nuclear archive” consisted of thousands of documents, later authenticated by the US, which showed that Iran had not only lied about its nuclear program, but was hiding it during negotiations with the United States and others. As CAMERA noted in a November 2018 Daily Caller op-ed, the revelations from the “nuclear archive” were widely ignored by media outlets.
Furthermore, the Post’s report also fails to mention a key fact: the JCPOA’s terms included sunset provisions. The deal did not, by its very terms, prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The agreement’s biggest booster even admitted as much.
In an April 7, 2015, interview with NPR, then-President Barack Obama acknowledged that in “13,14, 15 years” Iran, thanks to advanced centrifuges, will be able to “enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk to almost zero.” The Post also failed to inform readers that the JCPOA did not address the R&D aspects of Iran’s program, and even allowed for the use of advanced centrifuges.
Regrettably, more omissions followed.
The Post noted that Israeli operatives had assassinated Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November 2020, describing him as “the country’s top nuclear scientist.” But Fahrizadeh was more than a mere scientist — he was also a top commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which has been designated by the US for its role in supporting and training terrorist groups and for targeting Americans.
The Post also quoted Israeli officials who “said that Western isolation from Iran also contributed to the weakening of pragmatic Iranian Hassan Rouhani.”
Rouhani may have been pragmatic, but he was no moderate. As CAMERA frequently highlighted, Rouhani has claimed that United Flight 93, which crashed during the September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorist attack was “shot down by the United States Air Force.” Rouhani has also supported the use of illegal chemical warfare and, when he was the first secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, supported operations to target and murder dissidents living abroad.
Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and has targeted and murdered Americans. The regime calls for the destruction of the world’s sole Jewish state and has devoted considerable resources to attacking Israel. Tehran’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons warrant both concern and careful press coverage. Yet too often, both have been lacking.
The writer is a Senior Research Analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis