The expose of national security staffer Ben Rhodes admission in the New York Times Magazine concocting a string of false messages to sell the Iran nuclear deal sent shock-waves through American politics and around the world as the revelations began to sink in that the entire basis of the agreement with the Iranian regime may have been built on lies.
Even more disturbing news reports has come out now that one of the principal advocates for the deal and a central pillar of the Iran lobbying effort had paid cash directly to news organizations in a brash effort to influence favorable coverage of the agreement.
The Associated Press reported that the Ploughshares Fund gave National Public Radio $100,000 last year to help it report on the nuclear deal according to the group’s own annual report, while also funding reporters and partnerships with a wide array of other news outlets.
In the Times article, Rhodes explained how he worked with nongovernmental organizations, proliferation experts and even friendly reporters to build support for the seven-nation accord that curtailed Iran’s nuclear activity and softened international financial penalties on Tehran.
“We created an echo chamber,” said Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, adding that “outside groups like Ploughshares” helped carry out the administration’s message effectively.
Most news organizations, including The Associated Press, have strict rules governing whom they can accept money from and how to protect journalistic independence.
Ploughshares’ backing is more unusual, given its prominent role in the rancorous, partisan debate over the Iran deal.
The Ploughshares grant to NPR supported “national security reporting that emphasizes the themes of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and budgets, Iran’s nuclear program, international nuclear security topics and U.S. policy toward nuclear security,” according to Ploughshares’ 2015 annual report, recently published online.
Ploughshares Fund provided over 90 grants to various organizations in 2015 in order to engage in reporting, research and analysis on Iranian nuclear issues. The over 90 grants given out in 2015 nearly doubles those the organization provided in 2014, and triples the amount given in 2013. Ploughshares’ increases in grant funding directly coincides with the time period during which the Iran nuclear deal was being finalized and presented to Congress.
Also receiving grants were think tanks such as the RAND Institute which was given $40,000 to write “a series of articles that analyze specific elements of the diplomatic agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.”
Ploughshares Fund President Joseph Cirincione spoke about the Iran deal on NPR twice last year. He was identified as a donor to the radio station on only one of the two occasions.
Ploughshares also provided over $280,000 to the Iran lobby leader National Iranian American Council (NIAC) for its work supporting the Iran deal, some of which went directly towards sending NIAC staff to the nuclear negotiations in Vienna. NIAC was accused of engaging in lobbying efforts on behalf of the Iranian regime around 2007, which led to the organization’s president Trita Parsi bringing suit against journalist Hassan Daioleslam for defamation. Parsi eventually lost the protracted legal battle.
The New York Post joined in the mounting criticism of the massive lobbying and PR effort with an editorial casting doubt on Ploughshares’ claims:
“And though Ploughshares claims to be working against nuclear proliferation, it backed a soft line toward Iran and worked to enable a deal that at best will only delay Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” the Post said.
Meanwhile the Washington Free Beacon examined claims by NPR that it did not deliberately deny airtime for anti-Iran deal advocates such as Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) who claimed to have scheduled interviews with NPR cancelled at the last time and spots given instead to Iran deal support Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
While NPR executives claimed to have no records of such bookings, emails reviewed by the Free Beacon between NPR and Pompeo’s office show otherwise, casting more doubt on the validity of NPR’s claims of journalistic integrity on the Iran nuclear deal while it was being funded by the Ploughshares Fund.
These revelations expose the tangled connections between the Iranian lobby, its financial backers and its efforts to manipulate news media and manage directly the so-called “hundreds of often-clueless reporters” as characterized by Robert Malley, senior director at the National Security Council, as quoted in the Times article.
As to where Ploughshares gets its money? Ploughshares is financed by billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute, the Buffett Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others including several notable Hollywood celebrities such as actor Michael Douglas and entertainer Barbra Streisand.
Joseph Cirincione, the president of Ploughshares, went on the offensive in an effort to blunt the growing embarrassment of these revelations with an editorial on Huffington Post in which he blamed all the attacks on a right-wing, neo-con conspiracy.
While Cirincione took aim at the writers of the Times and AP stories, he neglected to mention the central characters in this entire episode and it wasn’t Ploughshares.
It was the mullahs in Tehran for which Ploughshares and others of the Iran lobby do their bidding.
The core issue is not about donations, coverage and lobbying. It is very much about how a despotic, extremist, religiously fanatical regime is escaping notice as it executes a record 2,500 people, brutalizes the women of Iran and fights three wars in Syria, Yemen and Iraq which has turned much of the Middle East and Europe into the largest refugee center in history since World War II.
Nowhere does Cirincione defend the recent conduct of the mullahs. Nowhere does he mention the rapid development and launching of illegal ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. Nowhere does he mention the blatant violations of even the flimsiest provisions of the Iran nuclear deal such as the inability to inspect Iranian military facilities.
The money Ploughshares has spread around like so much horse manure was never intended to expose the Iranian regime, but only to cover it up.
By Michael Tomlinson