White House Narratives on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Hearing Date: May 17, 2016 10:00 am 2154 Rayburn HOB

TAKEAWAYS:

  • The Administration prioritized spinning their foreign policy narratives ahead of being transparent about their objectives on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
  • The timeline of events surrounding JCPOA negotiations are unclear. The Obama Administration claimed talks began in 2013 with the election of moderate Hassan Rouhani as President of Iran, yet according to comments by Ben Rhodes in the New York Times, “the most meaningful part of negotiations with Iran had begun in 2012,” during the Presidency of radical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In a deleted clip from a State Department  press briefing, a spokesperson suggested,“I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress, this is a good example of that.”
  • Deputy National Security Advisory for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, Secretary of State John Kerry, and other administration officials made misleading statements about the ability of inspectors to have “anytime, anywhere” access to Iranian nuclear facilities.
  • There is no clarity on the amount of U.S. dollars Iran gained access to under the deal. The Obama Administration, the Iranians and the Department of Treasury have offered differing estimates ranging from $54 million to $150 million.
  • Secretary Kerry is encouraging banks and companies to invest in Iran, despite Iran escalating threats against the U.S., holding Americans hostage, and conducting ballistic missile tests in an attempt to project their power across the region.

PURPOSE:

  • To examine the process by which the Obama administration negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • To assess how the White House communicated the JCPOA—and the negotiations leading up to it—to Congress and the American people.

BACKGROUND:

  • On July 14, 2015, Iran and the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany finalized the JCPOA, also known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal.”
    • The JCPOA is intended to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is used for purely peaceful purposes, in exchange for a broad lifting of sanctions.
    • President Obama asserts the JCPOA represented the most effective means to ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon.
  • Critics of the agreement expressed concerns that the extensive sanctions relief would give Iran additional resources to extend its influence in the region. Critics also assert the lifting of a U.N. prohibition on arms sales to Iran or arms exports by Iran, and on Iran’s development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, will set the stage for Iran to emerge as a key regional actor.
  • In an interview with David Samuels of the New York Times on May 5, Ben Rhodes discussed the process by which the White House presented the JCPOA to the public.

KEY VIDEOS:

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT): “I think it would be naive to just gloss this over … it’s not something that was fully brought before the Congress.”

 Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC): “If [Ben Rhodes has] time to make these comments to a reporter, [he] ought to be able to come explain [himself to Congress].”

Health Care, Benefits, and Administrative Rules Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH): “So this isn’t the first time this administration on some big policy decision has deceived the American people. But maybe more importantly it’s not—in my judgment—the first time Mr. Rhodes on a big policy issue, on a big concern to the American people, has tried to deceive them.”

Witnesses and testimonies

Name Title Organization Panel Document
Mr. Michael Rubin Resident Scholar The American Enterprise Institute Document
Mr. Michael Doran Senior Fellow Hudson Institute Document
Mr. John Hannah Senior Counselor Foundation for Defense of Democracies Document

Related Documents

Name Document
Letter from the White House Document
Transcript Document