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Voice of America Shuns Professionalism, Embraces Deal

Well, this piece by Voice of America (VOA) entitled, “As Potential Deal Draws Near, Iran Talks Critics Out in Force,” just crossed my desk:

While talks continue in Vienna critics are out on the Internet in force, accusing American and Iranian diplomats of making a deals with the enemy. “They are saying the same thing, whether you are in Tehran or in Washington,” noted Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council.  “They are all saying that ‘the negotiation team is selling their country short. They are agreeing to everything.  They are giving too many concessions.  This will be a disaster.  This is the worst thing that ever happened.” Some of the critique, he says, may come from supporters of Iran’s rivals who fear the country will grow stronger. But analysts say some hardliners are also subscribing to an out-of-date view of international relations, according to Yan Saint Pierre, who heads Berlin-based security firm MOSECON in an interview on Skype. “Their point is based on their impression of Iran and the United States out of the 1980s and the 1990s of both sides being ideologically opposed,” Saint Pierre said.   This mindset is not constructive and is not adaptive to the context of 2015.”

The whole piece is worth reading; it really is astounding. The VOA — an organ which seeks credibility through balance — reports that the “critics [are] out in force,” and yet fails to quote a single critic. Instead, it gives voice to two outspoken proponents of the deal — one of whom once declared that everything he does, he does for Iran and neither of whom are actually American citizens (Parsi is Iranian-Swedish) — and allows them to make straw man arguments that make light of the very real arguments against the nuclear deal as it appears to be shaping up. There are the inconsistencies between what Obama administration officials said the deal would achieve, for example, and what it actually may achieve. There is the fact that Secretary of State John Kerry has crafted the deal to be unenforceable by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the international body charged with monitoring any deal. Nor does Saint Pierre’s point make much sense unless he means to suggest that, in 2015, the United States is aligned with groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, and other Iranian proxies. This isn’t just an issue with one journalist, but rather broader considering the editorial process through which any article goes.

Now, some might suggest that the VOA is meant to be just that—the voice of American policy. I am certainly sympathetic to that view, after more than a decade of frustration with the tendency of some at VOA to seek to build credibility through self-flagellation or promote the arguments of those loyal to the Islamic Republic over those seeking its downfall. But American policy is not the personification of President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry. The United States is not a dictatorship and they do not define acceptable discourse by fiat, no matter what State Department spokesman Marie Harf might suggest. There is seldom unanimity in Congress, but the overwhelming majority of senators and representatives have expressed unease at the concessions offered to Tehran and the normalization of Iran’s nuclear program under current terms. Perhaps VOA meant to suggest that the Congress’s “mindset is not constructive”?

Now, there’s little that can be done of course unless Congress calls VOA directors to account and use the power of the purse to create a cost for such a lack of professionalism. When VOA actually publishes a piece on the deal’s critics and then apparently fails to speak to any, it certainly raises questions about the value of the taxpayer support. After all, can’t private media like MSNBC or CNN do the same thing?

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