The PJ Tatler

Iranian Defector: US Team 'Mainly There to Speak on Iran’s Behalf'

An Iranian editor in Switzerland to cover the nuclear negotiations has defected, according to a report in The Telegraph.

Amir Hossein Motaghi said in a television interview that he defected because being a journalist no longer made “sense” to him due to the censorship in Iran. He was a public relations consultant on the campaign of President Hassan Rouhani last year.

Motaghi also said that the US negotiating team was “mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.”

“There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations,” he told Irane Farda television. “But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels.

“My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner any more.” Mr Mottaghi was a journalist and commentator who went on to use social media successfully to promote Mr Rouhani to a youthful audience that overwhelmingly elected him to power.

But he was also subject to the bitter internal arguments within the Iranian regime. One news website claimed he had been forced in to report to the ministry of intelligence weekly, and that he had been tipped off that he might be subject to arrest had he returned to Tehran.

He is said to have been a friend of Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American reporter for the Washington Post who has been detained in Tehran, and to have campaigned privately for his release.

ISCA, which has come under fire from regime hardliners critical of Mr Rouhani, issued a statement denying that Mr Motaghi was in Lausanne to report for it.

“Amir Hossein Motaghi had terminated his contribution to ISCA and this news agency has not had any reporter at the nuclear talks, except for a photojournalist”, it said.

However, critics said Mr Mottaghi was “prey of the exiled counter-revolutionaries” and had gone to Lausanne with the sole purpose of seeking refugee status in Switzerland.

In his television interview, Mr Mottaghi also gave succour to western critics of the proposed nuclear deal, which has seen the White House pursue a more conciliatory line with Tehran than some of America’s European allies in the negotiating team, comprising the five permanent members of the UN security council and Germany.

Meanwhile, France is alarmed that the deal doesn’t restrain Iran’s nuclear program enough. Apparently, Kerry’s browbeating has not had much effect on them. But it’s not likely that the French would blow up a framework deal, knowing that serious negotiations remain with a June 20 deadline for an agreement.

But White House “bullying” France into keeping its mouth shut about the deal’s weakness threatens to severely impact our relations:

Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The disagreement over France’s cautious position in regard to Iran threatens to erode U.S. relations with Paris, sources said.

Tension between Washington and Paris comes amid frustration by other U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. The White House responded to this criticism by engaging in public campaigns analysts worry will endanger American interests.

Western policy analysts who spoke to the Free Beacon, including some with close ties to the French political establishment, were dismayed over what they saw as the White House’s willingness to sacrifice its relationship with Paris as talks with Iran reach their final stages.

Obviously, the French don’t agree with giving away the store just to get a framework deal.

With 72 hours to go before the deadline, expect more concessions, more moving goalposts. Obama has put his legacy on the line in these talks and the Iranians know it.