When Sahar Met Benny

Obama State Department holdover defends Iran deal.

Ben Rhodes trained to be a novelist and in his elephantine The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House, “some names and identifying details have been changed.” One name that hasn’t changed will be of interest to observers of the Iran deal, which Ben packaged to reporters who didn’t know anything. That would be Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, Ben’s fellow national security council staffer. 

“She was an Iranian American and once interned for an organization that advocated for diplomacy with Iran,” Rhodes explains. “Sahar was a career civil servant for a decade, starting out in George W. Bush’s Pentagon. The stories made her out to be a Manchurian candidate, advocating for Iran’s interests within the Obama White House. Afterward, Obama invited her into the Oval office, ‘Don’t let them get you down,’ he said, posing for a picture with her in front of his desk. She kept a huge smile frozen on her face, fighting off tears.” 

Later, Ben brought Sahar into his office for a pep talk. “We just can’t let them win,” Ben tells her. Sahar Nowrouzzadeh then drops out of the narrative, with no citations from any of the stories about her.

In “Iran Deal Architect is Now Running Policy at the State Department,” a March 14, 2017 Conservative Review story, Jordan Schachtel, describe her as “a trusted Obama aide,” at that time “in charge of Iran and the Persian Gulf region on the policy planning staff at the State Department.” Nowrouzzadeh is “a former employee of the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a non-profit that is accused of being a lobbying group for the Iranian regime.”  NIAC’s current president, Trita Parsi, the piece noted, “has long held close relationships with top officials in the Tehran dictatorship.” 

In the March 18, 2018 “State Department approved anti-Trump articles by pro-Iran Deal official,” Schachtel noted Nowrouzzadeh’s Foreign Affairs article, “Trump’s Dangerous Shift on Iran,” in which she denounced Trump’s “highly confrontational speech” and defended the Iran deal she helped to craft. “By refusing to certify the accord, despite verification that Iran is in compliance, Trump essentially torpedoed the hard work that led to Washington’s recent opening to Tehran.”

Nowrouzzadeh authored other articles along similar lines, and the State Department “vetted and approved” their publication.  Nowrouzzadeh had been reassigned but remained in the State Department, protected by civil service rules that make dismissal practically impossible. Schachtel also noted that more than 99 percent of 2016 campaign contributions from State Department employees went to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Nowrouzzadeh, “did not want to be reassigned,” according to an unidentified State Department official cited an April 4, 2017 Politico piece. So she was clearly on a mission, and Ben Rhodes does not reveal if Iran’s Islamic regime had ever done anything with which Sahar Nowrouzzadeh disagreed. On the other hand, Ben does provide some helpful profiles of POTUS 44’s posse.

His UN ambassador Samantha Power represented “who I wanted to be” in Washington, an “alternative to the neoconservative view that dominated the debate after 911.” She too “felt a sense of destiny about her work for Obama.”

John Brennan is “a career CIA guy who appeared to do nothing but work.” Brennan “spoke sparingly but with a precision and gravitas that made you stop and listen closely.” 

James Clapper was an “avuncular older guy” with an “easy rapport with Obama.” Clapper “never put spin on the ball; he told you what he knew and what he didn’t.” No word of Clapper’s view that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular” and not violent. No word of Clapper’s lie about NSA data collection on Americans, which he now calls a “mistake.”

Ben’s boss, President of the United States Barack Obama, says “the West has to reeducate itself about Islam and the contributions that it has made to the world.” The president ticked through Islam’s contributions to art, science and mathematics when “we were a backwater.” 

Ben and the president, raised in Indonesia and formerly known as Barry Soetoro, avoided using the word “Islam” in connection with terrorists. That was because “groups like al Qaeda want to cast themselves as a religious movement.” 

After Ben’s boast about the Iran deal, the president wonders “why were you so eager to talk about how sausage gets made? You’ve got to be more careful. We’ve still got nine months.” When Ben brings it up again, the president says “No, forget about that. That’s just a pimple on the ass of progress.” 

Even so, trained fiction writer Ben Rhodes took the media criticism pretty hard. “I had now been fully erased and replaced with a different person – a liar, an egoist, an asshole.” 

Readers might thank Ben for all those great memories. And thanks for the memo on Iran deal supporter Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, still holding forth in the State Department.