Mossad chief, Senate sanctions on Iran, and epistemic closure

Mossad chief, Senate sanctions on Iran, and epistemic closure
No, the negotiations still aren't working. (Image: Reuters via WSJ)

Suppose you heard that the head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, had agreed that an Iran sanctions bill in the U.S. Senate could tank the ongoing negotiations with Iran.

Would you think he meant that as a “warning” against the sanctions bill?

Neither would I.  I’d figure he was giving an accurate assessment.  Yes, passing the Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill could undermine the negotiations.

But I wouldn’t imagine that he was invested in the negotiation process, which so far has been beneficial exclusively to Iran.  I wouldn’t think he was hoping to prevent the tanking of the negotiations.

I certainly wouldn’t interpret his assessment as going rogue, or “breaking ranks” with the Netanyahu government.  Netanyahu’s not invested in the negotiations either.  That’s because they are counterproductive: they continue to give Iran time to make progress with her nuclear program, halting nothing that matters and imposing no penalty on Iran for violating the terms of the current Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) agreement.

Mossad chief Tamir Pardo (L) with Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen. (Image: Gil Yohanan via The Cutting Edge News)
Mossad chief Tamir Pardo (L) with Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen. (Image: Gil Yohanan via The Cutting Edge News)

And I would have been right about the Mossad chief’s intentions.  In a very rare policy communication, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo came out, after the Josh Rogin/Eli Lake article at Bloomberg that put these inaccurate constructions on Pardo’s comments during a visit with senators and staff, and clarified that he meant no such thing.

Israel Matzav offers a translation of Pardo’s statement (from the original Hebrew):

Contrary to the report, the Mossad Chairman did not say that he opposes additional sanctions against Iran. In the meeting, the Mossad Chairman emphasized the unusual effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Iran a number of years ago in bringing Iran to the negotiating table.

The Mossad Chairman pointed out that the negotiations with Iran must be conducted using ‘carrots and sticks,’ and the ‘sticks’ are currently missing. The Mossad Chairman pointed out that without strong pressure, it will not be possible to bring about significant compromises on the Iranian side.

The Mossad Chairman did not relate to the use of the term ‘hand grenade’ with respect to the imposition of sanctions, because in his eyes, these are the ‘sticks’ that will help to obtain a good agreement. He used this term to describe the possibility of creating a temporary breakdown in the talks, at the end of which the negotiations will be restarted under better conditions.

The Mossad Chairman explicitly pointed out that the agreement that is being reached with Iran is bad, and may lead to a regional arms race.

What appears to be happening in Washington is that Pardo’s comments were spun to the media by Senate staffers working on a separate bill being pushed by Senators Corker, McCain, and Graham.  The Corker bill doesn’t seek to reimpose or strengthen sanctions on Iran.  Its focus is constraining Obama to gain Senate approval of any long-term agreement with Iran on the Iranian nuclear program.  (The Obama administration says it doesn’t need Senate approval.)  Hence, throwing Kirk-Menendez and the sanctions push under the bus is a method of clearing the way for the Corker approach.

Senators Corker (L) and Menendez, at odds today over the Senate's approach to deterring Iran. (Image: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst)
The Bobs: Senators Corker (L) and Menendez, at odds today over the Senate’s approach to deterring Iran. (Image: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst)

It’s interesting, and very informative, that Rogin and Lake either reflexively accepted the spin from their sources, or actively agreed with and perhaps enhanced it.

You have to be invested in the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran to see anything that threatens to undermine them as the premise for a warning.  You have to accept the narrative that there’s something to the negotiations: that we’re all pulling for them and hoping they prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, or at least yield something positive.

All in: Rogin, Lake, Bloomberg editors demonstrate textbook epistemic rigidity. (Screen-cap of Rogin/Lake article heading obtained 22 Jan 2015)
All in: Rogin, Lake, Bloomberg editors demonstrate textbook epistemic rigidity. (Screen-cap of Rogin/Lake article heading obtained 22 Jan 2015)

But there is a very large segment of the world that reposes no such hope in the negotiations.  That segment sees the people invested in them – the Western left, the mainstream media – as seriously deluded and out of touch with reality.  Given the unmistakable reality of Iran’s blithe violation of the JPOA and continued progress with her nuclear program, the “reality” segment of the world assumes a priori that the director of Mossad would never mean to issue a warning that something might interfere with the “negotiations” charade.

The unclothed emperor is starting to lose his effectiveness on the edges.  People below the head-of-government level are beginning to take matters into their own hands and go against the network of counterfactual narratives by which the West has been ruled in recent years.

When the Hollande government of France tried to exclude Benjamin Netanyahu from the solidarity march in Paris, Netanyahu’s cabinet revolted.  They refused to let the narrative that radical Islamists are mainly motivated by the “Israel-Palestinian” issue limit their options, or Israel’s, for when and where to show up in solidarity with their fellow Westerners or their fellow Jews.  Netanyahu ended up going himself, uninvited – and the prejudicial “Israel-Palestinian” narrative turned out to have no teeth.

Speaker John Boehner announced this week that he has invited Netanyahu to address Congress on 11 February – an invitation issued independently of the Obama administration and any other scheduled trip of Bibi’s.  The move is contrary to protocol, and Team Obama will no doubt try to find fresh ways to make Congress and the American public pay for it.  But the Obama administration also knows that Boehner has the people behind him.  Democrats in Congress know it too.

Islamist terrorism and the threat of an Iranian bomb are too important to shrug off in favor of a naked-emperor narrative.  The media’s investment in Obama and his narrative is a fascinating study in epistemic closure, but it doesn’t represent the mindset of America.  Even the leviathans of modern government are starting to come apart under the strain of falsity.  We can expect to see that trend gather steam.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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