NBC did a fascinating feature about how social media fundamentally changed nuclear talks between the United States and Iran. Sadly, their exclusive access to high-level officials was posted in a clunky video format, oddly spliced into 6 videos totaling over 40 minutes of dramatized narration.
Here are all the important facts, redone in a format that is more palatable and told with the original social media sourcing.
In 2013, Iran’s hyper anti-American President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was replaced by the gentler Hassan Rouhani, who appointed the American educated, Javad Zarif, as Foreign Minister. He burst on the scene with a shocking bit of Jewish outreach, through a tweet, of all things.
Happy Rosh Hashanah— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 5, 2013
The surprisingly Jewish-friendly statement was followed up with the President’s approval.
And, just so there was no mistaking that his statements were meant to signal a departure from the previous administration, Zarif tweeted that the controversial politicians who denied the holocaust were out of office.
@sfpelosi Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 5, 2013
The President even released his own Obama-inspired hope-filled YouTube video.
The peaceful u-turn reportedly gave the U.S. enough confidence to start high-level back-channel negotiations over Iran’s nuclear energy program.
The back-channel talk was apparently going well enough that the leaders of the two nations nearly met for the first time in decades at the United Nations summit. “President Obama was prepared to meet,” Secretary John Kerry told Curry. “In the end, it just didn’t come together.”
But, fear not, because Obama and Rouhani did talk directly phone, a historic breakthrough that Rouhani announced on Twitter:
He even attempted a bit of humor, but the tweets were later deleted:
As negotiations proceeded, Iran’s leaders faced backlash for their American friendliness from hardliners back home. So, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini bestowed his confidence in (you guessed it) a tweet.
But then all of the momentum ground to a screeching halt in November that year at the 6-nation talks in Geneva. France foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, publicly blasted a deal on french radio. He believed it was not strict enough on Iran’s nuclear energy program.
Things later unraveled between the U.S. and Iran. “There was unity! But Iran couldn’t take it and that particular moment,” Kerry said.
Zarif fired back on Twitter:
Mr.Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of US draft Thursday night? and publicly commented against it Friday morning?— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 11, 2013
And, he told a longer version of Iran’s nuclear energy ambitions via YouTube. “For us, nuclear energy is about securing a future for our children,” he said in the video.
Why YouTube? “it was a suggestion by one of my young friends,” he explained to Curry.
Two weeks later, negotiations would resume with deluded expectations. But, Kerry claimed the YouTube video was oddly helpful. “In the end, it was helpful, it sort of created an energy to recognize we have got to close the loop here while we can”.
Iran reportedly agreed to stop enriching Uranium beyond 5 percent and the U.S. agreed to billions in economic sanctions relief. The deal was announced via Twitter.
We have reached an agreement.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 24, 2013
Unfortunately, as of last week, continued nuclear talks have hit a wall, with an apparently serious misunderstanding in how many centrifuges will be part of Iran’s energy program.
If you’re so-inclined, you can watch the entire series here. Be warned: The video player has issues. Perhaps one day legacy media will figure out a Web-friendly way to do news documentaries.