The Obama administration has changed tactics in the last couple of weeks with regard to why the nuclear deal with Iran should be supported. After the agreement was signed, Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Energy Moniz et al, attempted to defend the nuclear agreement on its merits before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and in the media. The president, himself, defended the technical details of the deal (inspection regime, timelines, snap back sanctions, etc.).
But the more light that was shed on the details, the weaker the document appeared. We learned that Iran will be permitted to maintain its nuclear infrastructure with a pathway to a nuclear weapon in about ten years, anytime anywhere inspections had been scrapped, secret side deals were uncovered and snap back sanctions resulting from Iranian violations appear to be unlikely.
The new approach involves a combination of threats, diversions, exaggerations and what logicians refer to as fallacious reasoning or fallacies. Here’s a list of the panoply of ploys (by no means exhaustive), as it appears that this new course has replaced a cogent defense of the deal with an alphabet soup of circular reasoning.
The False Dilemma: This occurs when only limited options are proffered as the only possible scenarios of a given action.
The administration states that if the Iran P5+1 nuclear deal is not implemented, the only alternate is war. In reality, other possibilities would include scrapping the deal and increasing the sanctions, impressing upon the Iranians that the military option is very much on the table and re-negotiating the weaker parts of the deal, listed above.
The Non Sequitur: A conclusion that does not follow from the previous statement.
First, the secretary of state informs us that the sanctions against Iran were beginning to crumble. He then reasons that we should support the deal while we still have the leverage. Finally, Kerry reassures his audience that if the Iranians do not abide by the agreement, the sanctions would snap back into place. But if the sanctions are indeed crumbling, what possible hope is there for said sanctions to be successfully reconstituted?
Ad Hominem: An irrelevant (often personal) attack on an opponent, suggesting that the attack undermines the reasoning of your adversary.
When the president spoke at American university last week he said that those opposed to the Iran deal were the same people who supported the Iraq War in 2003. The implication was clear: those who disagree with him support a war against Iran.
He also said: “It’s those hardliners chanting death to America who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus.” These are personal attacks comparing democratically elected United States Congressmen with religiously fanatic mullahs who preach genocide during their Friday sermons.
Ad Novitatem (The Bandwagon Fallacy): A claim is correct because that is what most people believe.
During his speech at American University, the president also said: “Every nation in the world that has commented publically with the exception of the Israeli government has expressed support.” This is a blatant attempt to isolate Israel among the community of nations. It is well known that all of the Sunni majority Arab states in the region and Turkey have severe reservations about the accord. Individual ministers and government controlled media in those states have consistently railed against it. The leaders of these states may not have come out with a formal statement of opposition for fear of antagonizing the Obama administration.
Additionally, in America, opinion polls have consistently showed a plurality or majority of Americans opposing the deal.
Regardless, even if a majority agrees with a premise/agreement, this does not make it true or logically sound.
Ad Baculum (appeal to emotions): This fallacy relies on scare tactics to convince opponents.
When administration officials warn that if the deal is not approved by congress, the outcome will be war, they are relying on fear rather than logic to galvanize support. Also, the veiled threats to Senator Schumer (who has announced his opposition to the deal) by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest that he may be challenged for the leadership of the Democratic caucus is another example of this technique.
Confirmation Bias/Suppressed Evidence Fallacy: The tendency to rely on evidence supporting one’s position and not accept or view valid disconfirming evidence.
This is the case when the Congress of the United States is asked to support a resolution when it has come to light that secret side deals have been made that are not available for their study. Additionally, the American media broke the story that General Qassim Suleimani, the head of the Iranian al-Quds Force visited Russia in late July - a violation of a UN travel ban that has been imposed on him because of his involvement in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. One could safely assume that the CIA, and hence the administration, knew of this long before the media uncovered it, but suppressed this evidence of Iranian non-compliance.
The Red Herring: A tactic which is misleading or distracting, employed to divert attention from the core issue at hand.
On August 11, Secretary Kerry, speaking to the Reuters News Agency implied that if the US abandons the nuclear deal and demand that our allies comply with American sanctions against Iran, the loss of confidence in US leadership could threaten the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency: “If we turn around and nix the deal and then tell them [our allies] you’re going to have to obey our rules and sanctions anyway that is a recipe for…the American dollar to cease to be the reserve currency of the world.” Enough said.
Slippery Slope Fallacy: This ploy occurs when the claim is made that taking an initial step in a certain direction will lead to a series of other steps which will inevitably end in serious trouble.
This is yet another example of the administration’s flawed reasoning that war is the only alternative to the Iran deal.
The abandonment of sound reasoning and the resort to exaggerations, ruses and dissimulations is proof positive that the Obama administration realizes that the P5+1 Iran Deal cannot be defended on its merits.