Gestating an Iran Deal

  • Public-Policy Reform
  • 2015

President Obama’s 2015 decision to end sanctions on Iran in return for promises of increased nuclear accountability did not emerge on its own. It grew directly out of years of quiet activity by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. After the 9/11 attacks demonstrated that al-Qaeda had become the most urgent Islamic threat, the fund began to convene meetings to explore the possibility of some U.S.-Iran rapprochement. Its Iran Project, given $4.3 million, funded a group of former U.S. diplomats to develop a relationship with Mohammad Javad Zarif and other Iranian officials, and begin to get them engaged with influential Americans. Zarif is now Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and the godfather of the Iran-Obama plan. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund also paid for most of a $4 million campaign launched in 2010 by the Ploughshares Fund, a San Francisco-based peace group, to build support among liberal think tanks and activists for pressure on behalf of an Iran deal.