Kayhan criticized for distorting Obama’s Bloomberg comments

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Two conservative Iranian websites have criticized Kayhan for misquoting US President Barack Obama’s comments in his Bloomberg interview about Iran sanctions.

On Tuesday, Kayhan’s top story was headlined, “Obama: 95% of the sanctions will never be removed.” The subhead was a not-so-subtle dig at proponents of the nuclear talks: “Noteworthy for domestic optimists.”

Kayhan, whose editor is personally chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and is distributed widely across government offices and newsstands, serves as a gauge for analysts of the hard-line position in Iran.

However, neither the headline nor the text of Obama’s interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg were accurately translated.

As Alef and Tabnak both pointed out, Kayhan either intentionally or unintentionally misquoted and distorted Obama’s comments.

In discussing the interim Geneva deal that offered partial sanctions relief in return for scaling back parts of Iran’s nuclear program, Obama said that while Iran’s economy “might have improved modestly, all we have to do is turn the dial back on.” In response to Goldberg’s question of whether Obama genuinely believes sanctions will be that easy to reinstate, Obama said, “Well, partly because 95% of it never got turned off.”

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Whether the mistake is intentional or not, it certainly suits Kayhan’s editorial position to translate “never got turned off” as “will never be removed.” While not opposing negotiations on the whole, as Khamenei has lent them his support, Kayhan has instead attacked the specifics of the deal and how the Iranian negotiators have handled themselves, especially their apparent closeness with American officials.

What’s also interesting is that both websites that criticized Kayhan are conservative, although Tabnak less overtly so. Alef is the website of conservative parliament member Ahmad Tavakoli, and Tabnak is affiliated with conservative politician Mohsen Rezaei, who at one point was the commander of the Revolutionary Guard and is now secretary-general of the Expediency Council.

Tabnak‘s article read that the difference between the two statements “is clear for any fair person,” adding, “Whatever you name it — whether poor political ethics, a misguided attempt to put pressure on the West or even a poor translation as a result of pessimism — rather than being to the benefit of Iran’s national interests, it is to the benefit of America’s position.”

The Alef journalist wrote that Kayhan’s headline caught his eye when he saw it in a newsstand and decided to research it when he got home, because in his view, if it was true, there was no point in negotiating. He found the original Bloomerg interview and noticed that “It had no relation to Kayhan’s major headline.”

According to the Alef writer, Obama’s interview “had positive and negative points that deserve to be critiqued. But for a newspaper to distort reality and give its readers what it wants to, today, thanks to the Internet and free information, it is not possible. Under such conditions, it is better for a newspaper, especially those who are in charge of writing the headlines for the top story, in addition to taking their own politics and goals into consideration, it also should take into consideration the credibility of the newspaper and respect for its readers.”