NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt traveled to Tehran this week in order to interview top Iranian officials and give them the chance to paint Iran as the victim of U.S. aggression.
Holt allowed Ali Shamkhani, military adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said it was a mistake for Iran to sign the Obama administration’s 2015 deal since the U.S. pulled out under President Donald Trump.
Holt also allowed Shamkhani to claim that Iran was a stabilizing force in the Middle East, rather than a source of terrorism. The U.S. State Department still lists Iran as one of the leading state-sponsors of terrorism.
Shamkhani, according to a press email sent by the State Department’s communications office, “accidentally” admitted to relying “on the assistance of proxy groups to spread violence in the region.” In his interview with Holt, Shamkhani said Iran had “multiple instruments at hand, including the proxy war.” While Shamkhani did not say who would help fight on Iran’s behalf, NBC acknowledged the country has been “a long-time supporter of Hezbollah, Hamas and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.”
Holt also interviewed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who claimed that he was sanctioned by the U.S. because he rejected an invitation to the White House. The State Department pointed to a Wall Street Journal article from July 1 that explained Treasury Secretary Mnuchin had already announced sanctions would be coming against Zarif. At the beginning of August, Zarif claimed that he had been invited to the White House while he was in New York attending meetings at the United Nations, and that his rejection was the reason he was sanctioned. Zarif was in New York around July 16, two weeks after Mnuchin made his statement about sanctions.
To be fair, Mnuchin said at the beginning of July that Zarif would be sanctioned by the end of the week, but he was not sanctioned for nearly a month. Still, the Trump administration points to Mnuchin’s earlier comments as proof that Zarif lied about being sanctioned for rejecting a meeting at the White House.
Zarif also told Holt that the “nuclear deal we have was negotiated in the context of our regional disputes,” referring to the Iran Deal negotiated by the Obama administration that Trump backed out of.
The State Department pushed back on Zarif’s claim, stating that Iran “continued to spend money and provide more resources to their proxies after the nuclear deal and when sanctions were dropped.”
Further, the State Department added, Zarif failed to answer Holt’s original question about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations in the surrounding region.