In a story that might best be described as–first we were for regime change, until we weren’t–the Washington Post reported that a senior U.S. intelligence official said that the ultimate goal of U.S. sanctions against Iran is to induce enough hatred of the regime to cause it to collapse. Here’s how that passage read in the originally titled, “Goal of Iran Sanctions is Regime Collapse, U.S. official Says,” before it was quickly removed (here Blake Hounshell reports on the first version):
The goal of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran is regime collapse, a senior U.S. intelligence official said, offering the clearest indication yet that the Obama administration is at least as intent on unseating Iran’s government as it is on engaging with it.
The official, speaking this week on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the administration hopes that sanctions “create enough hate and discontent at the street level” that Iranians will turn against their government.
As soon as the administration got wind of the story, it applied pressure on the Post to erase the original official’s statement, since it contradicted the government’s stated policy, which is that sanctions are designed to force Iran to relinquish its nuclear program. But despite a prominently placed Correction notice, most of the rest of us know that the original source expressed the covert (or overt) intent of most of the Iran hawks both inside and outside government.
The two reporters who published this story are veterans. They know when an official is endorsing regime collapse and when he’s not. Despite the fact that the Post has now renounced the original version, I’m certain it was correct. Just as I’m certain that sanctions not only have no hope of toppling the regime, they have no hope of budging Iran’s nuclear policy a single inch.
In a remark that states the obvious Hounshell, who sometimes seems to be channeling the powers that be, concedes that though some may wish for regime change “as far as we can tell, they aren’t there yet.” An understatement.