Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 11, 2012

WaPo Censors Iran Sanctions' Regime Change Intent

The censors at the Washington Post missed the truth slipping through in one piece today and had to correct it.

The current version of a DeYoung/Wilson piece on Iran sanctions is headlined: Public ire one goal of Iran sanctions, U.S. official says. It starts with an editorial remark:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that a U.S. intelligence official had described regime collapse as a goal of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran. An updated version clarifies the official’s remarks.


Below we document the current text and the original version as published earlier today and for now still available through a cache. It was headlined: Goal of Iran sanctions is regime collapse, U.S. official says

That headline is also still in the URL of the current version of the piece:

A tweet by Foreign Policy (owned by WaPo) editor Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) pointed out that there was an intermediate third version of the piece which, unfortunately, I can not find anymore.

WaPo changed the first headline to "Goal of Iran sanctions is to get nation to abandon alleged nuclear program, U.S. official says" ht @shashj

Shashank Joshi (@shashj) then found:

This is such a joke. WaPo revises the headline *again* to "Public ire one goal of Iran sanctions, U.S. official says"…

The original version is on the left, the current - at least twice corrected one - on the right:

Goal of Iran sanctions is regime collapse, U.S. official saysPublic ire one goal of Iran sanctions, U.S. official says
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.

The comments came as the administration readies punitive new sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank and the European Union moves toward strict curbs on Iranian oil imports. The increased pressure is intended to force Iranian officials to heed Western demands that they abandon alleged nuclear weapons plans.

But the intelligence official’s remarks pointed to a more profound goal, even as the administration has reiterated its willingness to open a dialogue with Iran. Although designed to pressure a government to change its policies, it is a recognized but generally unspoken reality that economic sanctions usually have far more effect on general populations than on elites.

A senior administration official, speaking separately, acknowledged that public discontent was a likely result of more punitive sanctions against Iran’s already faltering economy. But this official said it was not the administration’s intent to press the Iranian people toward an attempt to oust their government.

“The notion that we’ve crossed into sanctions being about regime collapse is incorrect,” the administration official said. “We still very much have a policy that is rooted in the notion that you need to supply sufficient pressure to compel [the government] to change behavior as it’s related to their nuclear program.”

A Western diplomat familiar with the sanctions policy echoed those somewhat convoluted sentiments, saying that although regime collapse was a logical outcome of the sanctions, it was not the stated intent of the sanctioners.

Dennis B. Ross ...

The Obama administration sees economic sanctions against Iran as building public discontent that will help compel the government to abandon an alleged nuclear weapons program, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official.

In addition to influencing Iranian leaders directly, the official said, “another option here is that [sanctions] will create hate and discontent at the street level so that the Iranian leaders realize that they need to change their ways.”

The intelligence official’s remarks pointed to what has long been an unstated reality of sanctions: Although designed to pressure a government to change its policies, they often impose broad hardships on a population. The official spoke this week on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal administration assessments.

The comments came as the administration readies punitive new sanctions that affect Iran’s central bank and the European Union moves toward strict curbs on Iranian oil imports.

A senior administration official, speaking separately, acknowledged that public discontent was a likely result of more punitive sanctions against Iran’s already faltering economy, but said that is not the direct intent.

“We have a policy that is rooted in the notion that you need to supply sufficient pressure to compel [the government] to change behavior as it’s related to their nuclear program,” this official said.

“The question is whether people in the government feel pressure from the fact that there’s public discontent,” the official said, “versus whether the sanctions themselves are intended to collapse the regime.”

A Western diplomat familiar with the policy said that it was “introducing in the cost-benefit analysis a new parameter in the calculus” of the Iranian government. “To the extent we have done that, it is not because we want to collapse the government. It is because we want the Iranian government to understand that is a possible cost in continuing the way it is,” the diplomat said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the intent of the policy.

Dennis B. Ross ...


Laura Rozen (@lrozen) tweeded her take on this:

Hmm. Wld guess senior intel official demanded revision of his remarks, not that 1st version wrong #Iran regime collapse

Like Laura's my thought is that some urgent calls were made from officials to the editors at the Washington Post to disguise the real aim of the sanctions, regime change, that was clearly expressed in their quotes in the first version of the piece.

Posted by b on January 11, 2012 at 4:06 UTC | Permalink


Okay, I'll bite -- since when does a "senior U.S. intelligence official" determine or even report on US foreign policy? Now if this were a senior White House person or a U.S. State Department official, or even Victoria Nuland, State's spokeswoman, I might take it seriously, or at least take note of it. But intelligence officials have no expertise nor any authority in the country's foreign relations. I think they've proven there lack of expertise at almost everything, as a matter of fact. Why take any of them seriously on anything?

So this is a contrived tempest in a teapot. The problem is the inclination to take Blake Hounshell seriously, which is a mistake, particularly on Iran. He hasn't done it recently but previously his main contribution to Foreign Policy Passport was publishing unflattering photos of President Ahmadinejad, while ridiculing his height-challenged stature.

"Is Obama really trying to overthrow the Iranian regime?" Meaningless tabloid journalism, courtesy of Blake Hounshell. Is Obama really a space alien?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 11 2012 7:13 utc | 1

Speaking of tweets..GS Elevator Gossip: #1:Sure, bombing the Zoroastrian's is an immoral act, but will it set my investment portfolio on fire?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 11 2012 7:21 utc | 2

my guess is that the usual suspects, the neocons (wapo always carried water for the neocons) planted their story inside wapo via dennis ross and his ilk. but ross is an ex official. obama&co caught wind of it and shut it down.

goldberg is all over rushing regime change. listen to the has neocon written all over it.

Posted by: annie | Jan 11 2012 7:21 utc | 3

All ways to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb are justified and correct.

Posted by: AbeBird | Jan 11 2012 7:34 utc | 4

@Don - there is nothing related to Hounshell in the above but to set the fact that there were multiple versions of the story.

@annie - "senior U.S. intelligence official" means very likely either CIA Petraeus or DNI Clapper

What is interesting here that the "official" first spoke the truce but then retracted. The WaPo author is DeYoung, usually reliable, so I believe the first story was correct.

@AbeBird - you are a genocidal asshole. Iran has no nuclear weapon program.

Posted by: b | Jan 11 2012 7:53 utc | 5

Halting Iran's fully supervised uranium enrichment program to 5%, and some to 20%, would have absolutely no effect on any non-existent but alleged nuclear weapons program. This makes Clinton's recent blathering baseless.

REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has condemned Iran’s decision to begin uranium enrichment at a covertly built underground bunker near Qom, Iran, saying it brought Tehran “a significant step closer” to gaining the ability to produce bomb-grade fuel.

This is as true as her baseless charges of a year ago, remember those?
"I don't think there is any doubt that Iran is morphing into a military dictatorship with a ... sort of religious-ideological veneer,"

Now there's somebody Blake Hounshell should jump on, but of course he won't, because the WaPo has . . .a sort of religious-ideological veneer.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 11 2012 7:57 utc | 6

The Usraeli murder spree in Iran continues

Posted by: ran | Jan 11 2012 8:24 utc | 7

A realistic view of Iran from someone who lives there:

Christmas is No Time for an Iranian Revolution - Letter From Tajrish - By Hooman Majd

Lots of good lines in there. Here are a few of them:

Few in Iran believe that the nuclear program is a quest for a Shia bomb to obliterate Israel once and for all. No, the Iranian people, from my greengrocer to college students who resent their government, still consider the nuclear question in generally nationalistic terms. The particular regime in power is of passing relevance. So sanctioning Iran's central bank and embargoing Iranian oil, tactics the White House may be using as a way to avoid having to make a decision for war, will neither change minds in Tehran nor do much of anything besides bring more pain to ordinary Iranians. And making life difficult for them has not, so far, resulted in their rising up to overthrow the autocratic regime, as some might have hoped in Washington or London.

What, then, of an Iranian opposition? To the dismay of those same people (and many diaspora Iranians), the Arab Spring has not arrived on Persian shores. In fact, it is unlikely to do so anytime soon.


But the Green Movement no longer exists. Only in the Western media does wearing a green scarf, or anything green, for that matter, get you arrested in Iran. There is no "green wave" ready to crest. Talk of a "green" opposition, in fact, is pure nonsense.


But virtually none of these Iranians believe that revolution is imminent, or, for that matter, even desirable. Iranians inside Iran recognize that the regime, the Supreme Leadership, and the concept of an Islamic Republic still enjoy some support (however difficult it may be to quantify). The religious classes, branches of the military, and those in rural areas might be very much opposed to the status quo, but actively support the regime, as they define it.


"We're sick of those exiles telling us what to do," one young person, still "green," said to me. "Let them come here and do it themselves."

And so life in Iran continues as it always has. The government is less powerful than it was, but the regime itself is firmly in control. The nuclear program continues; Iranians go about their business, grumbling as they do. But a nation that weathered a revolution, an eight-year war with Iraq, and more than 30 years of sanctions and the enmity of the West is not about to crumble, nor to change direction. Nothing that the United States or the West can do -- not even war -- will solve the "Iran problem" to its satisfaction. In fact, it's what the United States and its allies don't do that might be the key to the issue -- and what may also give Iranians looking to effect domestic change some badly needed breathing room.

Posted by: b | Jan 11 2012 8:49 utc | 8

I think the problem was that the Us propaganda machine didn't consider its European servants' need to deny (at least for the moment) that the West was setting the stage for yet another military adventure; I wonder who the "Western diplomat" might be?

Posted by: claudio | Jan 11 2012 9:57 utc | 9

As Ran #7 said the big news is the assassination of another Iranian scientist in Tehran this morning. The assassination follows comments yesterday by Israeli Military Chief General Gantz that Iran should expect "more unnatural acts" in 2012.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that the victim, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was either director (or director of one department) at the Natanz Enrichment facility. This follows the news this week that Iran has unveiled newer more effective centrifuges at Natanz and also the announcment that the Fordo Enrichment facility will soon be online. Unlike Natanz the Fordo site in built underground so I think Iran plans on moving all equipment and men from the vulnerable Natanz site to the hardened Fordo one.

So the next question is how Iran responds to this murderous campaign. It has to respond to such a public and blatant move when the whole media are reporting it. It can't be seen to just do nothing.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jan 11 2012 13:16 utc | 10

Just wanted to take this moment to spit on the grave of the great sophist Tony Blankley. He was good with words, knew the truth and showed great facility obfuscating, lying, making pathetic appeals to people's lowest angels.

Posted by: scottindallas | Jan 11 2012 13:52 utc | 11

@Colm is the fact that the victim, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was either director (or director of one department) at the Natanz Enrichment facility

He was deputy director of the purchase department at Natanz. Only 32 years old and likely not a decisive figure.

Quite good analysis from the British RUSI: Iran and the West: Playing a Zero-Sum Game

The central problem is that this is a zero-sum diplomatic game and each side's move are inherently dual-use and therefore subject to the most malign interpretations. Enrichment is seen as synonymous with weaponisation, and sanctions are seen as tantamount to regime change. All the while, Tehran has negotiated in obviously bad faith, but the US has also shown little willingness to take risks or offer up carrots commensurate with the sticks. Even so, the most sweeping American concessions we could envisage - such as non-aggression guarantees - just wouldn't be taken seriously by the present leadership. Pushing for a political transformation within Iran is both counterproductive and, in the present standoff, dangerous. The Obama Administration, facing presidential elections in less than a year and an especially belligerent Republican field of candidates, would be unlikely to judge itself politically able to ease the pressure on Iran even if it felt inclined to do so. That is where we stand: diplomacy that hasn't worked, sanctions whose effects are unpredictable, and each side lashing themselves ever tighter to the mast.

Posted by: b | Jan 11 2012 14:17 utc | 12

@7, that was a courtesy of #4

Posted by: citizen x | Jan 11 2012 15:05 utc | 13

@ b #8: To the dismay of those same people (and many diaspora Iranians), the Arab Spring has not arrived on Persian shores. In fact, it is unlikely to do so anytime soon.

Actually, from my perspective, the Green election protests in 2009 was really the first event in what is now the Arab Spring. But I also agree that, at this time, the Green movement has faded away into a shadow of itself and is very unlikely to influence Iranian politics for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: JDsg | Jan 11 2012 15:40 utc | 14

JDsg - the Green election protests in 2009 was really the first event in what is now the Arab Spring

The Iranians would say that their 1979 revolution was the first event.

The Green election protests were just a typical U.S. color revolution.

Posted by: b | Jan 11 2012 16:02 utc | 15

Iran car explosion kills nuclear scientist in Tehran

Fuck... Factory explosions? Computer viruses? Car bombs?

It's almost as if someone.. aww, never-mind.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 11 2012 16:02 utc | 16

Regarding the failure of diplomacy, it has to fail b/c there is nothing to negotiate.
Iran intends to retain uranium enrichment and nuclear power plant capabilities, and the U.S. intends to halt enrichment even though it is fully supervised according to the NPT.
There is no possible middle ground.

El Baradei:

"Even if the intent is not to develop nuclear weapons, the successful acquisition of the full nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment, sends a signal of power to Iran’s neighbors and to the world, providing a sort of insurance against attack. Each of the factions in Iran understands that the nuclear program is in itself a deterrent. There is a clear consensus domestically that Iran needs to maintain that deterrence.

"Iran’s goal is not to become another North Korea – a nuclear weapon possessor but a pariah in the international community – but rather Brazil or Japan, a technological powerhouse with the capacity to develop nuclear weapons if the political winds were to shift, while remaining a non-nuclear-weapon state under the NPT."

The real issue is not nuclear, it is ME hegemony. Right now Iran has it and the U.S. wants it.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 11 2012 17:15 utc | 17

Reportedly he wasn't a nuclear scientist.

Tehran Times:
The academic was identified as Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, 32, a graduate of Sharif University of Technology in chemical engineering. The terrorists, who were riding a motorcycle, attached a magnetic bomb to his Peugeot 405 on Gol Nabi Street. The Mehr also reported that Ahmadi-Roshan had met with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors a few days before he was assassinated. He was reportedly in charge of commercial affairs at the nuclear site. reported that the website of Israel’s Foreign Ministry quoted Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz as saying that Iran could be prevented from becoming a regional power through assassinating its scientists. However, the article was later removed from the ministry’s website.

Israel, whose military chief had warned Iran only on Tuesday to expect more mysterious mishaps, declined to comment. While many analysts saw Israeli or Western involvement as eminently plausible, the role of local or other Middle Eastern hands in a deadly shadow war of bluff and sabotage could not be ruled out.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must be trusted by nations because nations and governments give their documents to the agency," said speaker of the Majlis (parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Kazem Jalali on Wednesday.

“How the enemies of [the Islamic] establishment have obtained the names and information of our country's elite is a question we would like to know the answer to,” he added.

Jalali stressed that the IAEA, international community and the UN nuclear agency's member states using their membership against the Islamic Republic must be held accountable for their actions.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 11 2012 17:43 utc | 18

Another report claims that Ahmadi Roshan was a nuclear scientist.

Sharif University, Tehran's elite technical university where the slain scientist had studied, said Ahmadi Roshan was specialised in making polymeric membranes used to separate gas. Iran uses gas separation to enrich uranium.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 11 2012 17:57 utc | 19

The WaPo author is DeYoung, usually reliable, so I believe the first story was correct.

hmm, ok. lofty goal tho, don't see how they could pull that off. iran isn't syria.

Posted by: annie | Jan 11 2012 18:02 utc | 20

b @ 15

Exactly right. For whatever reason, the Arab street is about a generation behind us (which is par for the course). And you are right on target with your characterization of the sedition of the post-2009 elections as a [failed] velvet revolution a la Soros & Co. Moussavi, who should have known better, got duped into buying Uncle Weasel's hype.

Keep up the excellent work.

Posted by: Unknown Unknowns | Jan 11 2012 18:20 utc | 21

@b at 15
I've long wondered how those Iranian street protesters magically got their thousands of yards (meters) of green cloth in such a short time, in a repressive regime as Iran is purported to be.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 11 2012 18:31 utc | 22

@UU - For whatever reason, the Arab street is about a generation behind us

The reason, in my theory, is the different attitude of Sunni and Shia towards Ijtihad. You have to have an open, self analyzing mind to be a real revolutionary. Shia seem to be more comfortable at that.

But then - what do I know ...

Posted by: b | Jan 11 2012 18:53 utc | 23

Of course the sanctions were always about regime change rather than about a nuclear bomb. Even the Israelis don't think Iran is building a bomb, just acquiring, as Panetta recently put it, nuclear capability. That was one of the many fascinating tidbits to come out in a recent Israeli simulation:

In their report, the Israeli authors, INSS fellows Yoel Guzansky and Yonatan Lerner, wrote: "Iran is closer than ever to the juncture at which its leaders will need to decide whether to stay in a relatively comfortable position on the verge of nuclear capability or, alternatively, to break through to the bomb. Iran has an interest in postponing the decision whether to cross the threshold to a later stage. Nevertheless, a series of regional and international developments is likely to cause Iran to decide to accelerate its nuclear development and to break through toward nuclear weapons."

The authors basically acknowledge Iran doesn't need a bomb, doesn't want a bomb, and doesn't want to be in position where it needs a bomb. Iran will have to be pushed by "regional and international developments" to build one. In the process, they also conclude that Israel can live with an Iranian bomb, and in fact their situation ends with Israel in a substantially stronger position than before Iran has the bomb (their simulation ends with Israel entering NATO, Turkey leaving, Iran isolated, and Russia closer to Europe. The only downside is that Saudi moves toward its own nuclear program, but the US could easy delay or prevent that from going too far).

I'm surprised no one has picked up the conclusions of this simulation yet.

Posted by: Bill | Jan 11 2012 19:57 utc | 24

Depend upon the Washington Post

Jan 10, 2012
The Post’s View, Jan 10, 2012
The U.S. needs to intensify sanctions on Iran

The opening of Fordow represents the launch of an Iranian plan to triple this form of uranium enrichment — and to do so in a facility that may be nearly invulnerable to attack from the air. When uranium is enriched to 20 percent, 80 percent of the processing needed to produce bomb-grade material is complete. So if it goes through with its plan, Iran could have enough of the 20 percent material by the end of this year to produce a bomb core very rapidly — perhaps even between visits of U.N. inspectors.

In Iran the IAEA implements the NPT treaty safeguards at 15 nuclear facilities and nine
locations outside facilities where nuclear material is customarily used. Every gram of uranium must be accounted for. The amount of LEU (Low-enriched uranium) required to yield the HEU (Highly-enriched uranium) required to assemble a Hiroshima style bomb, if it was further enriched, is 1.6 tons. The IAEA has continually reported, several times a year, that "The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 11 2012 22:09 utc | 25

One major point and one minor point:

1) re: Colm's comments @10 - Actually, they probably can (and should) do nothing. Just keep plugging along in relative isolation, either slowly completing their work, or waiting for such a blatant transgression that something in the non-Western 'International Community' (BRICS? or Russia?) finally breaks.

2) re: 'carrot-and-stick' OK, the complete mangling of this metaphor has really started to bug me. It has been twisted to mean something along the lines of 'candy-or-truncheon' (that is, reward or punishment). The original meaning of this metaphor is that the carrot would be tied to the end of a stick, allowing the driver of a horse-drawn cart to 'lead on' the horse by dangling the carrot forever beyond reach but within sight, thus teasing the horse down the road.

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Jan 12 2012 1:27 utc | 26

@ 25
The U.S. has never made the claims that WaPo has made.
* 20% enriched is 80% of processing needed for nuke
* Iran could have enough at 90% for a bomb by the end of the year (which would require 1.6 tons at 20%)

According to the most recent IAEA Board Report of Nov 8, 2011: (excerpts)

Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP): (Natanz)
10. Between 15 October and 8 November 2011, the Agency conducted a physical inventory verification (PIV) at FEP, the results of which the Agency is currently evaluating.
11. Iran has estimated that, between 18 October 2010 and 1 November 2011, it produced 1787 kg of low enriched UF6, which would result in a total production of 4922 kg of low enriched UF6 since production began in February 2007. The nuclear material at FEP (including the feed, product and tails), as well as all installed cascades and the feed and withdrawal stations, are subject to Agency containment and surveillance. The consequences for safeguards of the seal breakage in the feed and withdrawal area11 will be evaluated by the Agency upon completion of its assessment of the PIV.
12. Based on the results of the analysis of environmental samples taken at FEP since February 200712 and other verification activities, the Agency has concluded that the facility has operated as declared by Iran in the Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ).

Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP):
15. Between 13 and 29 September 2011, the Agency conducted a PIV at PFEP and verified that, as of 13 September 2011, 720.8 kg of low enriched UF6 had been fed into the cascade(s) in the production area since the process began on 9 February 2010, and that a total of 73.7 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 had been produced.

Let's see, Iran has produced a total of--
* 4922 Kg at 5% at Natanz (FEP)
* 73 Kg at 20% at a research facility (PFEP)

WaPo is claiming that Iran could have enough U-235 at 20%, which is 1.6 tons or 1,451 Kg by the end of this year, and then could enrich that with only 20% more processing into a nuke! Iran only needs 1451-73 = 1,378 more kilograms from their pilot plant! And the IAEA would never know!!

Piece of (yellow)cake.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 12 2012 2:14 utc | 27

Despite this admission, the rhetoric against Iran will continue:

Posted by: ben | Jan 12 2012 15:18 utc | 28

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