The goal of the Obama administration’s sanctions on Iran is to undermine the regime by stoking public discontent, a senior U.S. intelligence official told the Washington Post.
An earlier version of the Post article reported that the anonymous U.S. official claimed that the purpose of the sanctions is regime change, which offered a clear indication that the U.S. had discarded diplomacy in favor of economic warfare.
The Post later revised the report, clarifying that the official said the purpose was to “create hate and discontent at the street level so that the Iranian leaders realize that they need to change their ways.”
Iran is subject to crippling sanctions already, but new sanctions on Iran’s central bank and new restrictions on oil imports to Europe are forthcoming. These are already having harsh effects on Iran’s economy.
Regime change has probably been the goal for some time. The Bush administration had received from Congress funding for a program of support for rebel ethnic groups in Iran to work to undermine the government. President Obama recently issued a finding which extends existing initiatives and is intended to create insurgencies inside Iran, primarily by supporting Iranian dissident groups to conduct domestic terrorism and undermine the Iranian regime.
For years now, a concerted covert U.S. campaign of cyber-terrorism, commercial sabotage, targeted assassinations, and proxy wars has been under way in Iran.
The anonymous official told the Post that the administration hopes that sanctions “create enough hate and discontent at the street level” that Iranians will turn against their government. But sanctions tend to impoverish ordinary people and concentrate power in incumbents.
Another official, speaking separately, disagreed that the aim is to collapse the regime. He told the Post “The notion that we’ve crossed into sanctions being about regime collapse is incorrect. 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.”
But Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. The intelligence community in the United States believes that Iran halted its weapons program years ago and the latest IAEA report, despite the hyperbole in the press, stated that “the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of [Iran’s] declared nuclear material.” In fact, all of Iran’s 15 declared nuclear sites are routinely inspected by the IAEA, and no military dimension has been found.
The intelligence official admitted to the Post that Iran isn’t building a nuclear weapon. “Our belief is that they are reserving judgement on whether to continue with key steps they haven’t taken regarding nuclear weapons,” he said. “It’s not a technical problem.”
The administration also apparently knows how dangerous their approach is, not just for the Iranian people and the region, but for Iran’s attitude about building the bomb. “It could have the opposite effect from what’s intended,” the official said, “and impel the Iranian leader to decide, ‘We’re going to build that nuclear weapon.’ We’ve thought of that.”