by Ben Armbruster
It’s starting to look like the Iran regime-change industry is getting a little worried that its efforts to kill the nuclear deal and squeeze Iran’s leaders out of existence isn’t quite working as planned. For instance, Donald Trump’s scheme to pressure Iran by re-imposing oil sanctions will likely produce political blowback at home in the form of higher gas prices.
But the latest example of concern comes in the form of a juicy scoop last week by Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin. Administration officials leaked to Rogin that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is quietly preventing Trump from signing the paperwork necessary to impose sanctions meant to prevent Iran from accessing an international banking transaction system. The move would severely restrict Iran’s ability to do business abroad and add another nail to the coffin of the nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA).
For years, Rogin has been a sympathetic ear and scribe to Iran deal opponents and their fellow travelers on other foreign policy issues, particularly during his days writing with Eli Lake, a writer who launched his career cheerleading for the Iraq war. Writing together at the Daily Beast and then Bloomberg, Lake and Rogin regularly published joint columns attacking President Obama’s negotiations with Iran, and their aftermath, with baseless charges meant to undermine the JCPOA.
In his recent piece, Rogin not only aired the anonymous officials’ concerns about Trump’s Iran policy falling apart. He also cited what he called two “great arguments” for forcing Iran out of the bank transaction system, known as SWIFT, from two officials at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), the hawkish think tank that promotes regime change and war against Iran. Rogin presented no opposing view.
One of those officials was, of course, FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz, whom reporters have a habit of quoting without telling their readers about his support for regime change in Iran. Rogin didn’t mention Dubowitz’s pedigree either, nor did he offer his readers a quote from an expert saying that, in fact, kicking Iran out of SWIFT is a bad idea. The move would make saving the nuclear deal more difficult, if not impossible, and thereby drive a wedge further between the United States and its European allies.
Rogin also didn’t even bother to identify his other FDD source, Richard Goldberg, as a staffer at FDD, perhaps understanding that a piece that’s overly reliant on sources from a pro-regime change/pro-war think tank might be a bit much.
Ironically, Rogin’s story has all the components of the so-called pro-JCPOA “echo chamber” that Iran deal opponents have been whining about (in bad faith, of course). In this case, administration officials are clearly working with sympathetic journalists to get their message out and amplify it. As the Trump administration’s anti-Iran policy encounters various obstacles, the regime-change industry has clearly not given up—and it’s enlisting prominent mainstream media outlets to help.
Ben Armbruster is the communications director for Win Without War and previously served as National Security Editor at ThinkProgress.