A Washington Post editorial today calling on President Obama to implement gas sanctions against Iran contains this falsehood:
[F]or every expert who argues that a shortage of gasoline would somehow help Mr. Ahmadinejad, there is one who believes it will deepen popular rejection of the regime.
That’s simply untrue. There’s actually a very substantial agreement among experts that gas sanctions will be an ineffective and potentially counterproductive tool against Iran, and that any anti-government sentiment they generated would likely be overwhelmed by nationalist solidarity in the face of outside pressure.
In December, at a hearing of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, the four Iran experts testifying were unanimous in recommending against gas sanctions, citing the recent history of such measures helping the Iranian government consolidate power.
At a recent event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, two leading Iran experts, WINEP’s Patrick Clawson and Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations, came out against gas sanctions. Citing the difficulty of enforcing them, Clawson said the U.S. should “not adopt a sanction on gasoline imports into Iran unless we are prepared to sink Venezuelan ships carrying that gasoline… because it’s going to make [the U.S.] look impotent.”
The number of experts who believe that gas sanctions will deepen popular rejection of the Iranian regime is vanishingly small. The only two I can think of are Mark Dubowitz of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Michael Rubin of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. There are probably a few others, but not nearly enough to constitute a serious disagreement among “experts.” Rubin’s view has even been contradicted by a report from his own think tank, as well as by AEI’s director of foreign policy studies, Danielle Pletka, who has said that the Iranian regime “will likely be impervious” to such sanctions.
The main support for gas sanctions comes not from actual Iran analysts, but from pundits and politicians looking for an easy way to “get tough” on Iran. Now they’ll get to cite this editorial as “evidence” for their views.
The analytical consensus can be a hard thing to define, but with gas sanctions it’s not a tough call. The Washington Post obviously has the right to support aggressive and counterproductive measures against other countries. But it also has a responsibility to its readers to honestly and accurately portray the evidence behind its claims, and it has egregiously failed to do so in regard to gas sanctions.