U.S. and Israel Should Push for Regime Change in Iran


For original post, see: US News and World Report, Debate Club, 5 March 2012

Washington should not discourage Jerusalem from attacking Iran unless the consideration that “all options are on the table” also includes internal regime change. In President Obama’s 2012 address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, diplomatic, economic, and military options do not include regime change from within.

Earlier, a newspaper quoted a senior American intelligence official saying regime change was a goal of U.S. sanctions against Iran; but the administration pushed back, resulting in a revised story claiming only “public ire” rather than “regime change” as a purpose of new sanctions.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Iran.]

So long as the Iranian regime’s survival is not at stake, it is unlikely to abandon its quest for the bomb. There is a misconception that internal regime change will not produce results before Iran’s nuclear facilities are invulnerable to attack. But that view overlooks how fast regimes without popular legitimacy crumble if the people receive even minimum support from the international community.

Because of mixed signals coming from the Obama administration about red lines that would prompt American military action, Washington lacks a credible threat to use military force. The White House and the Defense Department describe the U.S. goal as preventing Iran from “acquiring nuclear weapons,” but the State Department says the purpose is to stop Iran from having “nuclear weapons capability.” Such differences are mixed messages that detract from the credibility of the “all options are on the table” threat to use military force.

[See pictures of Iran participating in war games.]

If the Obama administration removed the unwarranted and unwise terrorist tag from the main Iranian organization rejecting clerical rule—the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran—this group could enhance its place in Iran as leaders of internal regime change. The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, an Iranian exile group that seeks to overthrow the current regime, is under siege in Camp Ashraf, Iraq by Baghdad under the sway of Tehran and because of an Iraqi ruse that “terrorists” deserve mistreatment; consequently, these Iranian dissidents are hamstrung from helping lead the pro-democracy forces in Iran. Because the PMOI was a core part of the coalition that brought down the Shah of Iran in 1979, it has skills to topple the present clerical regime.

Crippling economic sanctions, credible threat of military action, and a policy of internal regime change can prevent Iran from actually developing a nuclear weapon or having a nuclear weapons capability; operating together, they can make actual military action unnecessary by either Jerusalem or Washington.

Photo via US News and World Report Debate Club