Thinking Iran — It's the Regime, Not the Nukes
Our policy in Iran should be regime change, period. That is, we are never going to be satisfied with any result in Iran except the eradication of the regime, and we are going to use every single lever of American power, hard and soft, to achieve that result -- in a manner that promotes the stability of a post-regime Iran and respects political reality in the U.S. By promoting stability in Iran, I mean that we would like to see Iranians overthrow their deeply unpopular government, we should make no secret about assisting that effort, we would prefer not to invade Iran militarily, but we make no commitments that we will not invade -- we are going to stop our long policy of doing nothing when Iran kills Americans and takes other hostile steps. By respecting political reality in the U.S., I mean that there is a dearth of popular support at this time for war against Iran -- the political case for it has not been made; and it makes neither strategic nor financial sense to move our forces into Iran and repeat the democracy project. (I'm not nearly as convinced as many of my friends are that the Iranian people are pro-American -- there are lots of Leftists and non-regime Islamists in Iran. But I am convinced that a post-mullah regime would not make hostility to the U.S. its animating premise. That would make it a drastic improvement -- for us and for global stability.)
The point is to say, openly and notoriously: They are our enemy and there is nothing they could do to change our minds about that. If they give us reasons to attack militarily, we will. Meantime, we are doing everything in our power -- diplomatically, economically, legally, and by intelligence ops -- to squeeze and undermine the regime while empowering Iranians who oppose the regime. And we want other countries in the world to know that the United States wants the Iranian regime gone: We will consider friendliness toward Iran to be unfriendliness toward the United States, and deal with it accordingly.
When we make our policy around Iranian nukes, we are on the defensive -- and it is as if we are overlooking their unbroken 30-year history as a state sponsor of anti-American terrorism. If we make regime change our policy, to be pursued by every conceivable means with no assurances to Iran that any form of military, diplomatic or economic action is off the table, then we are on offense, and the regime's enemies know they have a very powerful ally in their corner.
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