Iran: The Case for “Regime Change”
What to do about Iran, especially now that the international community can no longer deny the nuclear ambitions of the theocratic state that has implicitly promised to destroy Israel? It appears that hopes for a self-generated revolution from below against the Islamic Republic have been dashed for now: the regime succeeded in containing massive protests planned for February 11, the anniversary of the 1979 revolution that brought it to power, and is proud of its methods, which included arresting student leaders and family members of prominent activists, “texting” warnings to the cell phones of Iranian activists, and blocking e-mail and multimedia messaging in order to prevent opposition coordination or handheld video of paramilitary abuse leaking to Western media.
What else might be done? Unquestionably, engagement of the kind promised by Barack Obama during his presidential campaign and attempted during the first year of his presidency has failed utterly. Not only did Obama reach out to Tehran in his first interview as president, asking the Iranian leadership to “unclench their fist,” but according to Iranian press accounts, he also sent two letters to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, seeking dialogue. In a message sent on Nowruz, the Persian New Year, Obama broke a 30-year diplomatic formula: rather than speak directly to the Iranian people, he elevated the Islamic Republic to be their rightful representative. And he remained shamefully silent as the post-election protests in June 2009 rose to a boiling point. Obama’s aides also advised him poorly about the reality of the Islamic Republic: it was embarrassingly naïve for the United States to act on the presumption that Washington’s silence would lead Tehran to refrain from accusing the United States and other Western powers had manipulated protesters. The Islamic Republic’s leadership has always been xenophobic and has never accepted accountability for its own failings. Conspiratorial thinking runs deep. Take Neda Agha-Soltan, the 16-year-old girl whose murder at the hands of a pro-government gunman was caught on film and became emblematic of the June protests. The state-controlled Iranian press has reported that Neda’s murder was actually a British plot, and the Iranian government subsequently demanded that London extradite Neda’s true murderers.
About the Author
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.