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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Obama ignores regime change in Iran

While the United States and its allies are trying to make it seem that they are holding back on stronger sanctions against Iran because they are afraid of snuffing out Iran's revolution, the Washington Post's Robert Kagan argues that just the opposite is true: Stiff sanctions on Iran would help regime change along, but the Obama administration isn't interested in toppling Ahmadinejad.
The regime's overriding goal since the election, therefore, has been to buy time and try to reestablish and consolidate control without any foreign interference in its internal affairs. In this Tehran has succeeded admirably.

But it has also had help. The Obama administration has, perhaps unwittingly, been a most cooperative partner. It has refused to make the question of regime survival part of its strategy. Indeed, it doesn't even treat Iran as if it were in the throes of a political crisis. President Obama seems to regard the ongoing turmoil as a distraction from the main business of stopping Iran's nuclear program. And this is exactly what the rulers in Tehran want him to do: focus on the nukes and ignore the regime's instability.


This ought to be the goal of the "crippling" sanctions the Obama administration has threatened. Sanctions will not persuade the present Iranian government to give up its nuclear weapons program. Ahmadinejad and Khamenei see the nuclear program and their own survival as intimately linked. But the right kinds of sanctions could help the Iranian opposition topple these still-vulnerable rulers.

Critics of this idea still draw on pre-June 12 logic. A year ago, in the absence of any serious opposition to the clerics, it did seem hopeless to imagine that sanctions could have any effect on the clerics' rule. One could speculate, as some administration officials and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner still do, that sanctions would only strengthen popular support for the regime.

This analysis, however, no longer fits in Iran. The government's behavior during and after the election has opened an irreparable breach between the regime and large elements of Iranian society, and even within the clerical ranks. The government may succeed in clamping down on the opposition and driving it underground. But the notion that the Iranian opposition will suddenly rally around Ahmadinejad and Khamenei if the West imposes sanctions is absurd. The opposition leadership is engaged in a struggle to the death with the regime. When sanctions begin to cause hardships, the opposition will press its case that the regime is leading Iran to ruin.

That is the case for moving ahead with crippling sanctions as soon as possible and not waiting months for Iran's leaders to drag out talks.
I question whether the sanctions could bring about regime change quickly enough to stop the nukes, but regime change in Iran should be - but is not - a goal of the Obama administration.

Read the whole thing.


At 8:46 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - sanctions could work if America showed the way. Obumbler is not interested in leading -- so they will fail.

What could go wrong indeed


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