In Discussing Middle East Policy, US Should Acknowledge the Goal of Regime Change
Posted: Jun 19, 2017 1:00 PM
Whereas the Obama administration took great pride in the Iran nuclear deal it helped to negotiate, then GOP candidate Trump repeatedly referred to the agreement as one of the worst deals ever negotiated and promised to overturn it upon assuming office. Although the Trump White House is technically upholding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it has also imposed tough new sanctions on the regime that are unrelated to the Iranian nuclear program. Iran policies now under development suggest that an explicit endorsement of regime change may well be on the horizon.
Given the nature of the Iranian regime and the lack of meaningful reform following the JCPOA’s implementation, the Trump administration and its allies in Congress should make their intentions clear and outline a concrete plan that will further weaken the world’s only modern theocracy and the worst state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
This is not to say that I – or anyone with a sensible handle on Middle East affairs – believe the U.S. should facilitate regime change directly. And fortunately this does not appear to be an agenda of the Trump administration, which has repeatedly pledged to put “America First” – rhetoric that suggests the avoidance of direct overseas entanglements but not at the expense of defending American interests and democratic values throughout the world.
Trump’s foreign tour also took the president to the Vatican, a sign of the potential for bolstered cooperation among the world’s three Abrahamic faiths. Contrary to the Obama administration’s illusory hopes for Iranian moderation following the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic is necessarily excluded from interfaith cooperation. The Iranian regime is notorious for religious persecution, routinely denying minorities like the Baha’is access to education or jobs and frequently imprisoning people for many years or even sentencing them to death on the basis of religious crimes.
Tehran is also responsible for a great deal of the sectarian violence in the broader Middle East, especially against the backdrop of the Syrian Civil War – which Iran has prolonged through its support of murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad. Countless Iran-backed militant groups are fighting in that war, and many of them have been accused of massacring Sunni populations in much the same way that ISIS massacred Shiites.
This sentiment will be on display in Paris on July 1 when the leading coalition of Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), holds its annual Iran Freedom rally. Previously, such events have attracted upwards of 100,000 people, including hundreds of political dignitaries and foreign policy experts from the U.S., Europe, and throughout the world. The event will also be broadcast to millions of residents of the Islamic Republic who maintain household satellite dishes in defiance of the regime’s strict censorship laws.
President Trump could become the first American leader since the Iranian Revolution to give the people of Iran a voice on the world stage. But doing so presupposes that the U.S. will support their message. And that message will be made clear on the banner celebrating the NCRI’s Paris rally: “regime change is in reach.”