If ever there was a case for regime change, today’s Iran is it. Today on the anniversary of the revolution that brought the country’s authoritarian, theocratic government to power offers an opportunity to rectify the mistake made by the Obama administration last summer when it failed to lend material support to Iran’s burgeoning pro-democracy movement. The “don’t rock the boat” approach has not worked — as was amply clear at the time that it would not do. In fact, it was dangerously naive. The notion that the ayatollahs would somehow like the United States and the political system it represents if only we would leave them to oppress their own population has been disproven. Supreme leader Ayatollah Khameni promised to deliver a “punch” to the west on this Iran’s day of celebration, if such it can be called.
Iran’s leaders want to be treated with the respect accorded nuclear states, like North Korea, and its wants to assert regional dominance. Neither of these are in the interest of the United States, Israel, or indeed the Middle East as a whole. Iran is again warning the world of its ambitions, boasting about the ability to process 20 percent purified enriched uranium, which places it on the way to weapons grade quality — in addition to censoring, imprisoning and oppressing its own political dissidents. The Tehran regime is not just antithetical to American values, it is regionally destabilizing. More often than not, the two go hand in hand around the world.
This is why the tools of American public diplomacy should be deployed in the service of pro-democracy movements and regime change in Iran. Iranians desperately need independent, trustworthy information — such as provided by Radio Free Iran, the U.S. government’s surrogate broadcaster. Funding for its programs should be generously increased, particularly focused on radio as the medium as television is vulnerable due to the visibility of satellite dishes. Internet is clearly sensitive to government control and interference, as is cell phone serve, which makes them vulnerable. Yet in the age of new technology, total control remains extremely hard to maintain and the U.S. government should continue to work with Iranians abroad setting up pro-democracy websites. Funding is difficult to funnel to the Iranian opposition and often evokes suspicion if bearing the mark of the U.S. government. Yet, working through third party organizations will provide opportunities.
And most of all, the U.S. government should announce that regime change is official U.S. policy, which will certainly lend moral support to Iranians under sever pressure at home. By now, it should be amply clear that accommodation is not going to lead anywhere but more of the same threatening Iranian behavior.