The most realistic option to the Iranian dilemma at this juncture, as every other juncture, is regime change.
The designation by the United States of the Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Ministry of Defense and a number of affiliated banks and officials on its terrorism blacklist was a major shift vis-Ã -visTehran. In the resulting political atmosphere, which rests atop a general antipathy to war, two diametrically opposed policy options have been promoted.
In broad terms, one line of policy considers perpetuating the Iranian mullahs in power by continuing with the policy of appeasement. The conflicting option considers the end of Iran’s religious dictatorship as indispensable to the beginning of peace and stability in the Middle East.
Following the U.S. decision, the regime’s appeasers warned that the Bush administration was bent on going to war with Iran. They instead recommended further compromise with the mullahs. However, the tangible consequences of heeding their recommendation render it anything but peaceful, for two main reasons.
First, there are vital historical lessons to consider. Watchful of the potential misuse of analogies, one could nonetheless discern a striking resemblance between the 21st century Iranian dilemma and Europe’s Nazi predicament of the 1930s.
Under the banner of averting war and making peace, Britain and most of Europe ignored all the warning signs that Nazi Germany was in violation of the Versailles Treaty that laid down rules for post World War I Europe. The consequence of appeasing Hitler was not peace, but the Second World War.
Like Hitler, the mullahs are preparing for future conflicts because they recognize the inescapable imperative that their only chance of survival will come through expansion, war and, in Iran’s case, acquiring nuclear weapons.
Secondly, the indisputable fact after three decades of appeasement is that the regime in Tehran is essentially incapable of reform and it has now declared a de facto war not only on the Iranian people but also on the international community. Tehran has poured agents and roadside bombs into Iraq, undermined Afghanistan’s fragile security, partitioned Palestine, incited a civil war in Lebanon and persistently snubbed U.N. Security Council demands to suspend its uranium-enrichment program.
Therefore, the idea that the West would evade the risk of going into war with the regime by adopting a conciliatory approach is nothing but a chimera.
Quite the contrary, a prolonged policy of appeasement would ultimately and inevitably drag the world into another war. This is because leniency in the face of the regime’s provocative acts renders diplomacy ineffective and paves the way for war.
The most realistic option to the Iranian dilemma at this juncture, as every other juncture, is regime change. Its most palatable version is propounded by advocates of the democratic Iranian resistance to the mullahs.
Denying the mullahs the resources to expand and replenish their machinery of war and suppression, coupled with their accelerated quest to obtain nuclear weapons, constitutes a necessary step towards a peaceful and democratic Middle East.
But, it is only the first step. To be effective, America’s strategic shift with respect to Tehran must also attain a viable focus. The imperative to avoid additional Middle East conflicts dictates that the policy of regime change must have at its focal point the Iranian people and their organized resistance, who have the exclusive legitimacy and capacity to overthrow that aggressive regime. Any other attempt to bring about change, including foreign military intervention, will get us nowhere because it lacks a strategic footing.
Currently, however, Iran’s largest democratic opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union, which was done at the behest of the mullahs.
Contrary to the fundamentalist rulers of Iran, the PMOI espouses a modern, tolerant, and democratic vision of Islam. In a 1992 statement, a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives described the Iranian resistance’s "profound popular and religious roots within Iran’s people" as "the best impediment to the Iranian regime’s abuse of popular religious sentiments," adding that supporting it "will contribute to the achievement of peace and stability for all the countries of the region."
As the Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi told the Council of Europe in Strasbourg last month, we have before us the option of democratic change by the Iranian people and their organized resistance movement. Embracing this option could viably transform America’s current strategic shift into a matured policy with enviable and peaceful prospects.