Hawks Plan 'Peaceful' Regime Change in Iran
heavyweight group of mostly neoconservative hawks has published
a new proposal for Iran policy that relies heavily on "peaceful"
strategies to achieve regime change, such as those used by Washington
since the 1980s in Central and Eastern Europe, most recently in
Serbia and Ukraine.
group, the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), targets Iran's
Supreme Authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the theocratic apparatus
that supports him in the paper titled, "Iran – A New Approach,"
and assumes, "Iran's people ... are our allies."
want to free themselves from Khamenei's oppression and they want
Iran to join the community of prosperous, peaceful democracies,"
it says, characterizing its policy recommendations as a "peaceful
but forceful strategy to engage with the Iranian people to remove
the threat and establish the strong relationship which is in both
nations' and the region's interests."
reserving "the right to take out or cripple [Khamenei's] nuclear
capabilities" if Tehran fails to comply with current agreements
with Britain, France, Germany, and the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), the paper strongly advocates a policy of people-to-people
engagement – particularly for young Iranians who are seen as especially
alienated from the regime – as well as greater use of television,
radio, and the Internet to "communicate directly with the Iranian
also calls for re-opening the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, which was
closed 25 years ago after militants invaded the embassy grounds
and took U.S. diplomatic personnel there hostage.
plan does not address the possible use of covert paramilitary action
against Iran's nuclear program or the regime, despite published
reports that the administration of President George W. Bush has
already authorized covert operations aimed at destabilizing the
government. The paper's main author, Mark Palmer, told IPS on Tuesday
such actions should not be necessary.
a speechwriter for former President Ronald Reagan who also served
as ambassador to Hungary and has been a tireless promoter of U.S.
"democratic" assistance abroad, said some CPD members opposed the
paper initially because it smacked too much of "engagement" with
the most prominent members of the CPD, founded last summer as a
lobby group designed to rally support behind the broadest aims of
the "war on terrorism," are former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
chief James Woolsey; Center for Security Policy Director Frank Gaffney;
former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich;
and a flock of other hawks from the American Enterprise Institute
(AEI), the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and other
groups that beat the drums for war against Iraq before the US invasion
in March 2003.
now, many CPD members have called for dealing with Iran, particularly
its nuclear program, almost exclusively with isolation and confrontation,
including military action.
was concern that [sending an ambassador to Tehran] would strengthen
or legitimize the regime as it is," said Palmer, who characterized
the two-month process that led to the paper's approval as a "vigorous
view was that was too narrow a view," he added, noting that Washington
had embassies in Soviet bloc nations in the 1980s but still supported
democratic forces that led the mainly peaceful ouster of the Communist
whose recent book, Breaking
the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by
2025, has been greeted with considerable skepticism by regional
specialists in academia and Washington think tanks, was strongly
backed during the discussion by former Secretary of State George
Shultz, who co-chairs the CPD along with Woolsey.
fact that Shultz, seen by some analysts here as an éminence grise
of the Bush administration, is backing the policy is especially
significant. The taciturn diplomat, who introduced National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice to Bush a year before the 2000 election
and encouraged her to move to the State Department post in a second
term, has also long championed one of her most influential advisors,
Middle East director for the National Security Council (NSC), Elliott
Abrams, as well as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
Shultz's efforts to reach out to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev
in the late 1980s deeply disappointed prominent neoconservatives,
he has taken a very hard line, generally consistent with their own,
in the "war on terrorism."
who co-chaired the short-lived Committee to Liberate Iraq, has been
especially hawkish on terrorism since Washington's ill-fated intervention
in Lebanon after Israel's 1982 invasion. The paper notes, "Iran
under Khamenei," in addition to pursuing "regional hegemony" in
the Middle East, "continues to be the world's foremost state supporter
asserts that the regime's policies have led to "deep alienation"
within Iran as demonstrated by the 1997 and 2001 elections for parliament
and the presidency that reformists won by large margins, as well
as the regime's resort to "hired paramilitary thugs" to quash student
demonstrations in 2002.
elements of a new U.S. policy, according to the paper, would include:
A major policy address by Bush that would pledge to "reconnect with
the Iranian people, to help the vast majority of Iranians who want
democracy to achieve it ... to assure their security in return for
not acquiring nuclear weapons and to help develop their economy";
An announcement of U.S. willingness to re-open its embassy in Tehran
and the designation of a senior official devoted to the coordination
and implementation of the policy, including lobbying U.S. allies,
speaking with Iranians via various media, and engaging with senior
Iranian government officials, as opposed to "ordinary diplomats
in the Foreign Ministry";
Making clear that Washington will not accept Iran's possession of
nuclear weapons and will back that up with force, presumably unilateral,
Supporting Iranian democrats and dissidents "to make clear that
they are our partners in a new dialogue and that even as we meet
with representatives of the Khamenei regime, we consider these to
be illegitimate." Support would include sending Iranian activists
abroad for short seminars with their counterparts, "who have been
successful in organizing civic campaigns in Serbia, the Philippines,
Indonesia, Chile, and elsewhere";
Developing relations with the military and various other security
services in Iran in order to undermine the regime's "pillars of
support," and marshaling evidence for a legal case against Khamenei
for indictment in an appropriate tribunal;
Devising other "smart" sanctions to isolate the regime and its supporters,
including the revolutionary foundations, or "bunyads," by publicly
identifying companies and bank accounts controlled by them to highlight
alleged corruption and prepare legal cases for economic crimes;
Attempting to launch a "dialogue with Khamenei and the clerics around
him about how to arrange "a way to exit peacefully from political
power, combined with indications of the alternatives (jail or hanging)."
too long, an academic debate over engagement versus containment,
dialogue versus regime change has dominated and weakened America's
approach to Iran," according to the report.
[CPD] believes that we need a new approach, one based on a sober
recognition of the threat Khamenei presents, but also an appreciation
of our new strengths and the opportunity before us."
Iran specialist, William Beeman of Brown University, said he was
"appalled" by the six-page paper.
have no idea about Iranian politics or governmental structure. They
have decided for some bizarre reason to present Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
as if he were some kind of Saddam-like dictator. I suppose this
helps their audience fit the current Iranian governmental structure
into a ready-made pigeonhole."
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service