U.S. Policy on Regime Change in Iran

(Institute for National Security Studies) Ephraim Kam and Zaki Shalom - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in June 2017 that the administration's policy on Iran would be geared toward restraining Iranian aspirations to regional hegemony, curbing its efforts to achieve nuclear capability, and supporting circles within the country that seek to bring about regime change through peaceful means. Senior officials within the Iranian regime, led by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, have long been convinced that American administrations have striven to infiltrate Iran's internal system and topple the Islamic regime. The U.S. administration regards the Iranian regime as a strategic threat of the first tier. The toppling of the Iranian regime and its replacement with a moderate one would eliminate many of the threats before the U.S. and its allies and would perhaps allow the U.S. to build proper relations with Iran. However, there is no easy and safe way to topple the Iranian regime. There is undoubtedly a large population in Iran that desires liberal changes. The Iranian regime is aware of these sentiments and has developed tools and countermeasures for ensuring its survival and stability. These include the establishment of the Revolutionary Guards and the volunteer units of the Basij, whose principal priority is to defend the regime. Since the suppression of the protests following the presidential elections of June 2009, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets to chants of "death to the dictator," the reformist camp in Iran has lowered its profile and refrained from openly challenging the regime. Presumably preventive measures by the regime are likely to deter the Iranian opposition from taking part in an American attempt to destabilize it. It is doubtful whether opposition elements will want to provide the U.S. with substantial assistance against the regime, as doing so would mean tainting themselves as American collaborators. They are interested in regime change, but not by means of foreign intervention. If the Iranian regime does change in the future, it will be the result of internal processes and not external intervention. The writers are senior research fellows at INSS in Tel Aviv.

2017-08-11 00:00:00

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