The passage of new economic sanctions against the Iranian regime and the signing of the legislation by President Donald Trump officially buried the Obama administration’s policies of trying to appease the mullahs in Tehran into trying to turn towards moderation.
The response from the Iran lobby was predictable with dire warnings of war and destruction being pedaled, but the reality is that the regime change being sought by the U.S. is not the regime change the Iran lobby is trying to portray.
One of the great misconceptions about the idea of regime change is that it must come about violently and it would be externally driven by outside forces such as the U.S. scheming to plot the overthrow of the mullahs by some armed insurrection or brutal invasion.
It serves the purposes of regime supporters such as Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council to push the narrative that President Trump is itching for a war with Iran.
The reality though is much different. The president campaigned strongly on the platform that the Iraq invasion by the Bush administration was a mistake and worse yet, not planning for its aftermath was blunder.
Most historians would not find fault with that appraisal and apparently not many American voters did either. It would be ironic then for a president—who campaigned against more wars in the Middle East—to start of his administration with seeking to instigate a war with the region’s largest army in Iran.
Then again, logic was never a strong suit for regime advocates such as Parsi, which is why we see his messages for what they are: diversions.
There are efforts to divert attention from the real concerns the mullahs have and are constantly battling against which is the potential for their rule to end because of the desire of the Iranian people to want change.
History has proven that all dictatorial regimes fail eventually. No government can stand against the entropy that occurs by suppressing basic human rights, using fear as a means of intimidation and control, and world events that reshape the region around a regime.
More recently, the Arab Spring protests toppled firmly established autocratic governments throughout the Mediterranean and reshaped the Middle East radically and it did so without the violence of bloody revolution that accompanied the Iranian revolution for example in 1979.
Even the more recent election demonstrations of 2009 showed the Iranian regime clearly that the Iranian people were more than capable of toppling their reign and it probably scared them to death and like any reactionary totalitarian regime, the mullahs did what came naturally for them: they cracked down even harder.
They rigged the election for Hassan Rouhani in 2013 by clearing the field of any other candidates. The did the same thing during parliamentary elections, keeping control with an overwhelming majority of loyalists.
They arrested journalists, stepped up attacks on dissidents, seized satellite dishes, banned social media, imprisoned students and artists and expanded the size and reach of “morality” police forces to enforce order.
Under Rouhani’s first time, the use of the death penalty skyrocketed to all-time highs as gallows and cranes were busy throughout public squares in Iran hanging Iranian men, women and even youngsters.
Even under this onslaught, protests still flourished in Iran with Rouhani’s re-election earlier this year in which he was greeted by masses of protesters at some campaign stops that turned ugly. Regime change in Iran won’t come at the point of an American invasion. It will come from the shouts and marches of millions of Iranians in city streets throughout the country.
Which is why the imposition of sanctions by the Trump administration is an opening step to making regime change possible; not through the threat of war as the Iran lobby would you believe, but rather in the reapplication of pressures that nearly forced the mullahs to lose control prior to the nuclear deal.
If we recall, the stage set prior to the nuclear negotiations showed the Iranian economy was groaning under the onslaught of an economy that had been drained of cash through rampant corruption and the funding of proxy wars and terrorist operations.
Ordinary Iranians were struggling to make ends meet and dealing with diminished expectations as career paths were blocked and opportunities shrank. Iranian small businesses struggled to stay afloat, while dual-national Iranians coming back to visit relatives or conduct business were increasingly being arrested and thrown in jail for no reason other than to be used as hostage pawns by the mullahs.
The level of discontent only needed a channel to express itself and that venue is increasingly becoming the Iranian resistance movement through groups such as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) which has long been a thorn in the side of the mullahs.
Comprised of Iranians abroad and inside Iran, these dissidents and others, form the basis of the most viable option for Iranians looking for a change. Within Iran lies a strong core of supporters, even those Iranians who may not support the MEK specifically, but are more than willing to work towards regime change anyway.
A central platform to the Iranian dissident movement’s policies is a call for pluralistic and democratic change in a multi-party system. While the concept might seem perfectly ordinary to anyone living in a democratic society, it is anathema to the Iranian regime. The biggest threat to the mullahs is the very simple idea that the Iranian people might want a political choice other than the Islamic state created by the mullahs.
All of which leads us back to the original imposition of new sanctions by President Trump and the start of the process to designate the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. These actions place the mullahs back in the crosshairs of international scrutiny, but most importantly attempt to recreate the environment back from 2009-13 when four years of tumultuous change was being demanded by the Iranian people.
It is time for the U.S. government to support and recognize the various Iranian dissident and opposition groups and empower them to begin the process of regime change; peacefully.