Throughout Washington's impasse with Iran, many influential Americans have viewed regime change as a panacea that would revoke the country's Axis of Evil membership and turn it into a bastion of democracy. Such thinking gained prominence in the past year, as the prospect of a diplomatic solution became a great deal murkier. Given the disappointing progress of the EU-3 negotiations, it seems unlikely that Iran will give up its nuclear program voluntarily. The question is how to deal with this refusal.
Most neoconservatives favor regime change, and they usually argue such an operation is possible without extensive U.S. military involvement. According to these proponents, there is so much domestic opposition to the religious elite that a U.S. propaganda offensive, combined with financial and logistical assistance to prospective insurgents, would topple the clerics. Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute has boasted, "I have contacts in Iran, fighting the regime. Give me twenty million [dollars] and you'll have your revolution."
The initial stage of the regime-change strategy got underway with the 2005 passage of the Iran Freedom Support Act, followed by a dramatic funding boost the next year. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice outlined, the expanded program primarily funds radio broadcasts and other propaganda activities, and it provides modest support for trade unions and other dissident groups.
Despite the enthusiasm, is regime change really a feasible or worthwhile strategy? And would it actually end Tehran's quest for nuclear weapons, much less nuclear technology? Evidence indicates that the answer to both questions is a firm no.