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Opinion

US must actively work for regime change in Iran (+video)

As sanctions take hold, Iranians are more dissatisfied with their government than ever. The time is right for the US and other democracies to actively support freedom seeking Iranians and regime change. That would also solve the crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

By Reza Kahlili / September 12, 2012

A woman enters a currency exchange shop in Tehran's business district October 2011. Iran's rial currency hit a historic low against the dollar this week, as international sanctions against Iran take hold. Op-ed contributor Reza Kahlili writes: 'Iran’s intelligence ministry is warning the leaders of the Islamic regime that due to deteriorating economic conditions, the possibility of a popular uprising in the coming months is great.'

Raheb Homavandi/Reuters/file

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Iran’s intelligence ministry is warning the leaders of the Islamic regime that due to deteriorating economic conditions, the possibility of a popular uprising in the coming months is great. The ministry has urged the regime to make appropriate decisions in light of that.

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The secret report, according to the Iranian Internet site Kaleme, the official site of the Green protest movement, specifically warned of riots by hungry masses on the outskirts of Iran’s major cities.

This presents a great opportunity for the West, particularly the United States, to end its crisis with Iran – from the clash over Iran’s nuclear program to its hostile relations with Tehran generally. If only the US finally understood that the key to solving the Iran problem is to help Iranians with their aspirations for freedom and democracy.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a Sept. 4 televised address to the nation, warned that sanctions enforced by the West over Iran’s nuclear program have crippled the country’s oil exports and banking. And he confessed that the sanctions have caused problems for the government to provide basic necessities such as meat and other goods to the people.

“It is an all-out, hidden, heavy war,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said, though he promised that the country will succeed in circumventing the sanctions.

The urgency of Ahmadinejad’s message underscores the increasing anger of many Iranians that the country is being mismanaged, but they are unaware that conditions are going to get much worse. The government wants to prepare them for such a scenario.

The Iranian people, who by the millions came out in 2009 voicing their resentment with the regime and hoping for change, found no support from the West. President Obama may have condemned the regime's brutal crackdown on protesters, but he turned his back on them when he chose negotiations with Tehran rather than directly supporting the aspirations of a nation.

But it is not too late.

Today, the only viable solution in securing peace and stability in the region is regime change in Iran. To achieve that, the US and other democracies must help the Iranian people – not with arms but with support and technological advancements to inform, unify, and enable the millions who are awaiting American leadership.

By support I mean an all-out effort to help the opposition promote civil disobedience, peaceful protests, and national strikes in Iran. The West should be encouraging defections from the regime, just as it has with Syria, and offering safe harbor. Many officers in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and even diplomats are looking for a way out, only to find no visible support. The West should also support the formation of a government in exile, as many in the opposition are now coming together to create a national council that can guide Iran’s changes from within.

Meanwhile, the regime is launching a national Internet to cut its population off from the rest of the world and to block the social networks that were so widely used during the 2009 uprising. That makes western technical assistance imperative – digital radio broadcasting, satellite phones, and secure “proxy” servers for access to the Internet.

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