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Regime change: How fear of Iran nukes, and campaign politics, revived the call

A tough-talking debate over pursuing regime change is all the rage again, this time focused on Iran. But proponents say they prefer economic sanctions to military force as the main lever. 

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Further noting that the Iraqi government that has resulted from a regime-change war can hardly be accused of “hew[ing] to our policy guidelines,” Mr. Wright adds that, “when you induce regime change by tightening sanctions to the choking point, you don’t get to micro-manage the transition.”

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That may be true, but the premise of the regime-changers seems to be that, just as Iraq’s government today, even if not exactly what the US would choose, is better than Saddam Hussein, so would a post-mullahs Iranian government almost certainly be preferable to what now rules in Tehran.

“It’s not so much that we don’t want a nuclear Iran, it’s that we don’t want this Iran to become a nuclear power,” says Michael Hayden, former CIA director and National Security Agency director under George W. Bush.

General Hayden, who places Iran at the top of his “list of five things to worry about,” says Iran earns that ranking not simply because of its nuclear program but because of the threat nuclear proliferation poses and because of the Iranian regime’s track record (of sponsoring international terrorism, for example).

Speaking Thursday at a discussion sponsored by Washington’s Center for the National Interest, Hayden said Iran can be seen to be operating under two clocks: one the nuclear clock, which sanctions aim to slow down, and another clock determining the pace of political change in Iran.

Hayden said he’d like to be able to turn back the second clock to June 2009, the height of Iran’s aborted “green revolution,” to see “where that might have led.”

The objective is to “slow down one clock long enough to allow the other to catch up,” Hayden says. “If you can slow it down long enough, maybe the direction of Iran changes.”


Watch this video on key issues on the minds of social conservative or values voters in South Carolina.

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