Regime change is the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran

Iran is on the verge of obtaining a nuclear weapon. Even The New York Times editorial board now acknowledges this. And the Grey Lady is right to speculate that “no mix of sanctions and inducements can wean Tehran of its nuclear ambitions.” A military strike probably won’t do the job either. Iran’s leaders will do whatever it takes to obtain a nuclear weapon. And regime change is the only way to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear state.

After Gadhafi’s fall in Libya, the Iranian mullahs will never voluntarily end their nuclear program. The United States and the world community embraced Gadhafi after he relinquished his WMD program in 2003. But Gadhafi’s decision to abandon his WMD program, and his lack of nuclear weapons, were his undoing. NATO would never have used military force against a nuclear Gadhafi.

Iran’s leaders had already witnessed the impunity with which North Korea operated after obtaining a nuclear weapon. And Gadhafi’s death sent a clear message to dictators around the world: only a nuclear weapon can protect you from Western military intervention. And as the IAEA recently noted, Iran is on the verge of producing a weapon and becoming immune to any Western action.

A nuclear Iran would be an immediate danger to America and the world. Iran would be emboldened to continue its support for terrorist activities throughout the Middle East. It would use its nuclear status to gain greater leverage in the region and support and fund attacks against America and our allies with impunity. A nuclear Iran could also lead to an arms race across the Middle East or the spread of nuclear technology to other rogue regimes.

And most terrifying of all, it could lead to a nuclear weapon being stolen by or given to a terrorist group, where it could eventually find its way to the shores of America or one of our allies.

On top of these dangers, a nuclear-armed Iran would make the United States and the United Nations look impotent in the eyes of terrorists and dictatorial regimes. World leaders have endlessly promised that Iran would not be allowed to produce a nuclear weapon. But these leaders have done almost nothing to stop Iran from doing so.

If Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, it will send a clear message that America is all bark and no bite, and that America won’t take bold action to confront its enemies. Something similar happened when our Marine barracks were bombed in Lebanon during the 1980s. A young man named Osama bin Laden watched us retreat and believed that the United States could be cowed by terrorism. Thirty years later, bin Laden brought us the September 11 attacks and an endless parade of horribles.

What, then, are the options for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran? The two proposals discussed ad nauseum are sanctions and military action. Both of these approaches have significant problems and are probably unrealistic. What we really need is regime change in Iran.

Economic sanctions are unlikely to work. To begin with, sanctions would need near universal compliance to be effective. Russia and China have already declared they won’t agree to sanctions. Furthermore, recent reports indicate that Greece is now looking to Iran for its oil needs. And the disastrous U.N. Oil for Food Program in Iraq demonstrated that many countries and private businesses are willing to sell out the world for a few quick bucks.

For all the talk of military action, it is almost as flawed and can probably only delay Iran’s nuclear program. First, a military strike would provoke tremendous backlash that would probably include military and terrorist attacks against America and our allies. An armed strike could also lead to all-out war and could boost support inside Iran for the mullahs and their quest for a nuclear weapon.

All of these risks might be acceptable if military action could end or significantly delay Iran’s nuclear program, just as Israel did in its successful raid on Iraq in 1981. But the intelligence indicates that Iran has learned from Osirak and spread out its nuclear program so that only a prolonged attack or a full-out invasion could destroy it. Unless we have intelligence that would allow us to completely wipe out Iran’s nuclear program, or delay it significantly, a military strike would be a mistake.

This is why regime change is the only option. The current regime in Iran sees nuclear weapons as the only way to maintain its grip on power indefinitely, and I don’t think any economic sanctions would stir them from this path. The best outcome for economic sanctions would be that they make life so intolerable that Iranians rise up and overthrow the mullahs. But in this scenario, it is regime change, not sanctions, which would end Iran’s nuclear program.

The same goes for military action. Many supporters of this option argue that military action is worth it even if we only delay Iran’s program for a few years. But a delay is only useful if the current Iranian regime falls during that time period. Otherwise the mullahs could just wait out the clock and rebuild their weapons program. And given how unpopular a strike would be in Iran and the Middle East, military action might actually bolster the theocratic regime instead of weakening it.

This is why regime change is the best way to end Iran’s nuclear program. As long as the mullahs are in power, they will continue to pursue a nuclear weapon.

Critics of regime change argue that a new regime might also pursue nuclear weapons. That may be true. Or it may not be. But a new regime in Iran couldn’t pursue nuclear weapons with any more fervor than the current one. And in any case, Iran and the world would be much better off without the mullahs in power.

So how do we get regime change? We had a golden opportunity during the Green Revolution in the summer of 2009. But thanks to a slow and completely inadequate response from the U.S. and the world community, Iran’s leaders were able to crush that uprising and stifle the opposition. But the Arab Spring presents us with an opportunity to overtly and covertly help reignite this opposition movement. We must cast the Iranian regime as an enemy of freedom and the Arab Spring (which it is), and actively aid opposition movements inside Iran.

Regime change is our best chance for stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And we must act now, before it is too late.

By David Meyers, The Daily Caller