The Washington Post::
By Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh
Regime change in Iran is one of the biggest taboos in U.S. foreign policy. Bring it up and you will be scorned as a warmonger, a fomenter of chaos. Yet we have encouraged and welcomed the collapse of dictatorships in other countries, especially within the former Soviet empire. And we used severe sanctions against apartheid South Africa to bring fundamental change. The Islamic republic has been directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Syria. Is that a lesser sin?
The Iranian theocracy’s disregard for the rights and livelihoods of its people periodically drives them into mass protests (at great risk to themselves). Its imperialist ambitions endanger its neighbors. Yet American leftists routinely argue that we can never dare to replace it. Two liberal analysts recently warned in The Post that “it is fair to ask whether the political and social collapse of a country of 80 million people at a time of a global pandemic is in the United States’ — or anybody’s — interests.” To speak of its demise, much less try to hasten it, is considered untoward and egregiously ideological in polite Washington society.
To a remarkable extent, we have turned Iran policy into a debate about ourselves. If the regime is opposed by conservatives, liberals veer the other way, often trying hard to find something redeeming about the Islamic republic (at a minimum, it isn’t Saudi Arabia). For them, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is reactionary, if not a tad villainous, because of his ardent opposition to Tehran. When Cotton prophetically warned Iran’s leaders in an open letter in 2015 that a nuclear agreement would not be binding on a Republican president, his colleague Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) described his move as “undermining the authority of the president,” while Secretary of State John F. Kerry professed himself to be in “utter disbelief.”
The advocates of cooperation with the clerical regime often play down its crude and constant anti-Semitism. Its misogyny and homophobia somehow do not invite calls for sanctions from liberals. The ardent left — for example, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) foreign policy staff — can see bigotry and bellicosity in any use of “mullah” to describe Iran’s religious government (even though “mullah” is a word used most often by Iranians to describe a cleric). And some even manage to blame Tehran’s harsh repression of its own people on anti-American animus that is allegedly empowering the hard-liners who would be weaker if Washington weren’t so mean.
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