Saturday, September 09, 2006

Newt Gingrich: We Need to Bring About Regime Change in Iran

Newt Gingrich, The Guardian:
Iran's pursuit of a nuclear program in defiance of the United Nations has led some to call for military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities to prevent the terror-sponsoring regime from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While I agree that a military option to replace the regime must be left on the table, I worry that some believe a military strike on Iran's nuclear installations is a viable long-term solution to stopping the Iranian regime's pursuit of greater power in the region.

In truth, until the Iranian regime itself is replaced with one that does not sponsor terrorism and does not seek a nuclear program, then the threat will remain and grow. READ MORE

Iran's nuclear facilities are well-hidden and well protected. Many of them are spread out and underground, making them especially difficult to target. The same weakness in our intelligence capabilities that led most countries to overestimate Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program can also swing in the other direction, causing us to underestimate the extent of Iran's nuclear program (as it did in 1991 when intelligence underestimated Saddam's program).

A military strike would likely degrade their capabilities, but it would not guarantee that Iran would not ultimately acquire a nuclear weapon, whether by shifting to alternative facilities or simply purchasing one. And it would not stop Iran from continuing to sponsor terrorism in Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel.

Let me be clear: Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad has said he is committed to seeing Israel "wiped off the map". If a military strike to replace the regime is the only option left to prevent this from occurring, then I would support it. However, it should be the last option because it isn't a very good one.

Instead, we should seek to replace the regime by bringing to bear the non-military weapons in our arsenal. A successful policy of regime change in Iran should start with what President Ronald Reagan did in eastern Europe to defeat communism.

By using America's full economic, political, and diplomatic clout and by working with dissident groups, the Soviet Union was defeated without firing a shot. This can be our goal in Iran as well. Remember, over 1,000 candidates were removed from the ballot in the recent Iranian election because they were too hostile to the current regime. Certainly there are those among the 1,000 candidates who we could work with immediately to help the Iranian people overthrow the current, oppressive government. Still more could be found in the pro-democracy and religiously moderate college professors that Ahmadinejad is now trying to purge from Iranian universities.

The Iranian regime is indeed dangerous and must be stopped. However, it is dangerous not just because of what weapons it has or is pursuing, but because of its evil intent. Therefore, the only viable long-term strategy for safety against Iran is replacing the regime - with force if necessary, but without force if possible.