Iran might be the world’s greatest threat to international security, and should have maximum pressure applied to it in a bid to force “regime collapse,” according to a panel of experts convened to discuss the efficacy of sanctions on Tehran.
The event, titled “An Effective Iran Policy: Sanctions or No Sanctions?” and attended by Arab News, was hosted by the US branch of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
The guests discussed the nature of Tehran’s nuclear program, the failures of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — also known as the Iran nuclear deal — and domestic opposition to the regime.
The discussion came in the aftermath of US efforts to enforce a “snapback” of UN sanctions on Iran, as well as the re-imposition of a UN arms embargo on the country earlier this year.
Washington’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA was based on its many inherent failings, said Robert Joseph, former US special envoy for nuclear non-proliferation. Pursuing further diplomatic routes with Tehran would prove futile, he added.
“This isn’t a regime we can do business with. There’s simply no prospect of good-faith negotiations (with it),” he said.
“Yes you can negotiate and even come to an agreement, but the regime has cheated on every agreement it has made with regard to its nuclear program,” Joseph added.
“The current policy of maximum pressure is the best policy, and the best means to deny the regime the capability to conduct terrorist acts, to pursue armed aggression against its neighbors and to oppress its people. We … should be doubling down on debilitating sanctions and other means of containment.”
Joseph was overtly critical of European nations for refusing to back US demands for the extension of the arms embargo.
“Our European friends, on the question of the arms embargo, would say in private, ‘That’s exactly the right thing to do. We must continue the embargo.’ But when it came time to vote, they didn’t have intestinal fortitude to stay with a principled position,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Jay Carafano, vice president of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation think tank, who highlighted the significance of Iran’s threat to the region and touched upon the strategies being employed to deter it.
“In the greater Middle East, the US recognizes that the regime in Iran is the greatest threat to peace and stability,” he said.
“That’s twofold: One is the nuclear issue — if Iran went nuclear, other countries would feel compelled to do likewise. This proliferation is incredibly dangerous and destabilizing. Equally concerning is Iran’s other activities: State sponsorship of terrorism, supporting insurgents and surrogates in the region and around the world, destabilizing other countries,” he added.
“The Iran sanctions are designed to deal with both of those. Sanctions aren’t a strategy, they’re a component of a strategy,” Carafano said.
“What this (US) administration would like to do is say, ‘We’ll sanction Iran for as long as it takes to get them to stop doing the things that concern the US and other countries.’ But in addition to that, this administration has a strategy of building out the alliance of likeminded countries (to) serve as a firebreak.”
The need to enforce a system beyond sanctions was backed by Eric Edelman, former US undersecretary of defense for policy.
“Sanctions alone aren’t going to be enough to get a conventional outcome. While I think the sanction effort is important, I think it’s equally important to keep the focus on Iran, and keep Iran isolated, and not to let the US become isolated,” he said.
“What I think we need is a comprehensive policy … and that means not just sanctions and pressure on the nuclear issue, but addressing a whole range of issues in which Iranian behavior is problematic.”
Edelman said efforts to undermine the regime would hinge ultimately on isolating Tehran externally, but also lending support to domestic opposition.
“There have been explosions in dissent … It’s clear that there’s disquiet in the population … This requires a mix of both covert and overt assistance to the domestic opposition,” he added.
“It also requires constant efforts by the US government to highlight the human rights abuses by the regime and the corruption of the regime, which is the regime’s Achilles heel.”
Carafano said sanctions would not be necessary if Iran looked after the needs of its own people rather than the ambitions of its political elites.
“If the regime really wanted to take care of its people, it could take all the money that it’s spending on surrogates and sponsorship of terrorism, and building out a secret nuclear weapons program,” he added.
“There’d be more than enough money to take care of the Iranian people. And if they did that, there’d be no need for the sanctions in the first place.”
Ultimately, Joseph said, the multifaceted approach of sanctions combined with support for domestic opposition and international isolation remains the best way to force Tehran to abandon its policies of aggression.
“We must deny the regime any legitimacy, simply by telling the truth about its horrendous crimes,” he added.
“Most importantly, we must support the democratic opposition, outside and inside Iran. This isn’t about using military force to invade the country, to occupy the country; in my view that would be a fundamental mistake. We know that regime change must come from within. We know that regime change will come from within,” he said.
“We must not throw the regime a lifeline. That will only prolong the regime’s terrorism, its regional aggression, and the specter of a nuclear breakout,” he added.
“We must not return to the failed policies of appeasement, a path that’s often characterized as a path between diplomacy or war. This was, and remains, a false choice. More agreements will only lead to more aggression and more brutality.” arabnews