Iran: Sanctions, Regime Change, Etc.
The US is preparing to push for new sanctions against Iran in light of its nuclear program, aiming to interfere with Iranian trade more broadly.
A comprehensive sanctions approach has more chance of success than efforts so far, and Iran might be more susceptible to pressure in the wake of the post-election political and societal divides that have opened up. But analysts note that sanctions may be weakened by Russian and Chinese resistance, and that sanctions may simply may not be enough to change Iran’s course. One problem is that Iran is fixing one vulnerability, building up its capacity to refine gasoline.
Some US politicians are talking about regime change in Iran in place of more gradual measures. Sanctions might bring this about, but the US lacks leverage, and pushing for it might delegitimize the very forces that might replace the current government. In any case, regime change would not guarantee an end to the nuclear program: support for aspects of it is widespread among Iranians, and Iran’s strategic situation will remain largely the same.
A military strike is also put forward as plausible, but most analysts see it as at best a delaying tactic. It also has severe potential downsides:
- It might well mean an angrier, more aggressive Iran, possibly more determined to pursue nuclear weapons.
- A strike might rally the populace around the regime and even around the nuclear program, reducing the impact of sanctions or regime change.
- Iran has substantial ways to retaliate against the US, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.
- If Israel carries out an attack, it runs the risk of turning the Iranian-Israeli struggle from a cold war to a hot one, increasing the danger to Israel in the medium- and long-term, especially when Iran acquires nuclear arms anyway.