Should Regime Change in Iran Be Official U.S. Policy? | Opinion

One of President Donald Trump's signature foreign policy legacies has been his toughening of relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran—especially compared with the accommodative stance of his presidential predecessor. But what exactly America's foreign foreign policy objective should be, with respect to Iran, remains a topic of ongoing debate. With the benefit of hindsight of the 2003 Iraq War fallout, it is often contested whether America's overt goal for Iran—which is the world's number one state sponsor of global militant jihadism—ought to actually be the effectuation of regime change.

This week, the more hawkish Scott Modell, adjunct professor at Georgetown University and a 13-year veteran of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, debates Curt Mills of the isolationist-leaning The American Conservative magazine. We hope you find the Debate both entertaining and enlightening.

Josh Hammer, Newsweek opinion editor, is also a syndicated columnist, of counsel at First Liberty Institute and a popular campus speaker.

The U.S. Should Adopt a Regime Change Strategy for Iran

Discredited at home and isolated abroad, Iran's authoritarian leaders are under greater pressure today than ever. Instead of trying to convince them to change their behavior, we should change our own by abandoning 40 years of failed containment and pushing for a more open, democratic and responsible system of government. Tehran already sees President Trump's "maximum pressure" strategy as a de facto regime change policy. As the Iranian threat grows, Washington should make it official—not through war or additional economic sanctions, but by capitalizing on deep internal conflicts that can lead to change from within.

There is a better way.

Regime Change in Iran Should Not Be American Policy

The United States is enduring a new economic depression, an ongoing (perhaps worsening) pandemic and internal fissures on a scale not seen in 160 years. From a clear—if still flawed—beacon of hope for the world, America has in the space of a single generation become a land of low growth, debauched inequality and imperial defeat. The prospects for younger generations of Americans are obviously diminished; the country sports second-world infrastructure and Greek levels of debt, and its struggles with health care and internal violence are the subjects of deserved, international ridicule. In a more recent development, the scenes of rank iconoclasm unfolding in its cities—most provocatively, yards from the executive mansion itself—unambiguously show the world a country that is either unappreciative of, or in full revolution against, its own national inheritance.

This is not to say America is finished—far from it—but it does suggest that policymakers who wish to preserve its international primacy should understand they are playing with a weaker hand. Global micromanagement is a luxury we can no longer afford—and there is no clearer instance of overstretch than U.S. policy toward Iran. Thirty years after Francis Fukuyama infamously declared "the end of history," democracy, liberalism and open market capitalism are in retreat, if not actively threatened with extinction.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani -/AFP via Getty Images