Marc Lynch on Iran

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Commentary on how the U.S. should deal with Iran often breaks roughly into two camps: those who support military action to force regime change, and those who support the opposition movement as a means to force regime change. At issue is the perception of Iran's nuclear program as a threat, and the perception of Iran's "green movement" opposition as the Persian version of the French Revolution.

Between these camps, Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch looks for some middle ground. He navigates the interconnected issues of Iran's nuclear enrichment, Iran's political opposition, the Middle East balance of power, and domestic U.S. politics. Honestly engaging with but ultimately disposing of the polarized conventional wisdom on Iran, Lynch finds a different way.

It isn't easy to be the pessimist on Iran's Green Movement. Everyone wants to support the brave protestors and most everyone hopes to see them prevail over an increasingly thuggish regime. I do. But over the last few weeks, Washington DC seemed to have talked itself into something more -- a belief that Iranian regime change was actually nigh, and that such regime change from below was actually more likely and easier than a negotiated deal on the nuclear program. I've been skeptical in public and private.... I've been watching Arab regimes survive in the face of popular dissatisfaction for decades, and have seen all too clearly that while Middle Eastern regimes aren't good at much, they're pretty darned good at staying in power. Still, over the last few weeks I've read countless articles, and been told conspiratorially by many Iran-watchers, that February 11 would be the breakthrough for the Green Movement. And now it's pretty clear that it wasn't. So what now? [...]

In general, we'd all do better if we could focus public discourse less on hopes for regime change and war, and more on the less sexy but more helpful question of how to make a negotiations strategy work.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.