Gordon himself wasn’t content with the position that Obama took on Syria. All to his credit, I guess, though I have to ask how he could have squared doing anything serious in Syria and maintaining the JCPOA. They seem mutually exclusive to me. It makes no sense—unless one is scared of war with the clerical regime beyond all else—for the United States to allow the regime more money for its imperialism. Surely among the most embarrassing moments for the Obama administration was when Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, and Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan suggested that monies gained through the nuclear agreement would largely go to domestic spending—as if the Islamic Republic were a Western welfare state.
The JCPOA has effectively made America a handmaiden to the clerical regime’s adventurism. We will soon see what President Trump will do if he walks away from the atomic accord and whether that act will oblige him to deal more forcefully with Iranian imperialism. His allergy to America in the Muslim Middle East is strong, perhaps as strong as Obama’s.
On that depressing note, let me turn to regime change, where things look better. To be clear: I don’t view regime change as an answer to the mullahs’ quest for the bomb. I would support regime change even if the ruling clerical elite and the Revolutionary Guards weren’t gunning for nuclear weapons. And I would not base any U.S. strategy on an atomic timeline. Regime change ought to be the ultimate goal of American foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic for the simple reason that only when the Islamist dictatorship collapses will Iranian malevolence against the United States cease. I do think it’s highly unlikely that, if the theocracy falls, the succeeding Iranian government will develop nuclear-tipped missiles. If the next government is democratic, which is likely given the evolution of Iran’s polity, it certainly won’t, since the clerical regime’s hegemonic ambitions have limited traction in Iranian society, and domestic demands, as we have witnessed in the risings in 2009 and the end of last year, will take precedence.
I don’t know if the Islamic Republic is “on its last legs.” Yet the regime experienced a near-death experience during the Green Revolution protests in 2009-2010. The profound regime depression provoked by the provincial demonstrations, which started last December, continues. (This has undoubtedly been helped by Mr. Trump, who scares the regime, and has helped to send the riyal through the basement floor. More credit goes, of course, to the Islamic Republic’s fundamental dysfunction, especially in economics. ) There are many reasons to believe that the theocracy is in serious trouble.
When George Kennan wrote his famous article on “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” he didn’t think the U.S.S.R. was near collapse. The potential imminence of such a collapse is not why we should want it in Iran. We should want it because we recognize the regime’s implacable, virulent hatred of the United States, and its religious-fascist roots that give birth to awful conspiracies and vicious imperialism. One of the most disconcerting things about the Obama administration’s approach toward Iran was how it so misread, miscast, or usually just ignored what the Iranian regime was saying. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is many things, but a “moderate,” as Western media tends to describe him, is not one of them. Khamenei is way, way beyond “complicated,” to use Mr. Obama’s description. If the Roman God Mendacious came down to earth, he would be Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Doing what we can—and yes, we undoubtedly will make stupid mistakes in this effort—to get rid of this regime would be a blessing to us and the region. It’s always good to remember what Bob Kagan remarked about waging foreign policy: Like in baseball, if you bat just a bit north of .300, you’ll probably make it into the Hall of Fame.