Although the president touted economic sanctions against Iran as the best way to stop the rogue nation from its quest for nuclear weapons, he has, from the onset of his 2008 campaign, put great faith in his own power to negotiate a solution with the mullahs. In 2008, he famously said that he would sit down with the likes of Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Of course, the talks never happened -- but not because President Obama wasn't willing. Castro is incapacitated, Kim is dead, and the mullahs who actually control Iran weren't interested. As a result, Iran is four years closer to nuclear weapons.
Now the president would like us to believe that economic sanctions will force Iran to back off its nuclear ambitions. The international sanctions are certainly a step in the right direction, but the Obama administration dragged its feet on tougher sanctions. Only when bipartisan support emerged in the Senate and House did it change its tune.
But sanctions -- or a military strike -- are not necessarily the only ways to stop Iran from developing nuclear bombs. Regime change should be the ultimate goal of U.S. policy, but the president seems reluctant to embrace this option.
In 2008, candidate Obama said this of his approach to Iran: "I think it is important for us to send a signal that we are not hellbent on regime change, just for the sake of regime change, but expect changes in behavior. And there are both carrots and there are sticks available to them for those changes in behavior."
Unlike many of his promises, President Obama kept this one. In 2009, when the people of Iran took to the streets to oppose massive election fraud by their murderous regime, President Obama largely kept quiet.
Again, however, what he did say was telling. "My understanding is ... that the Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place. We weren't on the ground, we did not have observers there, we did not have international observers on hand, so I can't state definitively one way or another what happened with respect to the election."
It was humiliating to watch brave Iranians holding up signs in English begging America to stand with them only to have the president act as if there were two sides to this story and that he wanted to give the mullahs a chance to explain.
On Oct. 3, tens of thousands of Iranians again took to the streets to protest their government. The Iranian regime has blamed the demonstrations on the MEK, a group the Secretary of State belatedly took off the U.S. terrorist list in September after a U.S. court decision directed the state department either to show evidence that the group was a threat to American interests or delist it. But the state department continues to be hostile to the MEK and its umbrella group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
The demonstrations in Tehran began in response to the precipitous collapse of the Iranian economy, largely the result of international sanctions and the diversion of resources by the regime to military purposes, including direct support for the Syrian government, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorists. But, according to eyewitness and news accounts, chants in the streets included direct calls for regime change, as well as opposition to the mullahs' nuclear program.
It is time the U.S. made clear our goal in Iran is regime change. We should be doing all that we can to support those who want democracy, separation of church and state, gender equality, guaranteed rights of ethnic and religious minorities and a nuclear-free Iran -- the stated platform of the NCRI. Instead of joining the Iranian regime in continuing to demonize the MEK and the NCRI, our government should be encouraging Iranian dissidents, both in Iran and in exile. Without regime change in Iran, there will be no peace in the region.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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