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Speaking Loudly and Carrying a Little Stick: The Myopic U.S. Debate about Iran

Mark Dubowitz, Reuel Marc Gerecht
10th January 2018 - Quoted by Aaron Stein - War on the Rocks

Following a political miscalculation on both sides of its political spectrum, Iran in the first days of the year experienced a large wave of protests in more than 80 cities. The street demonstrations have begun to wane in recent days, although widespread reports of anti-regime slogans and continued economic challenges have prompted questions about whether the drop-off in public protests is a pyrrhic victory for the regime.

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For example, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote about the need to “let loose a tsunami of sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards” to undermine Iran’s theocracy. This approach is based on the assumption that Iran cannot reform from the inside, and transition on its own from hostile theocracy to a more Western-friendly democracy. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens implored Americans to pay close attention to “what Iran is. This isn’t just about whether it’s a dictatorship. What kind of dictatorship? To get the answer right is to know what kind of pressure can change its behavior or break its back.”

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The next step preferred by the administration and Iran hawks is to recreate the pre-JCPOA status quo, using sanctions to starve the regime of cash to topple the government. Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, made this point succinctly in a memo to the new administration just after Trump’s inauguration, writing:

Iran is susceptible to a strategy of coerced democratization because it lacks popular support and relies on fear to sustain its power … The very structure of the regime invites instability, crisis and possibly collapse.

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