Arguing that the ayatollahs’ “Achilles’ heel” is “popular disgust with theocracy,” which has been festering since the suppression of the 2009 Green Revolt, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh urge the U.S. to exploit this weakness while simultaneously confronting the Islamic Republic’s troublemaking throughout the region:
The Green Movement . . . altered the relationship between state and society. . . . The regime’s survival is now dependent on unsteady security services and the power of patronage, which ebbs and flows with the price of oil. Iran’s continuing stage-managed elections and colorless apparatchiks, including President Hassan Rouhani, a founding father of the feared intelligence ministry who mimics reformist slogans, have failed to convince, much less inspire. Today, the Islamist regime resembles the Soviet Union of the 1970s—an exhausted entity incapable of reforming itself while drowning in corruption and bent on costly imperialism.
If Washington were serious about doing to Iran what it helped to do to the USSR, it would seek to weaken the theocracy by pressing it on all fronts. A crippling sanctions regime that punishes Tehran for its human-rights abuses is a necessity. Such a move would not just impose penalties . . . for violating international norms but send a signal to the Iranian people that the United States stands behind their aspirations. American officials should insist on the release of all those languishing in prison since the Green Revolt. This list must include the leaders of that movement, Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been confined to house arrest despite reports of poor health. Barack Obama never once spoke about these men. Donald Trump should not make the same mistake.
The Trump administration should also focus the bully pulpit on those who’ve fallen victim to the crackdown that occurred after the nuclear deal was signed. . . . The United States actually has the high ground against the mullahs. Our resources dwarf theirs. . . . It is way past time for Washington to stoke the volcano under Tehran [as well as] to challenge the regime on the frontiers of its Shiite empire.