At a press conference last week, President Trump stated that the U.S. is “not looking for regime change” in Tehran. Andrew McCarthy, while praising the substance of the administration’s Iran policy, argues that regime change—albeit not invasion or war—ought precisely to be Washington’s aim.
Regardless of our position on the matter, Iran has been at war with us for 40 years. If the adversary is determined to attack you, it is not in your power to avoid war by pronouncing that you do not desire it. You can practice restraint, and that might even be the right thing to do in some circumstances, but you can’t avoid a fight when the other guy is punching you. . . .
[T]he president says both that he wants to avoid war (i.e., the war Iran is already fighting) and that he will not tolerate Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. But how, then, is he planning to stop the mullahs from obtaining nukes? Let’s say Iran proceeds openly with weapons development but does not conduct any major attacks against American interests while doing so; how—given Trump’s determination to avoid war—is he planning to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power?
No one wants an all-out war with Iran. Americans have no interest in invading and occupying another Muslim country—least of all Iran. Its rich culture and sophisticated populace provide grounds for hope that we can have cordial relations with Iran in the future. But the current impediment to cordial relations, and the reason nuclear weapons would be intolerable, is the regime. It is one of the world’s most despicable governments, and it is incorrigibly anti-American.
So, of course our goal should be regime change. No, we do not want to invade to achieve it, but it should still be our objective. The president should not be shy about saying so, or about turning all levers of government power—political, diplomatic, legal, and covert, as well as military and financial—in that direction. It would be a good way of setting expectations for the mullahs, for the craven European governments that want us to appease the mullahs, and for the Iranian people we would like to see rise up against the mullahs. . . . If [President Trump] is really serious about stopping Tehran from developing nukes, then he must convince the regime that he is keeping all options on the table—especially the ones he hopes never to use.