Five weeks after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, anti-regime demonstrations within the country have only grown more intense. Amos Yadlin and Joel Zamel call on Western governments, along with private and civic institutions, to do what they can to help the protesters, and explain what might be done:
Despite the $750 billion U.S. defense budget, there has been limited investment in information campaigns, civil resistance training, strengthening of alternative leadership, and a wide range of other tools to empower the Iranian people.
Two parallel issues, the Iranian regime’s survival and its nuclear program, are beginning to intersect. The latter has occupied the world’s attention for the past twenty years while the former has occupied the international community since the 1979 revolution that saw the rise of Iran’s radical Islamic regime.
[One way to respond to Tehran’s attempt to attain nuclear weapons], which the West has been reluctant to support, has been to push for regime change by helping the Iranian people overthrow their oppressors, through any non-violent means necessary. . . . This option has been discarded by leadership circles around the world, leaving Iranian dissidents and human-rights activists stranded on the sidelines of history for the past 40 years. It is not only morally abhorrent to abandon freedom fighters from what was once a great civilization, but also strategically unwise.
Regime change does not have to mean military force; rather an intentional effort to utilize [non-military] means to strengthen and support the opposition to liberate their country. . . . That a free and democratic Iran would be optimal for U.S. foreign policy is something that can be agreed on across America’s political spectrum, yet this objective remains absent from ongoing debates.