Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Affairs

Why Regime Change Wouldn't End Iran's Nuclear Program

| Oct. 24, 2017

History Shows a Policy Shift Is Unlikely

his month, U.S. President Donald Trump revealed his administration’s much-anticipated Iran strategy. It involves increasing pressure on Tehran on virtually all fronts, most notably through the decertification of the nuclear deal that former President Barack Obama and the other world powers reached with the Islamic Republic in 2015. Trump premised his remarks on a talking point that has long characterized hawkish narratives on Iran; namely, that a more rational regime would presumably cease its nuclear activities.

“We are determined that the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism will never obtain nuclear weapons,” Trump said in his remarks. “In this effort, we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people. The Iranian people long to—and they just are longing, to reclaim their country’s proud history, its culture, its civilization, its cooperation with its neighbors.” Comments like these are hardly uncommon among members of the administration and U.S. lawmakers. Months prior to these remarks, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had told Congress that the United States would be looking to support “elements” within Iran that are opposing and fighting the regime. What Trump and Tillerson imply, and others such as former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton have clearly stated, is that the Iranian people favor different policies than the regime and that, by extension, a different Iranian leadership would pursue different policies and behave differently.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Tabatabai, Ariane M.“Why Regime Change Wouldn't End Iran's Nuclear Program.” Foreign Affairs, October 24, 2017.

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