As Iran continues with its efforts to become a nuclear power, President Obama has signed into law sweeping new economic sanctions against companies found to be trading with Iran. This action follows the adoption of a new sanctions resolution last month at the United Nations Security Council and a tightening of European Union sanctions.
But these welcome steps must be seen against the dismal background of the claim by CIA Director Leon Panetta that Iran already has enough fissile material for two atomic bombs and could develop nuclear weapons in two years if it so chose. "Will [the sanctions] deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability?" Mr Panetta asked himself. "Probably not," he answered.
There are some who try to reassure themselves, saying that if worst came to worst, Israel would launch air strikes against Iran's nuclear installations. But while this might delay the production of Iran's first bomb, it would almost guarantee that after that short delay, the mullahs would speed up nuclear production and, as they already have vowed, target U.S. and Western interests in the region, with incalculable consequences.
Despite these appalling problems, there is a viable solution, one that involves the Iranian people themselves.
The vast majority of Iranians detest the regime and since last year have repeatedly taken to the streets demanding regime change. The main democratic opposition coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), held a major rally at the end of last month in Paris attracting tens of thousands. The NCRI, the group that first blew the whistle on Iran's nuclear program in 2002, says it wants the establishment of a democratic, secular, nonnuclear Iran that respects human rights and lives in peace with its neighbors.
NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi said at the rally that Western leaders had tried for years to engage the regime, buying it time for its nuclear projects, and the U.S. even blacklisted the main opposition group, Peoples Mojahedin (PMOI); ultimately, however, the West's policy of "appeasement" reached a dead end, and it must reverse course. Mrs. Rajavi says the latest international sanctions are necessary but insufficient.
Mr. Obama must target oil and gas companies that have dealings with Iran despite the short-term economic costs to those companies. He also must remove the terrorist designation from the PMOI, allowing the regime's principal domestic foe to concentrate its efforts on rallying Iranians against the regime. The EU lifted its ban last year after the courts found the group's activities were lawful.
The option of democratic change by the Iranian people and their resistance movement has gained the support of prominent conservatives such as former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and European Parliament Vice President Alejo Vidal-Quadras.
John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who addressed last week's rally in Paris, said the U.S. government must adopt an "active regime-change policy," which "will not stand in the way of legitimate opposition groups."
Mr. Aznar noted that "the Iranian people deserve a government that is not based on brutal repression. ... They need and deserve a change of regime in Iran."
In order to avert a war with Iran, Mr. Obama and his allies in Europe must actively support the organized Iranian opposition and lift restrictions to allow it to build on the momentum of last year's anti-government protests and bring about domestic regime change.
Lord Waddington is a former home secretary of the United Kingdom.
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