- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2012

A preemptive military strike is unlikely to destroy Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons sites, so the United States must embrace a policy of regime change in Tehran that involves aiding opposition groups, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Monday.

He spelled out two “unacceptable futures” on Iran in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington. One of these would be if Iran were to build a nuclear weapon, use it or lose one.

“The other equally unacceptable future is a preemptive military attack,” Mr. Gingrich said.

Mr. Gingrich said he was very doubtful that either Israel or the United States could launch an attack that could cripple a major part of Iran’s nuclear program because the facilities are dispersed across the country.

“There will be huge civilian collateral damage,” he warned. “The world will be appalled at the cost.”

He also predicted that the Iranian regime would not abandon its quest for nuclear weapons, even after an attack.

“A week after the bombing campaign, why would you think [the Iranian regime is] going to back off,” he added.

The Obama administration does not support a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but that is an option that has been seriously debated at high levels of the Israeli government.

Mr. Gingrich said the United States must support every opposition group in Iran, including the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK).

The United States should have “a very clear position of regime change” in Iran, he added. Instead, he said, “We isolate the most effective ally we have in the Iranian people and decide they are unacceptable.”

The MeK has sought to overthrow Iran’s theocratic regime. It was given shelter in Iraq by Saddam Hussein and built a paramiltary base at Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad. U.S. troops disarmed the dissidents in 2003.

In a bid to facilitate talks with the Iranian regime, the Clinton administration listed the MeK as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

A U.S. appeals court in June ordered Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to decide within four months on removing the MeK from the terror list.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite who is close to Iran’s regime, has made it his mission to shut down Camp Ashraf.

Mr. Gingrich called Mr. al-Maliki a “enormous disappointment” and said Washington is “exhausted” with Iraq.

Mr. Gingrich lost the contest for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination to Mitt Romney. If Mr. Romney were to become president, Mr. Gingrich said he would advise him to make regime change in Iran a “clear goal” of his administration.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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