“The idea that there is a diplomatic solution is nonsense,” Richard Perle says of US policy options for Iran. Perle, a top advisor to past Republican Administrations, including serving as the Chairman of Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee under George W. Bush, favors a shift to US-led regime change for Iran. Speaking at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Perle clashed with panelists Dr. Barry Blechman of the Stimson Center and Dr. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies on the issues of engagement, sanctions, and war.
According to Perle, the Green Movement offers policymakers tremendous potential to be utilized as a tool for US foreign policy. Perle argued that, if we “will not succeed at the negotiating table, and dislike the military option, then the low risk strategy seems to be aligning with those Iranians who want to change the country” because “all evidence seems to point to increased dissatisfaction with the regime.”
But Perle disagreed with Dr. Blechman and Dr. Cordesman that a military strike would destroy the Green Movement and cause the Iranian people to rally around the regime. Perle, a prominent advocate for the Iraq war who warned in 2003 that the US should launch preemptive war against any country that poses a threat, including Iran, did not endorse military action at the panel. But he did say that an attack on Iran should be limited to targeted strikes.
Cordesman warned against even targeted military action, arguing that any hope of attacking Iran and avoiding a wider conflict would be dim given that Iran’s evolving asymmetrical capabilities and protected nuclear program make a second strike highly plausible. Blechman also said that a strike on Iran would be disastrous and offered cautionary advice to policymakers that “Cute allusions to ‘all options are on the table’ only makes the case for [Iran’s] hardliners.”
Blechman stated that there is “an opportunity for diplomacy vis-à-vis Iran.” He is the co-author of a new report that warns that the US must reinvigorate its strategic engagement efforts with Iran or face the prospect of being left only with choices between dangerous military options or an undesirable containment posture.
Perle, however, criticized the current US administration for negotiating with the Islamic Republic. Engagement, he said, “will not persuade Iran to change either the nuclear program or [its] desire to dominate the region.”
Blechman argued that, because the Iranian nuclear program was proceeding more slowly than many anticipated and divisions were fragmenting Iranian government elites, the US has a chance to “rebalance” its dual track policy and put “a new emphasis on diplomacy,” that could serve as a basis for resolving issues between the two countries.
Dr. Cordesman also supported engagement, and emphasized the necessity of a broader approach to negotiations in which the US considers regional security concerns when addressing Iranian intentions in the Persian Gulf region.
The panelists also disagreed on sanctions. Blechman maintained that current sanctions have proven effective, but Perle argued for additional “robust” US pressure to cut Iran off from gasoline supplies. Such measures, Perle said, could act as a way to “precipitate the revolution” in Iran.