A report in this Sunday's Washington Post on the increased flow of intelligence on Iran from disaffected government officials highlights the growing split between the Iranian regime and its people. This information, which has provided valuable insights into both the state of the regime and the country's nuclear program, might not have been possible were it not for the increasing disillusionment with the government following the election turmoil last year. This intelligence dividend caused by the split between the regime and many of its key people demonstrates the sensitive nature of the political environment inside of Iran. As Congress steps to the precipice of forwarding on tough sanctions legislation to the President, it would do well to account for how its actions may inadvertently close this split, an outcome that could benefit the regime at the expense both of its opponents and our country's efforts to stop an Iranian bomb.
Opposition supporters clashed with Iranian security forces on the streets of Tehran today in smaller-than-anticipated protests marking the 31st anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. What is clear from today is that the opposition movement continues to put pressure on the Iranian government from the inside against the backdrop of increasing international pressure from the outside. Instead of the clumsy intervention favored by certain neoconservative pundits, the U.S. should embrace the recommendations favored by well-recognized experts on Iran.
In a sign of increased frustration with Iran’s unwillingness to accept America’s “outstretched hand,” the House of Representatives moved yesterday to approve broad sanctions legislation targeting Iran’s petroleum industry. For its part, the Iranian regime remained defiant, pledging continued opposition, even as it struggled to contain the persistent rifts that have emerged in the wake of last summer’s election crisis. Attention now shifts to the Senate and ultimately to the Obama administration, which supports measures aimed at pressuring Iran that receive international backing, a key ingredient for those measures’ success. They are joined in this view by a wide array of national security experts, who in addition to arguing for a multilateral diplomatic approach, have pushed for targeting sanctions on specific key regime figures and entities, as well as fitting any future steps within an overall strategy that continues to keep engagement on the table.
The last few weeks have witnessed significant developments related to Iran. Against this backdrop, The Obama administration’s diplomatic engagement strategy to both ramp up the pressure on and assess progress with Iran by the end of the year has continued to move forward effectively. This was in evidence when 25 countries, including all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, voted to support censure of Iran at the IAEA for its unwillingness to be fully transparent over its nuclear ambitions. In addition, instability stemming from Iran’s post-election crisis this summer has continued, with protests taking place on a scale not seen since the election itself. . Yet despite this dynamic situation, Congress is moving swiftly to impose unilateral sanctions on the Islamic Republic. While sanctions can serve as a useful diplomatic instrument and congressional pressure can send an important signal that U.S. patience with Iran is limited, moving forward with unilateral sanctions at this time may create more problems than solutions on this thorny issue.
As part of its negotiating pattern of vague non-responses, it appears that Iran will not agree to temporarily freeze its uranium enrichment program in a response today to an offer by the United States and its allies.