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A Passive-Aggressive Strategy for Toppling Tehran

Diplomacy has led nowhere.

12:30 PM, May 6, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
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To say that President Barack Obama's response to the Iranian opposition movement has been tepid might be a bit of an understatement. But suppose he does assume a Reagan style posture, and uses his lofty pulpit as leader of the free world to fan the flames of opposition. Would the protesters, electrified by U.S. support, be ready to confront a regime that's perfectly comfortable leaving their bodies in the Persian streets?

A Passive-Aggressive Strategy for Toppling Tehran

Openly supporting Iran's democratic movement is only half the battle. They need to be disciplined, well supplied, and -- amongst their upper echelons -- tightly regimented. Assuming that the United State has only two vectors of attack here, military or diplomatic, is fallacious. We can start treating the Iranians like we treated other proxy actors during the Cold War. Instead of bullets and bombs, we send gizmos and gadgets -- laptops with encrypted satellite uplinks, radio broadcasting equipment, even iPods and GPS trackers. When an unarmed civilian is gunned down on the street, a video of the brutality should be hot on the internet within minutes. And we shouldn't assume that violence is unavoidable -- training these guys in both passive and active resistance, how to deal with the Mullah's violent militia groups, and how to hit back as a disciplined entity can help level the playing field. 

We should also consider paying key opposition strategists, activists, and leaders -- so that resistance becomes a full time endeavor, tying that together with a broader strategy -- using outside political and economic influence to start hitting Tehran's centers of gravity, and hitting them hard. Freeze assets, publicly embarrass and discredit Iranian leadership whenever possible (and don't be shy about risking intelligence sources to do so), and use our technological supremacy to hijack, seize, and pirate nodes of communication and messaging. Hack their computers, spread disinformation, disrupt everything that can be disrupted. 

President Obama places heavy emphasis on diplomatic process and international consensus. That's useful in its own right. Other nations besides the U.S. and Israel want to keep Iran from going nuclear, including several Arab states. Bring them into the mix. Encourage them to use their intelligence services and military (for logistical purposes) to join a broader coalition in support of internal regime change. Do it quietly, but aggressively.

Passivity will only lead to another North Korea situation, where we constantly chomped at diplomatic bait. That ended with two nuclear detonations. The White House needs to face the facts here: diplomacy has led nowhere. There are no negotiations which could be compromised, Iran has already sunk billions into a weapons development program and will not abandon their investment under any circumstances. If military action is not an option, then strike a happy medium -- hit the regime where it hurts, and don't stop hitting until the Mullahs are down for the count. 

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