Would Iran ever actually deploy nuclear weapons though? Much depends on one's read of just how long-lived and truculent the current regime is. These issues are taken up in the volume's next two chapters. In “Iran's Internal Struggles,” Genieve Abdo, an internationally recognized observer of Iranian politics, argues that the revolutionary government is unlikely to be overthrown anytime soon and that it will persist in its hostile foreign policies. Rob Sobhani, a leading American-Iranian commentator, however, argues that with sufficient U.S. support of the right sort, the current government in Iran could give way to a far more liberal and peaceable regime. But what is the “right” kind of support? Abbas William Samii, Radio Free Europe's Iranian broadcast analyst, explores this question in chapter 5, “Winning Iranian Hearts and Minds.” Although Mr. Samii does not rule out speedy regime change, he warns that it is not likely and that for that reason, the United States needs to have a long-term outreach program that will encourage a more favorable opinion of the United States among the general Iranian population.
This, then, raises the question of timing. If favorable regime change may not come before Iran acquires nuclear weapons or the ability to quickly acquire them, what other course of action might the United States and its allies take to influence Iranian decisionmakers? None of the most popular policy options, in short, are sure bets; all are fraught with dangers. This is why it is critical to make sure that Iran at least understands that it will not be rewarded or given a pass on its pursuit of worrisome nuclear activities. In the first instance this means that the United States and its allies must make full use of existing restraints against nuclear weapons proliferation-the IAEA and the NPT--to make sure Iran does not become a model of how to exploit the rules, but rather an example of what happens to states that bend or flaunt them. Beyond this, the United States and its allies must make clear what Iran can expect if it continues its nuclear power program--even if within the legal letter of the IAEA Statute--and how much better Iran's future would be if it terminated its program and cut its ties to terrorists, who might otherwise gain access to the nuclear know-how Iran has already mastered.
The coming months will be some of the most critical in U.S.Iranian relations. The dramatic news that Iran's nuclear infrastructure was far more advanced than the public had been led to believe, puts the possibility of the Iranian bomb front and center and poses a most