Three decades of assumptions about Iran — including the premises behind Washington’s recent outreach to Tehran — have been transformed by its stunning uprising. It’s time for a policy rethink.
The Obama administration’s offer to engage was the right idea. But the theocracy’s brutal crackdown on the opposition since the June 12 presidential election, followed by the purge of senior politicians in show trials and an alarming increase in general executions, marks a turning point for Iran’s revolution. U.S. policy now needs a broader approach. Recent history offers relevant guidelines.
The three most important revolutions of the 20th century — for their political innovation and impact — happened in the Soviet Union, China and Iran. At the peak of revolutionary paranoia, the Soviet Union and China witnessed turmoil similar to what is happening today in Iran. Soon afterward, however, Moscow and Beijing altered course. Both began the move from defiant revolutionary regime to a normal state willing to work within the international order and mended relations with the United States.