What ever happened to regime change?
In President Obama's Washington, officials often say that a leader of this or that country has lost "legitimacy." They coordinate with other countries in attempts to force leaders out through diplomacy. They play domestic politics in foreign countries.
But they studiously deny they are out for regime change.
That approach is a "mistake," says Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who worked extensively with lawmakers to devise America's current sanction regime that Obama has credited with bringing Iran to the negotiation table.
"Khamenei had to be presented with a fundamental choice between a nuclear weapon and the survival of his regime for nuclear diplomacy to have a chance of working," Dubowitz says. "There was a time when so-called 'crippling' economic sanctions as promised by the administration, combined with meaningful support for the Iranian opposition in the wake of the 2009 democratic counterrevolution, could have created such an existential moment for Khamenei.
"That moment," he says, "unfortunately has passed as the economic pressure has significantly eased and the democratic support never came."