This commentary was published in The Washington Post on 17/02/2011
As Iran's streets erupt with pro-democracy demonstrations, it is all too obvious that the only option the United States has in altering the Islamic Republic's behavior is to support the Green Movement.
As exhilarating as the early stages of the region's political transition may be, democratic upheaval is likely to narrow the conventional options of addressing the threat of Iran's nuclear program. Great powers such as Russia and China that place a premium on stability are unlikely to agree to more economic sanctions. The Arab states preoccupied with renegotiating their national compacts will be reluctant to participate in efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic. And the military option that was always unattractive has now become implausible; it would be rash to employ force against Iran's suspected nuclear installations and radicalize the Arab populace just as forces of moderation and democracy seem ascendant.
The demise of the Islamic Republic is inevitable. Should the Middle East move toward realizing the aspirations of its citizens, and embrace pluralism and accountability, it is hard to see how a retrogressive clerical tyranny can persist in the region. During the democratic transition, there is still the challenge of tempering Iran's pernicious ambitions, and the mullahs' penchant for terrorism must still be addressed. The chimera of a diplomatic solution should no longer blind the international community to Iran's political vulnerabilities. In the end, the most effective means of disarming the Islamic Republic and ending its reign of terror is to invest in the indomitable Green Movement.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.