‘Real men want to go to Tehran’: Bush, pre-emption and the Iranian nuclear challenge



The desire for regime change in Iran has coloured the Bush administration's approach to the challenge presented by Tehran's apparent desire to build a nuclear weapons capability. Yet the threat of military force either to destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure and/or to eff ect regime change has proved counterproductive to the simultaneous eff orts to stop the Iranian programme through diplomacy. Indeed, the entire Bush policy towards Iran of simultaneously wishing to coerce, undermine and replace the regime while also seeking to persuade it to abandon its nuclear programme through diplomacy has proved both strategically inconsistent and consistently counterproductive. In failing to decide whether it prioritizes a change of regime or a change of behaviour it has got neither. This article elucidates the rationale behind the Bush administration's policy approach, demonstrating how in seeking both objectives simultaneously it has achieved neither. It sets out instead a set of policies to regain the initiative in US-Iranian relations and to prioritize and coordinate American policy goals within a broader Middle East policy.