U.S. changing focus of Iran policy

The Los Angeles Times reports:

After keeping a careful distance for the last year, the Obama administration has concluded that the Iranian opposition movement has staying power and has embraced it as a central element in the U.S.-led campaign to pressure the country’s clerical government.

Administration officials and some allied governments believe that a combination of domestic unrest and international sanctions targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard offers the best hope for forcing Tehran to yield on its nuclear program, and could even lead to a change in the government.

The administration has made the shift at a time when it is facing sharp domestic criticism over President Obama’s failed initiative to launch negotiations with Iran and its perceived unwillingness to strongly back the opposition movement. Meanwhile, the protests sparked by June’s disputed presidential election in Iran grew despite a tough crackdown.

This new approach is not a sure thing: It is far from clear that squeezing the Revolutionary Guard, a sprawling military organization that has vast business interests and is close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would seriously damage it or strengthen the opposition, as the administration hopes. And despite high-profile encouragement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other U.S. officials, many opposition activists fear that Washington’s embrace will bring more harm than good.

“Just leave us alone, please,” one activist in Tehran pleaded.

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