Sullivan is against bombing and for engagement but his interpretation at the end I find wanting:
My core belief is that the Iranian people are on our side. The key is to somehow leverage them against their repulsive regime. It’s going to be very hard and very treacherous. But it’s the biggest national security challenge facing the next president.
It’s certainly true that the Iranian population (even post-Iraq) is the most pro-American population in the Middle East. They are not Arabs, have a separate history and culture, have strong ties to the US via ex-pat families in the US (US pop culture is strong in Iran).
But Sulllivan goes astray when he states that the key is to “leverage” the population against the regime. Granted the regime is repulsive and abhorrent. But people do not exist for them to be used as leverage for our goals. Especially in this case. Nothing would more quickly hurt the chances of indigenous Iranian reformers than being seen as a fifth column for the US.
The issue is to deal with the regime, to see if the 30 years of bad blood (the hostages, the CIA murdering their president/overthrowing their government/backing the brutal Shah) can be buried. The regime is given a clear choice between change of behavior and good to come from it (i.e. regime change off table, entrance into world banking system, recognition of their role as regional power, esp. in Iraq) OR war.
If you want sanctions, then target them at the big wigs, the elites with the military-industrial-clerical complex that is Iran. Don’t target the population. Putting the squeeze on them is not likely to start a revolution against the regime. The regime is embedded very deeply. They have to be dealt with and then a policy of containment, connectivity, and watch the system collapse.
And #2 contra Sullivan, the biggest national security threat facing the next president is Pakistan (not Iran) in terms of foreign policy and domestically possible catastrophic cascading failure in the economic sector leading to massive violence in the streets and/or the possibility of security breakdowns around non-linear climate events.