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Regime change: How fear of Iran nukes, and campaign politics, revived the call

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the most vocal proponent of the “It’s the regime, stupid,” position, advocating regime change in foreign-policy debates and elaborating on how he would accomplish the goal: by “cutting off the gasoline supply to Iran and then, frankly, sabotaging the only refinery they have.”

Front-runner Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum also wave the regime-change card.

For some experts, Iran must take some responsibility for fomenting the shift in the Iran discussion. “Iran has done its part to encourage the regime-change talk by brandishing the threat to close the Strait of Hormuz,” says Christopher Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington.

The Obama administration is also playing a role by using expressions like “tightening the noose” to describe what stronger sanctions are designed to do to Iran, some Iran experts say.

Adding to the frenzy is recent US legislation that targets any country, friend or foe, that continues to purchase Iranian oil through Iran’s central bank, and a proposed European Union (EU) embargo on imports of Iranian oil that could be approved as early as Monday.

An EU embargo on Iranian oil would represent a significant step, since Europe buys about 20 percent of Iran’s oil. European officials say the move may be the last option for forcing Tehran to “change course” before military action, which the Europeans want to avoid.

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