Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton wants official U.S. foreign policy in Iran to back the downfall of the Islamic Republic in Iran, a change being mulled by the White House.
"The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran. I don't see how anyone can say America can be safe as long as you have in power a theocratic despotism," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, told Politico in a story published Sunday.
Previously, the U.S. has backed reform of the existing Iranian regime, but some officials in President Trump's administration have indicated that may not longer be sufficient while administration allies are urging a more confrontational stance.
The comments come during a time of increasingly fraught relations between Iran and the United States.
On Wednesday, Iran filed a formal protest to comments Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made earlier this month in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Tillerson said the administration would support "a philosophy of regime change" for Iran.
Iran's United Nations ambassador called the comments "a brazen interventionist plan that runs counter to every norm and principle of international law."
Officially, the new administration is still re-evaluating national foreign policy objectives and has not settled on an approach to Iran.
National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton told Politico, "An explicit affirmation of regime change in Iran as a policy is not really on the table."
However, prominent officials inside the administration have backed that approach previously.
Last year, then-Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., said in an op-ed for Fox News, "Congress must act to change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime."
Such change needn't involve military intervention, Pompeo and others have argued. Economic sanctions and support of internal Iranian dissidents can weaken the regime.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that favors regime change, gave the White House a memo outlining the argument earlier this year.
"Iran is susceptible to a strategy of coerced democratization because it lacks popular support and relies on fear to sustain its power. The very structure of the regime invites instability, crisis and possibly collapse," said the memo, which was circulated among White House officials and obtained recently by Politico.