Seems like when the going gets tough even the tough get going when facing Tehran. President Obama has said (on numerous occasions now) that when it comes to Iran, “containment is not an option”.
Recently there appears to be a growing fatalistic belief that sanctions are no longer effective, and well, we might just have to make do with a nuclear Iran. The new report, “Weighing Benefits and Costs of International Sanctions Against Iran,” signed by a host of American leaders from numerous fields,
“points out, 30 years of sanctions against Iran have delivered important benefits: demonstrated international opposition to Iranian policies; slowed expansion of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs; signaled the U.S. commitment to nonproliferation of nuclear weapons; weakened Iran’s economy; registered strong opposition to Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas; shown commitment to the security of Israel and other friends in the region; and severely hampered Iran’s ability to modernize its conventional weapons.”
However the same report, as noted by some of its authors in this Palm Beach Post piece, still believes that “troubled by the mounting damage of sanctions on all aspects of society, Iran’s leadership is likely to be more receptive to a serious proposal from the U.S. The time is ripe for a deal and wrong for more sanctions.”
It fails to note that deals require two parties… thus far, the Iranians have not been remotely interested in a ‘real deal’ (see my post).
Robert Litwak from the Wilson Center believes that “His [Obama’s] disavowal of containment, though, is a reflection of the meaning the term has taken on in the contemporary debate: acquiescing to Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and then deterring their use through the retaliatory threat of U.S. nuclear weapons. That connotation is an unfortunate departure from George Kennan’s post–World War II concept of containment: keeping regimes in check until they collapse of their own internal weakness.”
John Vinocur, earlier this month in the New York Times, emphasized worrying similarities with George Bush’s failed policy towards North Korea.
He quotes Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs, who is concerned that the administration will “keep the can being kicked down the road for as long as possible.”
Of course there are those who think containment is the way to go. Stephen Walt patronizes Henry Kissinger in his November FP article, while completely burying his ‘realist’ head, in the ideological sands of the Middle East. His selective historical survey embodies Walt’s self-description as a “realist in an ideological age”; he forgets that others – most notably in this case the ruling echelons of the Iranian regime – live, breathe and coerce an ideology. A strong, hegemonic, aggressively theocratic ideology. He seems to brush off the concerns many leading experts have regarding Iran becoming a nuclear power… a country that, let’s remember, openly supports Assad’s brutal campaign, arms and funds international terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, while crushing opposition and the most basic of human rights at home.
Zbigniew Brzezinski has also been voicing his own fatalistic policy options. While war is everyone’s last resort, his reasons for not attacking almost demonstrate delusion: this would produce a regional crisis and widespread hatred, particularly for the United States. Did he miss the ‘Arab Spring’? The Muslim Brotherhood rallies in Egypt? The speeches in Iran? The embassy attacks in Benghazi?
Brzezinski also expressed his distaste for covert action… and sanctions…. In fact, his ‘least objectionable’ option – as he describes it – is “to combine continued painful, but not strangulating sanctions – and be very careful in that distinction – with clear political support for the emergence of eventual democracy in Iran, an objective with which I think many Iranians would associate themselves.”
I.e. sit back and do nothing.
We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand and “contain” a regime racing towards nuclear weapons, a regime of terror that has no respect for its own citizens, let alone its regional neighbors.