There’s been a lot of buzz recently over the use of a containment strategy to curtail the threat – or the eventuality – of a nuclear Iran. David Sanger wrote a piece in the New York Times that followed on the heels of an article in Foreign Affairs by the duo James Lindsay and Ray Takeyh; both discussed how containment could be employed to peacefully co-exist with a hostile Iranian regime.
While the implication that Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon is a foregone conclusion – which the Foreign Affairs article title (After Iran Gets the Bomb) suggests – is a little heavy on the fearmongering and designed more to attract readers than fairly represent the Iranian nuclear situation, the result has undoubtedly been increased attention to the spectre of a nuclear Iran…
Sanger writes that talks of sanctions might be continuing, but, simultaneously, “the administration races to add antimissile systems and a naval presence in the Gulf — an effort to contain Iran’s power in the region, officials say, but it sure looks like the building blocks of a nuclear containment policy, a backup in case the next round of sanctions fails to do the trick.” But are Sanger, Lindsay, and Takeyh drawing hasty conclusions?
Our focus should be on continued diplomatic attention and engagement, rather than assuming that Iran will dig in its heels and follow the North Korean path.
Moreover, military force should categorically not be considered at this time. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reinforced last month his position that “we owe the American people our readiness. But, as I have said many times, I worry a lot about the unintended consequences of any sort of military action. For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are, and ought to be, the levers first pulled.”
Laicie wrote last week to highlight the policy recommendations of Zbigniew Brzezinski on diplomatic engagement with Iran, and his words still hold true:
Give rhetorical support to Iran’s opposition while accepting America’s limited ability to help it; eschew thought of a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities; and keep talking to Tehran.
Above all: Play the long game, because time, demographics and generational change aren’t on the side of the current regime.
We here at Nukes of Hazard have said it before, and we’ll say it again: patience, careful monitoring and involvement by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and persistent diplomatic engagement by Western powers will not guarantee success but are the only sensible options to try to block Iran’s nuclear weapons plans.