Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Containment" of Iran is unlikely to lead to war

The United States is not well served by its tendency to use the most belligerent terms to describe its policies with Iran. The US foreign policy consensus has fairly rapidly over the last two or three months come to terms with the fact that there is no practical military option over Iran's nuclear program. This has been a fact for years, but US analysts, decision-makers and spokespeople have insisted on using "on the table" language long after nobody observing closely was fooled.

Now the United States is calling for "containment" of Iran. Containment means keep the status quo, possibly add moderate sanctions beyond those already in place, and wait. Yet US policy-makers insist now that while the US waits, there are lines that will lead to a US attack on Iran if they are crossed. These lines, that Iran must not transfer nuclear technology to other states, put its nuclear forces on alert, or militarily intervene conventionally in neighboring states, are lines either that Iran has no inclination in crossing, or (in some cases also and) things Iran is doing to some degree already and that there is no credible scenario in which they would meet a military response.

We'll see what sanctions happen. I'm not convinced the United States even seriously wants more sanctions. Whatever sanctions the US is able to get in June it could have gotten by now. But it is widely known by now that any sanctions will be relatively small additions to the sanctions already in place. Waiting under sanctions is what the United States is calling "containment" today.

The long term result of containment is more likely that the US will eventually reevaluate its relationship with Israel than that Iran will fall to a pro-US regime. The containment talk is a good sign for Iran, because it represents the US slowly coming to accept that it cannot force outcomes in Iran either through sanctions or through military attacks.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Arnold.


b said...

Containment can lead to war pretty fast.

It is probably even a necessary step to war. Example: Iraq.

A neoconned president could use containment installed be a president before him to trigger the "tripwires" that define the containment in a media campaign. That is all it takes.

On the sanctions.

I didn't really get why the have called them off for now and moved to June. If they did not get the votes now, how do they think they will get them in June