Can the U.S. Contain a Nuclear Iran?

(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University) Emily B. Landau - With any hope of a new round of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran now postponed until June, and the understanding that, if at all, these will be weak and ineffective measures, Obama's diplomatic initiative is slowly grinding to a halt. Some are arguing that it's now time to resort to the strategy that has worked in other cases: it will contain a nuclear Iran. But will the U.S. indeed be able to contain a nuclear Iran? Containment (and deterrence) of an adversary necessarily depend on a state's ability to transmit to the adversary credible threats of consequences for certain behavior on the part of the adversary. The lesson that Iran has learned from the Obama administration is that while there has been no shortage of threats of consequences, there have been little to no actual consequences. Iran has seen that the U.S. sets red lines and deadlines that in practice are virtually meaningless. The U.S. has undermined its own ability to present a credible threat by saying outright that it has no intention of taking military action. How does one contain Iran from consolidating its hegemonic hold over the Arab Gulf states due to their fear of their now much stronger neighbor? And how will the U.S. contain Iran from having a seriously negative impact on Israel's ability to defend itself in a war provoked by Hizbullah or Hamas, with the backing of Iran? These are the likely scenarios of Iran going nuclear, not nuclear attack. Until the U.S. has real answers to containing these kinds of Iranian threats, there is not much value to talking about U.S. containment of a nuclear Iran.

2010-03-26 09:36:05

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