Editorial: No to containment

The idea of “containment” seems to be marginalizing any last prospect of a preemptive military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

March 30, 2010 23:17
3 minute read.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the N

ahmadinejad nantanz 311. (photo credit: AP)


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Indications are beginning to multiply that the Obama administration’s decision to drastically ratchet up pressure on Israel over building in east Jerusalem might be tied to the US’s de facto policy of avoiding a military confrontation with Teheran.

Although US officials publicly deny this, recent weeks have seen growing signs that the United States is reconciling itself to a nuclear Iran.

The idea of “containment” – based on the conception that what worked during the Cold War with the USSR and China will work with the mullahs now – seems to be marginalizing any last prospect of a preemptive military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities if, or rather when, the current effort at engagement and sanctions is recognized as having failed. The idea seems to be that when a nuclear Iran appears, it will be deterred from directly utilizing its nuclear capability or exporting it to the likes of Hizbullah and Hamas.

In a recent news analysis, New York Times reporter David Sanger quoted extensively from the latest cover story of Foreign Policy, entitled “After Iran Gets the Bomb,” and stated flatly that “the administration is deep into containment now – though it insists its increases in defensive power in the Gulf are meant to deter a conventional attack by Iran.”

And while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last week, said no fewer than four times in quick succession that a nuclear-armed Iran would be “unacceptable,” she also refrained from directly mentioning the possibility of military intervention.

Nor did revelations this week that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has apparently ordered work to begin soon on two new nuclear plants, to be built inside mountains to protect them from attack, elicit a more aggressive US response.

One of the leading proponents of “containment” is Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser and an enthusiastic supporter of Obama who has warned against the fallout from a military strike on Iran.

Against this backdrop, the Obama administration’s deliberately overblown reaction to the expansion of a haredi neighborhood in east Jerusalem can be interpreted as a warning that Israel no longer enjoys Washington’s unconditional support in all spheres. As Stephen Hayes put it in a recent piece in the Weekly Standard, “You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.”

Indeed, Brzezinski, who worked on a policy paper on Iran with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates back in 2004 at the Council of Foreign Relations, said in an interview with The Beast in 2009 that US armed forced should shoot down Israeli fighter planes if they bucked US orders and attacked Iranian nuclear facilities.

WITHIN THE framework of the US’s emerging strategy of containment, an Israel pushing for military intervention is a liability. An Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities without US backing is almost out of the question. Israel would need US permission to overfly Iraq, to refuel and to repair IAF fighter planes in regional US army bases. Even if Israel were to decide it was compelled to act and somehow manage without technical aid from the US, it is now unclear whether the US would back Israel in the UN Security Council and beyond amid the inevitably condemnatory diplomatic, economic and military aftermath.

Yet Israel must continue to resist containment. A nuclear Iran does not merely remake the balance of power in the Middle East and embolden the Islamists in their rapacious struggle against the West; it is an existential threat to Israel.

Even if one believes that Teheran is sufficiently “pragmatic” not to strike directly at the Jewish state whose elimination it overtly seeks, no one can guarantee that fundamentalist Teheran would not slip a crude bomb or material to Hamas, Hizbullah or an al-Qaida-inspired terror network.

The appeasement of anti-Semitic, anti-Western mullahs, who see themselves in the ascendant and can claim vast millions of supporters globally, cannot be compared to the Cold War standoff with aging, ideologically bankrupt Soviet apparatchiks. The present confrontation more closely resembles Hitler’s decision in 1936 to send German troops into the Rhineland – belligerently violating the Versailles Treaty – while France and Britain stood by passively.

As the subway bombings in Russia illustrate yet again, radical Islam is far from losing momentum, and it threatens freedom everywhere – not only in Jerusalem, but in Moscow and in Washington. “Containment” won’t cut it.

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