by Barry Rubin
It should be too obvious to have to say so but unfortunately some people don't get it: dealing with a nuclear-armed
What concerns me is that the mainstream debate regarding containment is being conducted in a flippant and sloppy manner, based on some questionable assumptions. Attempts to critique those concepts are blithely dismissed rather than seen as pointing out serious issues and necessary adjustments. At present, this seems an abstract debate. In future, though, the failure to consider and plan could be the source of a major tragedy.
In my view, the most likely outcome is not a
Another key point is the common error of assuming that there is only one "rational" response by Middle Eastern regimes or states and that this has to be a mirror image of how American experts or policymakers would respond. What is required of an expert is to understand the particular rational response--based on perceptions, history, power structure, ideology, and other factors--that takes place in the context of a specific country's leadership making decisions.
Rational responses are not necessarily moderate ones. For example, based on his "rational" response that
If the extraordinarily large challenge this problem will pose is underestimated and the idea of containment is too narrowly defined, the resulting failure will bring disaster in the region and the biggest crisis of our era.
James M. Lindsay and Ray Takeyh in, "After Iran Gets the Bomb," Foreign Affairs, March-April 2010, propose what U.S. policy should be after Tehran obtains nuclear weapons. But there are significant problems in its predictions and recommendations.
By making the possibility of containing
In particular, the article makes four questionable assumptions.
First comes the premise that
Yet to do so, there must be a clear understanding as to why these countries don't believe this claim. As the authors point out, "
Yet the article doesn't draw the obvious conclusion from this situation:
Simply declaring that it will protect regional states or issuing verbal warnings to
As for Arab states, the authors dismiss the danger of massive appeasement, saying, "Pursuing that strategy would mean casting aside
Second is the idea that
One doesn't have to think
Moreover, the regime may think it has found ways around the "suicide" problem or simply discount the risk. Its nuclear weapons will be controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the most fanatical institution with the closest ties to terrorist groups.
Taking up an Obama Administration talking point, the authors say all will be well if
Containment advocates understate many elements in this context. For example, consider their minimizing the possibility of
To some extent, the authors put faith in
That's true up to a point, but what about possible Iranian involvement in
A third assumption is the nature of the threat to be contained, which goes far beyond the need to ensure
A more accurate picture is presented by Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid, director-general of the al-Arabiya television network, writing in al-Sharq al-Awsat last February: "An Iranian bomb…will not be put to military use; it will be used as a way to change the rules of the game." With nuclear weapons, Iran's nuclear umbrella will protect itself and its clients who seek or take power in Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, and in the Palestinian lands "from deterrence" by the United States.
Another advantage for a nuclear-armed
Finally, there's the plan proposed for
The article suggests, "To press
The authors conclude
Successful containment, then, will not just be difficult but extraordinarily so, requiring major changes in current
That's why it's so important to stop
But we are all going to face a nuclear
The struggle will be long and hard. On a regional level, victory cannot be taken for granted. Certainly, unless the
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.