Why has President Obama ruled out containment?

I agree with Roger Cohen when he says in a Times op-ed piece, The False Iran Debate, that it is not now and will never be in Israel’s interest to attack Iran unilaterally, and that the Jeffrey Goldberg led false Iran debate in the Atlantic is only wind, or as Cohen says, “huge gusts of words.”

But I don’t agree with his opinion that, if Iran were ever clearly to pursue the bomb, no longer try to hide its intention to become, as Israel and Pakistan and India before it, a regional nuclear power, that it would obviously be our responsibility, right along with Israel, to stop them by any means.

Would it? Would it ever be our responsibility, let alone in our interests to go to war with Iran over their possessing the bomb? Cohen says it would be and he states categorically that a nuclear determined Iran would “face assault from Israel and the United States together.”

Why is that? Because, he says, neither we nor Israel could “permit such a decisive shift in the Middle East strategic equation.” Again, why not? He doesn’t give us a reason. Other than he seems to know somehow that President Obama had to have meant it when he said, during Netanyahu’s recent Washington visit, that “containment of a nuclear Iran is not an option.”

Didn’t we at an earlier time, in regard to Israel itself, and Pakistan and India, quietly adopt, without a single word of discussion, a policy of containment? War with any one of the three was never a possible action? So why is it now?

I hope he’s just as wrong about our country’s intentions and ultimate action as is Jeffrey Goldberg about Israel’s intention to attack Iran’s nuclear installations unilaterally, in its “own defense.” Containment seems to me now, as in the past, just the right policy, given an Iran fully bent upon and eventually becoming a nuclear power.

Actually in Iran’s case containment should be easy. For Iran, no more than Israel, is crazy enough to risk by whatever action it might take, devastating reprisals that would probably mean the loss of its land and centuries old civilization. Probably not even the Afghans in possession of the bomb would take that risk. In any case if we can “contain” Pakistan, and prior to that, the Soviet Union, Iran is a piece of cake.

Bombs only become risks in the wrong hands. In our world that means in the hands of terrorists, those who, apart from lunatics, are probably the only ones who would ever use them. Iranians are not terrorists, nor are they mad.

Sure we would like to limit the number of countries in possession of the bomb, but mainly because of the increased risk, when more countries are nuclear, of a bomb falling into the wrong hands. In that regard, in respect to one of its nuclear arsenal being unaccounted for, Russia and Pakistan probably represent much greater dangers to us than a nuclear Iran.

On the other hand our attacking Iran would definitely bring on unimaginable suffering and hardship to tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East, including the population of Israel. In addition our attacking Iran would trigger any number of terrorist attacks within Europe and the United States. Also our own attacking forces would suffer the loss of probably hundreds, perhaps thousands of  lives.

Finally, unless at a future date we were willing to permit a renewed effort on the part of Iran to obtain a bomb go unopposed, we would have to remain in Iran as an occupying force just to prevent this from happening. And we’re all too familiar with the failure of similar occupations that have been tried, by us and others, in the recent past.

I’ll leave the final thought to Ari Shavit, who says that the Iranian response to an Israeli attack could very well set Tel Aviv ablaze and kill thousands of Israeli civilians, that which would oblige us to intervene. We would then become the captive of an out of control Israeli-Iranian war, and just after getting out of the Iraqi mud and while trying to exit from the Afghan desert, we would become bogged down by a new and even more costly war with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Does Roger Cohen really think that this is preferable to containment? I can’t believe, certainly don’t want to believe that our President does.

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