Commentary Magazine


Is There Really a Consensus Against Iran Containment?

If President Obama means what he says about stopping Iran from going nuclear, he has bi-partisan support for that stand. That’s the upshot of a Senate resolution introduced today with 32 co-sponsors that rejects the notion a nuclear Iran can be contained. Proponents of the resolution such as Senator Joseph Lieberman say Iran has only two choices: disarm or face the consequences.

The introduction of the measure prompted some of its Republican sponsors to point out that their position is identical with that of President Obama’s statements on the issue. As South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham noted, “All I can say is, we’ve found something we’re united about.”

The question for the senators, as well as the nation, is whether the president is as serious about not considering a policy that would view “containment” of a nuclear Iran as a viable option. Though Obama has insisted he will not let Iran go nuclear, speculation continues that the administration’s reliance on sanctions to stop Tehran is, at best, overly optimistic. With Washington acting as if it is more worried about Israel acting on its own to eliminate an existential threat, the Senate resolution is a timely reminder to the president that he should not think he can get away with a policy that seeks to avoid confrontation until after the November election. With influential figures such as Obama sycophant Fareed Zakaria advocating containment in the Washington Post yesterday, Graham’s assumption is that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are in agreement on Iran.

Zakaria, who has been a White House favorite in the last three years, has been a consistent opponent of confronting Iran. His latest piece attempted once again to make the case a nuclear Iran could be contained as easily as the Soviet Union was during the Cold War. He claims the “lessons of history” show the attempt to stop Iran is a rerun of the rush to war in Europe in 1914. According to Zakaria, Israel’s concerns about a nuclear Iran are similar to those of the fools who launched the slaughter of World War One. That’s an unfair and distorted slap at a Jewish state that faces the possibility a tyrannical regime led by Islamist fanatics already pledged to their destruction might get hold of a genocidal weapon. Just as absurd are his comparisons between a nuclear Soviet Union and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.

The administration’s Iran strategy is dependent on cooperation from nations such as China that show little sign of being serious about helping. That means sooner or later, the president may be faced with actually having to resort to force if he wants to keep his promises. The worry here is that Zakaria’s sophistry about a potential catastrophe is a better reflection of Barack Obama’s thinking than his public statements. If push comes to shove, Israel as well as the Senate will have to hope Obama’s actual beliefs on the subject are closer to those of Lieberman and Graham than Zakaria.