Heading toward Iran containment

 Here’s some more news Jewish leaders don’t want to hear.

Today the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler reports that even as the effort to impose Iran sanctions intensifies,  administration officials "acknowledge that even what they call ‘crippling’ sanctions could prove ineffective in keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons."  The result, Kessler says: more and more experts believe "a strategy of containing Iran is inevitable — diplomatic isolation backed by defense systems supplied to Persian Gulf allies."

Containment, a la the Cold War standoff with the old Soviet Union, doesn’t sound like a very good idea to Jewish leaders here and officials in Jerusalem who believe the religious fanaticism of Iran’s leaders would trump the rational urge to self-preservation that made deterrence work during those decades when "mutually assured destruction" was a mantra on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

But with sanctions unlikely to be strictly and universally applied – read "China" and "Russia" here, and probably greedy corporations in this country and across Europe – it’s hard to find Iran experts who believe they will do the trick, especially at this late date.

This week there was some waffling on the issue of whether a U.S. military strike is on the table or off, but simple logic suggests it’s an unlikely option. With two ongoing wars, one intensifying, with a depleted military and with a fragile, barely recovered economy, it’s hard to picture President Obama ordering the massive, sustained military intervention that really stopping Iran’s nuclear program would require.

That’s why Defense Secretary Robert Gates thinks we need a Plan B.  That was the real bottom line of his January memo, leaked to the New York Times over the weekend.

Is containment a great option? No way, and if I lived in Tel Aviv I wouldn’t get much solace from the idea Israel could blast Iran to radioactive dust if it dared a nuclear first strike.

But in a universe of extremely limited options, it’s probably where we are headed, and Gates’ memo suggesting we should be ready for it with coherent, smart strategies makes a lot of sense.  You can bet that’s what Israel’s military planners are thinking.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.