Containing Iran is the least awful choice
By George F. Will, WashPost,In his disproportionate praise of the six-month agreement with Iran, Barack Obama said: “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program.” But if the program, now several decades old, had really been “halted” shortly after U.S. forces invaded neighboring Iraq, we would not be desperately pursuing agreements to stop it now, as about 10,000 centrifuges spin to enrich uranium.
If Denmark wanted to develop nuclear weapons, we would consider that nation daft but not dangerous. Iran’s nuclear program is alarming because Iran’s regime is opaque in its decision-making, frightening in its motives (measured by its rhetoric) and barbaric in its behavior. “Manes,” writes Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution, “from whose name the word manichean derives, was a Persian who conceived of the world as being divided into good and evil.” But Pollack says suicidal tendencies are not among the irrationalities of the Iranian leadership, who are not “insane millenarians.”
In “Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy,” Pollack argues that Iran’s nuclear program has been, so far, more beneficial to the United States than to Iran. Because of the anxieties and sanctions the program has triggered, Iran is more isolated, weak, impoverished and internally divided than at any time since it became a U.S. adversary in 1979. And one possible — Pollack thinks probable — result of Iran acquiring a nuclear arsenal would be Saudi Arabia doing so. Pollack considers this perhaps “the most compelling reason” for Iran to stop just short of weaponization.
Writing several months before the recent agreement was reached, Pollack said that, given Iran’s adamant refusal to give up all enrichment, it will retain at least a “breakout capability” — the ability to dash to weaponization in a matter of months, even weeks. Hence the need to plan serious, aggressive containment.