I’m finally getting around to reading the American Enterprise Institute’s new report, "Containing and deterring a nuclear Iran," which focuses mainly on the difficulties inherent in such a strategy. I’ll have more to say about it later, but for now I’ll just note this graf from the executive summary:
Throughout the Cold War, the policy of containment oscillated between periods of strategic expansion and contraction, but the underlying policy remained remarkably consistent. Those principles are essential components of a coherent Iran containment policy: that it should seek to block any Iranian expansion in the Persian Gulf region; to illuminate the problematic nature of the regime’s ambitions; to constrain and indeed to “induce a retraction” of Iranian influence, including Iranian “soft power”; and to work toward a political transformation, if not a physical transformation, of the Tehran regime.
Please note that the war in Iraq, of which AEI was a leading advocate, undermined each and every one of these principles in regard to Iran. It helped facilitate Iranian expansion in the Persian Gulf region. It distracted from the problematic nature of the Iranian regime’s ambitions. It induced an expansion of Iranian influence, including Iranian “soft power.” By affirming the paranoid arguments of Iranian hardliners, it hindered political transformation of the Tehran regime. Or rather, it encouraged the transformation of that regime in a more extreme form of conservatism. But don’t expect any recognition of this from the folks at AEI. Indeed, AEI’s Danielle Pletka recently wrote, "I did repeatedly argue for the ouster of Saddam Hussein, and I would do it again." Wonderful.
There aren’t really a lot of great options for dealing with Iran right now. But as you read AEI’s current ideas for it, do keep in mind how much of a role their previous bad ideas played in getting us here.