Isolating Iran

Sanctions and negotiations aren’t working anymore. Iran is determined to acquire the Bomb so the West must start thinking ahead. How to deal with a nuclear Iran?

“Containing” the country has been suggested before, specifically by cutting Iran’s financial ties abroad and quietly working to destabilize the regime from within.

Last December, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, placed some serious question marks with this theory however. She opined that the Cold War notion of containment won’t apply to Iran. For one thing, there is no mutually assured destruction in place. Pletka specifically blamed the Obama Administration for failing to signal to Iran that it is be prepared to undertake military action should it threaten allies in the region.

Former Secretary of State James Baker shared a similar concern in February. The threat of nuclear retaliation could be effective, he said, but only if Iran truly fears America’s willingness to retaliate.

Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was not so hawkish. He proposes a series of actions to contain Iran: offer a robust American defense umbrella to protect friends in the region; provide rhetorical support to Iran’s opposition while accepting America’s limited ability to help it; eschew thought of a preemptive strike against the country’s nuclear facilities; and keep talking to Tehran.

Baker actually suggested that the United States extend its nuclear umbrella over moderate Arab regions in the region as well. Iran has few allies. Other Middle Eastern states, around the Gulf and especially Turkey, aren’t at all looking forward to having a nuclear power in their midst.

Brzezinski warns that containing Iran will be a long game. In spite of recent protests, change won’t come easily to the Islamic Republic. Nonetheless, facilitating, “carefully and cautiously, the political evolution in Iran toward a more acceptable regional role,” preferably in the vein of secular Turkey, should be one of America’s foremost objectives with regards to Iran.

At the same time, the West must be careful not to interfere to such an extent that it might undermine the “forces at work within Iran” that promote regime change. Sanctions should be crafted so that they don’t encourage “more anti-Westernism, or a fusion of Islamic extremism and nationalism.”

In short: Careful now! All the more reason to bring back Brzezinski.


  1. Taking advice on foreign policy from Mr. Brzezinski is like taking advice on business ethics from Bernie Madoff.

  2. True, but in the eyes of part of the Arab world, Isreal and the United States are just two sides of the different coin.

    Any unilateral action by Israel will have repercussions for the US and therefore, for US forces in the region.

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