Current and former Obama advisers have repeatedly contended that a satisfactory negotiated outcome is possible, one where Iran will continue to develop a “peaceful” nuclear capability under international monitoring. How they can cling to this belief after years of Iran deceiving the International Atomic Energy Agency, going so far as to demolish buildings and excavate and remove thousands of cubic yards of rock and soil to try to conceal traces of radiation, is hard to fathom. Nonetheless, Team Obama still believes that Iran’s military-theocratic regime is capable of holding Pandora’s box but never opening it.
Equally disconcerting, administration officials, past and present, argue that a nuclear-capable Iran can be contained and deterred. Although Obama himself insists that containment is not his policy, I believe that assertion is true only in a limited sense: It is not his policy today. It is his policy for tomorrow, his Plan B, after the current sanctions and diplomacy fail to stop Iran. This is perhaps even more delusional than dreaming about Iran benignly pursuing “atoms for peace.”
Deterrence against the Soviet Union worked precariously and unnervingly at times, with some very narrow escapes from catastrophe, only because of a confluence of calculations between Washington and Moscow. There is no realistic prospect that Tehran’s religious autocracy will develop the same calculus of caution.