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.
Still worse, even if Iran could be contained and deterred, there will undoubtedly be wider proliferation in the Middle East once Iran achieves nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton herself has said that a weaponized Iran certainly means that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and perhaps others will seek their own nuclear capabilities. Thus, in a relatively short period, five to 10 years, there could be half a dozen or more nuclear-weapons states in the region.