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Can Iran Be Contained?

12:16 PM, Feb 8, 2012 • By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
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Berlin
The Munich Security Conference, a who’s who of global security officials and diplomats, has long been a platform to promote bizarre dialogues with the Iranian regime—and this year was no different. Its current head, former German ambassador to the United States Wolfgang Ischinger, seemed eager to capitulate to an Iranian nuclear weapon.

iran, nuclear

“I advocate that we develop a balanced policy of containment,” he told Die Welt in an interview in advance of the conference. Like many officials European and American officials who favor appeasement, Ischinger presumes that the Islamic Republic is a rational actor. Though Iran kills U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Iraq, as well as murders civilians and Iranian dissidents across Europe and Argentina, some still think of the regime as they would any other state. 

Ischinger shows a similar blind spot toward Iran’s consistent anti-Israeli vitriol. On the eve of the Munich Conference, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that Iran would “support and help any nations, any groups fighting against the Zionist regime across the world, and we are not afraid of declaring this.”

Khamenei added, “The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off. And it definitely will be cut off.”

Last year, Ischinger reassured readers of the Bayernkurier newspaper that Iran “has still not built an atomic bomb. I can understand that Iran’s politics after the experience of the last decades leans toward feeling threatened and the country finds very few partners in the region with whom it can interact.”

While a senior generation of German diplomats, including German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, vehemently oppose even the possibility of military strikes to slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon, a younger generation of German politicians show some fresh thinking.

Take the example of 32-year-old Philipp Missfelder, a deputy in the Bundestag and a foreign policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party. When asked by a Berlin newspaper over the weekend what actions the international community should take to stop Iran’s nuclear drive, Missfelder said, “We should not take away any option from the table, including the military option.”

The only way to block Iran’s advances toward nuclear power is to make them exceptionally costly. That means more sanctions, tougher sanctions, and the possibility of eventual military action.

When it comes to Iran, containment is not an option. For Germany itself, containment meant losing half the country for 50 years. Is that the German political establishment’s idea of success?

Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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