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Think Tank Aligned With Obama Gets Ready for a Nuclear Iran

1:28 PM, May 15, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
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—Build “Egyptian and Iraqi counterweights to Iranian influence through strategic ties with Cairo and Baghdad.” It is hard to see how this might be accomplished since Obama’s policies—hastily ushering Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak out of power, and a complete withdrawal from Iraq without a Status of Forces Agreement—have left governments in Cairo and Baghdad that are much more willing to accommodate Iranian interests than were their predecessors.

More importantly, this last recommendation shows just how much this model of containment differs from what the Cold War architects had in mind. The Middle East was significant only to the extent that it was a venue in which to push back the Soviet Union. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s decision to jump from the Soviet side to the American column after the 1973 war mattered only because it stripped Moscow of an asset. Cairo was never a prize in its own right; it was never a counterweight to anything, but only evidence of all the goodies that were in store for other Arab states that turned against Moscow.

But as the CNAS paper shows, because advocates of containing Iran necessarily believe that the United States’ ability to project power is much smaller than it is in reality and Iran’s is much bigger, their gross distortions of nature also exaggerate the strategic significance of the region at large. Egypt, Iraq, the Gulf states, etc. are valuable only insofar as they can help Washington hold on to the region’s one prize, the Persian Gulf. The architects of Cold War containment understood that if this vital waterway fell into the hands of the Soviets it would change the balance of power, not least by affecting America’s ability to fight a land war against a formidable army. The United States could contain its Cold War adversary of nearly half a century only if the Soviet Union feared American strength.

The CNAS report instead assumes that containment will be the likely result of the United States’ inability to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But that’s wrong. If prevention fails, it is not because Obama is not able to stop Iran, it is because the commander-in-chief has chosen not to.

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