Position: Containment and Deterrence (The Iranian Quagmire: How to Move Forward.)
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In addition to the problems in US-Iranian relations, the United States must recognize that by invading Iraq under false pretenses and facilitating the establishment of a Shiite regime there, it has increased the influence of Iran in the region, thereby raising the price of any potential settlement of the nuclear issue and undermining US military and moral authority. Moreover, by arguing that even though the regime of Saddam Hussein did not pose an imminent threat, an invasion was vital before he developed nuclear weapons, the US strengthened the case for those in Iran pushing for the development of these weapons. Indeed, it was after Saddam invaded Iran that the regime reenergized its nuclear program.
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When it comes to understanding the character of the regime, it is also important to keep in mind that, despite the rants of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran is not, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated, a crazy, suicidal state. Rather, the Iranians have proven themselves to be a rational people. For example, even though Saddam Hussein waged war against them for nearly eight years, used WMD, i.e. chemical weapons, and fired missiles against Iranian cities, the regime ended the Iran-Iraq war by settling for the pre-war status quo antebellum. Moreover, during the first Gulf War, they refused to aid Saddam against the US-led coalition, and even refused to return the Iraqi aircraft Saddam flew to Iran to protect them from the bombing by coalition forces. In addition, the Iranians did not retaliate against us when the USS Vincennes mistakenly shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in the waning days of the Reagan administration. Finally, they initially supported our efforts to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan because they perceived them to be a threat to their regime. By their actions, the Iranians have repeatedly demonstrated that they are more rational than the North Koreans who, among other things, have shot down an American aircraft and captured an American ship in international waters.
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The containment solution may not be optimal. However, given our troubled relationship with the Iranian people over the last half century, the security challenges we still face in Iraq and Afghanistan, our hopes for making progress in the Middle East peace talks, our goal of convincing the worldÕs Muslims we are not at war with them, and the horrendous cost of a military attack, it is the least bad option. Moreover, like containment and deterrence in the Cold War, it will work in the long run if we are patient, which is why it has been supported by three former CENTCOM commanders (De Borchgrave, 2010), the men who are most knowledgeable about the nature of the threat, the character of the regime, and the downsides of a military strike.