The Compass

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"Everyone Is Happy with the Status Quo on Iran"

iranhappy.jpg

After committing himself to Iran blogging autopilot, Drezner argues that the status quo will endure because most of the major players, with the exception of Israel, are happy with it:

The U.S. is delighted to keep Iran contained. The Iranian leadership is content to blame the U.S. for all of its woes and possess a nuclear breakout capacity, without actually having nuclear weapons. Iran's economic elites are delighted to engage in sanctions-busting -- more profit for them. And Iran's neighbors are happy to see Iran contained and not actually develop a nuclear weapon. I think even Israel would be copacetic with the current arrangement if they knew that the Iranian regime had no intention of crafting an actual weapon unless it felt an existential threat.

I don't think this status quo is sustainable at all and the U.S. may not be all that happy with it if they thought through the implications. Put simply, the U.S. is on a similar course with Iran as it was with Iraq in the 1990s. That containment regime took a brutal toll on innocent Iraqis and helped fuel terrorism against the United States. It then culminated in a costly war because many people became convinced that the status quo was intolerably threatening.

Iran is on the same trajectory, only it may not take a decade to crumble, given Israel's repeated warnings about taking preemptive action. U.S. sanctions may or may not dissuade the ruling elite to permanently forswear nuclear weapons, but it will eventually devastate life for ordinary Iranians. Worse, the U.S. is empowering Sunni Gulf allies who are in turn helping to "contain" Iran by whipping up Sunni jihadist forces around the region. These forces pose a much more direct threat than Iran since, by their very nature, they cannot be contained and have a proven capacity to do large scale damage inside America. They are instruments of instability and they're already at work in Syria, right next door to Iran.

I think in the short-term, the rinse/repeat quality of the Iranian containment regime justifies autopilot, but I think it's likely to unravel much sooner than we think.

(AP Photo)