´Containing Iran will cost untold blood, treasure´ (JERUSALEM POST) By OREN KESSLER 03/19/12)
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Containing Iran will be an arduous, protracted endeavor entailing
massive investments in military and financial resources, according to
a report released last week by a London-based think tank.
“The idea that containment is somehow a low-cost option, or that
containment doesn’t involve war, is a huge mistake,” Sohrab Ahmari,
the report’s author, told The Jerusalem Post from Washington.
“There is a clear conceptual difference between deterrence – whether
Iran would risk annihilation with a nuclear first strike against its
Arab rivals or Israel – and containment – namely making sure Iran
can’t spread its influence through overt and covert means,” Ahmari
“Typically people conflate deterrence and containment. Deterrence is
one element of containment, but it’s not everything,” he added.
A native of Tehran, Ahmari has lived in the United States for over a
decade and is currently is a third-year law student at Northeastern
University in Boston. His study, titled “The Costs of Containment –
The Mechanics of Restraining Iranian Expansionism,” was released by
the Henry Jackson Society, where the author is a non-resident
associate research fellow.
Ahmari said the monograph aims not to prescribe a particular course
of action but to clarify the terms of debate. “You could infer from
the report that rather than containment, other options – including
support for democratic forces seeking to topple the regime, or a
military operation that doesn’t just target nuclear sites but topples
the regime – might be a quicker way to deal with the problem once and
for all,” he said.
Still, he said, even if the regime is overthrown by internal or
external pressure, Tehran would likely remain the Middle East’s chief
source of instability for the foreseeable future.
Writing in the cover piece of this month’s Commentary magazine,
Ahmari warned that the power struggle following the collapse of the
Islamic Republic could destabilize the region for a generation or
With some 663,000 battle-ready personnel – including the
Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia – Iran far outranks its Arab
rivals in military manpower, and in addition to its suspected nuclear-
weapons program owns vast stockpiles of chemical and biological
weapons. Over the three decades since the country’s Islamic
Revolution, Iran has actively supported militant Shi’ite movements in
Lebanon, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and South America and, more recently,
Sunni extremist groups in the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan.
The report said successful Western containment would have to treat
Iran’s destabilizing activity in each of those arenas as a red line,
and respond with force if necessary.
“The possession of nuclear weapons on both sides of the Cold War did
not mitigate the violence of these outbreaks of armed conflict; it
merely increased the likelihood of catastrophic outcomes,” he
wrote. “Imposing a containment regime on the Islamic Republic of
Iran – a state far more insecure than the Soviet Union was through
most of its history – will yield similar outbreaks of armed conflict.”
Ultimately, Ahmari told the Post, confronting Iran is a matter of
choosing between a number of potentially dangerous alternatives.
“We’re in the world of bad options,” he said. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 03/19/12)
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