Will Obama continue Iran-Iraq Dual Containment?


by Jaleho

Richard Haass and Martin Indyk's article of Dec 3, 2008 on this site scares me! Their concurrent appearance on Iranian site together with Hillary Clinton's appointment by Barak Obama as Secretary of State, ushers a possible nasty turn that Obama's foreign policy might take towards Iran. It is important to review what "Iran-Iraq dual containment" doctrine was, where it led on its Iraqi leg, and see if it can give us a sense of what is to come for its Iranian leg if Hillary continues with Bill Clinton's policies.

Rather than making the blog long, I will cut couple of lines from Wikipedia's search result on "Dual Containment," but urge you to read the four fantastic references provided in there. //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_containment "Dual Containment was an official policy of the United States of America to 'contain' Iraq and Iran, Israel's two most important strategic adversaries, first outlined in May 1993 by Martin Indyk at WINEP and officially announced on February 24, 1994 at a symposium of the Middle East Policy Council by Martin Indyk, then the senior director for Middle East Affairs of the National Security Council (NSC). [1][2]. ....Consequences:

By the mid-1990s there was considerable dissatisfaction with dual containment, because it made the United States the mortal enemy of two countries that hated each other, and forced Washington to bear the burden of containing both. Pressed by AIPAC and other pro-Israel forces, Clinton toughened up the policy in the spring of 1995 by imposing an economic embargo on Iran. But AIPAC and the others wanted more. The result was the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, which imposed sanctions on any foreign company investing more than $40 million to develop petroleum resources in Iran or Libya.


By the late 1990s, however, the neo-conservatives were arguing that dual containment was not enough and that regime change in Iraq was essential. By toppling Saddam and turning Iraq into a vibrant democracy, they argued, the US would trigger a far-reaching process of change throughout the Middle East. The same line of thinking was evident in the ‘Clean Break’ study the neo-conservatives wrote for Netanyahu.[4]


Now, let's not forget that although "Dual Containment" was the Clinton policy, but the paper "Clean Break" of 1996, advocated by neoconservatives and Benjamin Netanyahu to remove Saddam Hussein by pre-emptive means, did not really have any contradiction with Indyk's ideas. In fact, it was the continuation of his ideas. (Indyk has also been an advisor to Netanyahu)
To see this Let's take a look at Ref. 2 of 4 of the above Wikipedia link, Barbara Conry's classic 1994 article, which is a must read: "America's Misguided Policy of Dual Containment in The Persian Gulf"

"...Indyk has said that the administration does not "seek or expect a reconciliation with Saddam Hussein's regime" and considers it "irredeemable."(34) The foreign policy team barely disguises its desire for a coup in Baghdad and apparently believes that dual containment will prompt democratic forces to overthrow the government.".... she continues: "The specific Iranian behavior that the administration seeks to curb includes Tehran's pursuit of nuclear ambitions, links with terrorism, violent opposition to the Arab- Israeli peace process, threats against neighboring states, and human rights abuses.(36) Those types of behavior may be undesirable, but they would not normally warrant a vigorous campaign of isolation. According to Indyk, the rationale for so drastic a measure is partly preventive. "If we fail in our efforts to modify Iranian behavior, five years from now Iran will be much more capable of posing a real threat to Israel, the Arab world, and Western interests in the Middle East."(37) More telling, though, is the other justification he offers:

To the extent that the international community... succeeds in containing Iraq but fails to contain Iran, we will have inadvertently allowed the balance of power in the Gulf to tilt in favor of Iran, with potentially dangerous consequences. The imbalance therefore argues for a more energetic effort to contain Iran and modify its behavior even as we maintain the sanctions regime against Iraq.(38)

Indyk is probably correct in his assessment that weakening one regime tends to strengthen the other. His error is thinking that it is possible to maintain an inherently unstable status quo in which two traditionally strong regional powers are kept artificially weak. That miscalculation could have a number of unpleasant consequences."

And finally, Barbara Corny's almost prophetic and wise conclusion she made in 1994 to counter Mr. Indyk's Dual Containment policy:

"An Alternative to Dual Containment

Washington cannot control the volatile Pergion Guld region. Fortunately, it does not need to attempt such a feat. With no vital American interests at stake, the United States has the option of letting events in the area run their course. The most important step toward disengagement would be to bring home the military units that have been in the region since the end of the gulf war. That would not only eliminate many costs and risks, it would greatly diminish popular resentment of the presence of U.S. troops.

...Although there is little reason to expect that a gulf conflict would represent a threat to the West (as long as Western powers refrained from meddling in the area), Israel and the West European powers would have the capability to intervene if their interests were in jeopardy, which would happen long before U.S. security would be at risk. It is difficult to conceive of a scenario in which American intervention would be required to rescue U.S. vital interests from a Persian Gulf war.

As long as U.S. forces remain in the region, however, American lives and interests are in danger. Further meddling in the Persian Gulf's affairs--such as the administration's strategy of dual containment--invites disaster."

Barbara Coeny is proven prophetic with her 1994 article regarding Mr. Indyk's Dual containment. Yet, in 2008, we see Mr. Indyk, emboldened by nomination of another Clinton to control foreign policy, is resurfaced to advise yet another president. Now that Mr. Indyk got what he wanted regarding Iraq for Israel's sake, he advises Obama on Iran on his Dec, 2008 article here:

"In no way should this call for retrenchment in Iraq be interpreted as a recommendation for a more general American pullback from the region. The greater Middle East will remain vital to the United States for decades to come given its geostrategic location, its energy and financial resources, the U.S. commitment to Israel, and the possibility both for terrorism to emanate from the region and for nuclear materials and weapons to spread there. Reduced American involvement will jeopardize all these interests.

Instead, President Obama’s principal focus will need to be on Iran, because the clock is ticking on its nuclear program. He should offer direct official engagement with the Iranian government, without preconditions, along with other incentives to attempt to prevent Iran from developing a capacity to produce substantial amounts of nuclear weapons-grade fuel in a short amount of time. Simultaneously, he will need to concert an international effort to impose harsher sanctions on Iran if it rejects an outcome the United States and others can accept. "


Presidents Clinton and Bush did not listen to advisors who had America's interest in mind, as seen in Barbara Corny's prophetic 1994 article. Rather, they relied on Israeli-first people like Matin Indyk, Haass, Ross, Perle, Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and other neoconservatives, some of whom with dubious " Israeli anti-American spy allegations," and we see the price in American blood, financial break down, and the quagmire US got stuck in Iraq.

Will Obama take a "clean break" fromthese proven failed policies, or are we going to see Mr. Indyk guide Obama for more of the same bankrupt policies seen in his article on Iranian.com?


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Could Obama prove a disappointment?

by BigBoy (not verified) on

The early signs are troubling to those voters who were hoping a complete break from pro-war US foreign policy. While I am still hopeful about Obama, I am quite troubled by his essentially duplicating the Clinton administration in critical positions. It looks like the cabinet would be largely the same if Hillary was elected instead. In fact, it may have been better with Hillary at the White House and Obama at the State Department. The rest (Gates, Holder, Richardson, Emanuel, etc.) could have easily been Hillary's choices. Let's hope the American people haven't been fooled by looks and speeches.


Re: Kurush

by jamshid on

Iran already is client state... of China/Russia/India. They are handsomely profiting from Iran's riches (and Iranian blood) far more than countries like US or UK ever did.


Dual Containment

by Kurush (not verified) on

The ruling class in the US are not establishing new policies, much less new people, as such. Obama is an aparatchik of the dual governing system of tweedledee & tweedledum. He was 'vetted' as safe and hence 'approved' by the plutocracy. The same policies, same faces (Clinton, Gates), & hence little change. What determines the US/NATO modus operandi would be the internal stability, or lack of it, in Iran. If the Iranian students and their cohorts are duped into destablizing Iran (we can see their behaviour in some of the posts at this site), you would see a very tough line established to exploit the disturbance, some of which are no doubt run by agent provacateurs with 'controls's in Iraq running the show and stoking the fire in as much as possible. Let's not be gullible to think that the MI6 & CIA covert operations stopped with Ajax in 1953. Between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea lies 80% of the proven world oil reseves. The mere thought of Iran as a 'client' state is of deep interest to the ruling classes, in the UK and US, by the virtue of this fact alone. The imperialists in the 'deep' US government would like to consolidate their gains in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they know without Iran that is highly unlikely. Iran must be adamant on three points: a) no US/Nato bases in Iraq; b) no US/NATO bases in Afghanistan; c) the US/NATO navies leave the Persian Gulf permanently. It is in the long term interest of Iran to make this absoutely known and to seek these objectives resolutely. Iran measure of success would be the acheivemnt of these three objectives No less than the sovreignty of Iran is at stake.


IRI hater,

by Jaleho on

awe, thanks for elucidating your profound argument!


The terrorists in Iran and Iraq should be ERADICATED !!

by IRI hater (not verified) on

The islamist terrorists in Iran have enslaved 60 million people for 30 years.
The islamist terrorists in Iraq have killed and maimed thousands of people.
Obama should continue the task of ERADICATION of those cockroaches in the middle east!!!


I hear you Alborzi!

by Jaleho on

I personally had no high hopes that he would be "revolutionary." And, I am not disappointed about some of his appointments that seems to irk a lot of pro-Obama people on the left. For example,  I don't mind Rahm Emmanuel or even Gates appointment, I see a progmatic element in those. 

BUT, I am disgusted by Hillary's appointment! I don't think that he gains anything "pragmatic" on that appointmnet. Even the far right pro-war republicans won't be happy with that "pro-war" choice, since that strata simply HATES Hillary anyway! And, those Democrats who voted for Hillary, are not going to do anything further for Obama that they wouldn't have done without that sensitive appointment.

To me, this just reeks of re-emergence of Clintonite technocrats to power in foreign policy: the worst message Obama can give regarding change!

I will be still watching to see if he would betray his main platform: ending the war in Iraq. I think people should be ready to FRY him if the "sixteen months" period promise gets violently violated!


Yes he will

by Alborzi (not verified) on

Its really interesting to see how Obama weasels his way out of his promises, but the fact is he is facing a massive inertia. All his appointments have been very pro Israel as he tries hard to avoid being labeled pro-East.
He is not as idiot as Bush but he is not going to be revolutionary either, a true Orio.