Some profound wisdom from Trita Parsi about the latest so-called terror plot and the state of Iran-U.S. relations it portrays:
…Containment with Iran is not a stable policy. On the contrary, it’s a policy that keeps both sides perpetually teetering on the verge of war. Containment with the Soviet Union proved to be stable for two key reasons. First, because even at the height of the Cold War, Washington and Moscow engaged in direct diplomacy — that is, effective de-escalatory mechanisms were in place. The two countries could effectively communicate with each other and sort out misunderstandings before they escalated into military conflict.
Second, it was stable because there was ample awareness on both sides that a direct confrontation between the two super powers would lead to the end of mankind. This created a natural resistance against uncontrollable escalation.
Neither of these two factors is present in the U.S.-Iran relationship. There is no direct communication between the two sides (both recently ignored or rejected each other’s proposals for direct communication). And their domestic political landscapes do not put a premium on restraint; rather, strong domestic constituencies in Washington and Tehran consistently push for escalation.
Simply put, U.S.-Iran tensions have long been a powder keg, overflowing with nuclear programs, human rights abuses, Stuxnet and secret assassinations. And the alleged terror plot against the Saudi Ambassador shows how easily a single incident can spark a wider conflict. Without serious efforts to defuse a crisis that is steadily spiraling out of control, we are on the precipice of a major war in the region.
This is why a containment policy can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Short of a government collapse in Tehran or strategic shift in Washington — both unlikely in the short to medium term — containment has created an environment in which adversaries repeatedly provoke one another, without having the ability to reverse any escalation.
The Obama administration must avoid falling further into this trap — particularly if there are Iranian hardliners trying to bait the U.S. into a conflict.
I know Trita Parsi. This is not a person given to flights of fancy. When he tells you that following the current road will inevitably lead to war, you better take notice. That is, if you care to avoid a war, as not everyone does on either side apparently.