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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Order vs. Disorder, Part 4": What About Containment of Iran's Nuclear Weapons Development Program?

Is it possible for anyone to discuss "containment" in the Middle East without referring to Iran's efforts to build nuclear weapons? Would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman manages to do so.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Order vs. Disorder, Part 4," Friedman would have us know that "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to the wider East-West clash of civilizations what Off Broadway is to Broadway." Claiming that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict allows us to "see many trends at a smaller scale first," Tom claims that the United States is now "heading" toward "containment" of the Islamic State, in much the same way that Israel seeks to contain Hamas. His conclusion:

"In short, containment in both theaters is necessary but not sufficient for long-term stability. But, unlike the Cold War where our containment strategy was largely the product of like-minded democracies working to liberate like-minded people from a bad system, in the Middle East, we have few like-minded partners.

The most we can hope for are 'least bad' allies and 'least bad' outcomes. In today’s Middle East, least bad is the new good."

"Not sufficient for long-term stability"? Friedman doesn't mention that there is a population explosion in the Muslim Middle East that does not allow for "long-term stability." As stated in a Washington Post article by Max Fisher entitled "How the world’s populations are changing, in one map":

"The Arab Middle East has been experiencing a very significant youth bulge over the last few years, meaning that an unusually large share of the population is young people. That's been problematic because when large numbers of young people hit working age at the same time, the Middle Eastern economies aren't able to provide enough jobs."

Gaza? Toward the end of 1967, its population was under 400,000. Today, its population has reached 1.8 million, and it is expected to reach 2.1 million by 2020. Achieve long-term stability given this trend? Good luck.

But more to the point, how can Friedman talk about "containment" in the Middle East without referring to Iran's nuclear program? You will recall that Obama declared two years ago at the United Nations:

"Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

Remarkably, during his speech at the United Nations last week, Obama dropped all the threatening language when referring to Iran:

"America is pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue, as part of our commitment to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the peace and security of a world without them. And this can only take place if Iran seizes this historic opportunity. My message to Iran’s leaders and people has been simple and consistent: Do not let this opportunity pass. We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful."

Obama created a stir when he acknowledged that the US did not have a strategy for dealing with the Islamic State. Question: Does Obama have a strategy for dealing with Iran when the November 24 negotiations deadline arrives without an agreement to curtail Supreme Leader Khamenei's nuclear weapons development program?

I doubt it.

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