Obama chooses containment

There is no shortage of articles like this recent one expressing amazement at the leaked secret rider to the Iran nuclear deal that lets Iran operate advanced centrifuges in just ten years instead of the officially announced fifteen.

But what is behind those two numbers?  Did the shortened period simply sugar-coat the deal for Iran, or is something much more fundamental going on here?

It is useful to recall the two tenets of Obama's approach to Iran as he came into the Oval Office.  Firstly, as part of his general outreach to the Moslem world, Iran was to be brought out of the cold of international isolation – no more talk of "regime change."  When mass protests against the regime erupted in Tehran, Obama was silent, prompting the protesters to demand an answer to "are you with us, or with ayatollahs?"  Obama's silence gave the answer: he was with the ayatollahs.

And secondly, there was a question of Obama's policy toward Iran's nuclear ambitions.  He (or was it Hillary?) slipped in the word "containment" – and the uproar followed, for containment implied letting Iran have the bomb, merely mitigating it by the threat of mutual destruction, per the Soviet containment model.  Following that uproar, the word "containment" was explained away as a slip of the tongue, and the administration explained that it did not have containment policy, but only the prevention policy.  Yet proponents of containment were many, lecturing around universities' campuses the gospel of Iran being a more natural geopolitical ally of America than Saudis and Israelis and declaiming their sleek slogan "better bomb than bombing."

How does the secretly agreed to ten- versus publicly declared fifteen-year deadline fit into this picture?

Let's think for a second. The deal gives Iran a legal and diplomatic cover against being bombed.  Per the publicly declared deal, that protection runs for fifteen years.  This impunity from being bombed presumably coincided with Iran's inability to build a bomb during the same fifteen years due to inspections.  If it tried to build it later, the thinking goes, its attempts will be detected  and the bombing will still, at least in theory, stop the bomb. 

And here comes the secretively agreed to limit, which stops Iran from getting the bomb for only ten years – while bombing of Iran is blocked by the main deal for fifteen years!

So that's the real deal: Iran gets five years to develop the bomb, so by the fifteenth year, bombing-allowed deadline, Iran already has the bomb.  Too bad!

And so, Obama's dream of preventing the bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities triumphs in the end.  The talk of his not having the policy of containment, but only that of prevention, was just talk.

The leaked rider to the deal gives us the x-ray view of Obama's thinking; it is not that he gave Iran an even better hand.  It is that very deliberately, he chose containment over prevention, Iran bomb over bombing of Iran to prevent the bomb.

Iran's bomb is what Obama chose for his legacy.

That's the long and the short of it.

But let's not stop here.  Since the deal Congress voted to uphold is not the actual deal Obama struck with Iran, shouldn't a new vote take place, a vote on the actual Obama's Iran deal the deal that is aimed to give Iran the bomb?