The White House never intended to contain Iran with the nuclear deal, rather it hoped for an “evolution in Iranian behavior” as a result, wrote former U.S. Department of Defense official and Hudson Institute senior research fellow Michael Doran in a piece for Mosaic magazine on Thursday.
Doran quoted President Barack Obama during one of his myriad defense pitches of the deal saying he hoped the deal would “incentivize” the Iranian regime to be less aggressive and belligerent in instilling its influence throughout the Middle East, in conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, among Israel and the Palestinians, and in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Obama said he hoped the deal would make Iran more “cooperative.” So while the U.S. president never explicitly claimed he sought to fully untie the noose of U.S. containment policy vis-a-vis Iran, such quotes adumbrated this position, wrote Doran.
Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said: “We believe that a world in which there is a deal with Iran is much more likely to produce an evolution in Iranian behavior.”
“In Obama’s eyes, containment is a fool’s errand, and continuing to treat Iran as a pariah will simply ensure that it will never help us damp down Middle Eastern turmoil,” wrote Doran. “To him, therefore, the nuclear deal is not an end in itself; it is a means to the larger end of a strategic partnership that will conduce to his sought-for ‘equilibrium’ in the Middle East.”
In other words, Obama is hoping that a detente with Iran could produce a balance between conflicting Shia and Sunni positions in a widely unstable region, so the containment policy would be off, for now.