It would have amounted to an unsolved dilemma, and the risks of the Iranian nuclear program would have been underscored if the world had to deal with similar nuclearization in neighboring Iraq — where Saddam’s stated primary rationale for nuclear prestige rested on warding off his feared Persian rivals.
When President Obama speaks about Iran “being contained” during the years of Saddam, he thinks he’s found his diamond-in-the-dunghill argument. But this geopolitical logic comes straight out of the Kissingerian playbook, where “realists” argue that the U.S. could have “played off” Iran versus Iraq, and vice versa. Of course, such realpolitik never offered a progressive vision for the region. We had been there and done that.