Dual Containment

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U.S. policy toward Iran and Iraq from 1993 to 1997.

In May 1993, the U.S. administration of President William Clinton announced a new policy to contain two countriesIran and Iraqthat it claimed were threats to U.S. interests in the Middle East. Since Iraq effectively was contained by United Nations sanctions and daily aerial patrols of two no-fly zones in the north and south of the country, the real focus of dual containment was Iran. The stated objective was to apply sufficient international diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran to induce its government to modify its behavior in five areas alleged by the United States: its acquisition of weapons of mass destruction; its repression of domestic political dissent; its support for international terrorism; its efforts to destabilize governments in the Middle East; and its opposition to the Middle East peace process. Although key U.S. allies supported efforts to contain Iraq, they criticized the confrontational approach toward Iran and generally declined to cooperate with the U.S. efforts to isolate it. After 1997, U.S. officials stopped using the term dual containment, and the de facto policy became one of finding ways to engage in dialogue with Iran to discuss U.S. concerns. In 2001, the new administration of George W. Bush reverted to viewing Iran as a threat to U.S. interests, although it did not revive the term dual containment.


Hooglund, Eric. "Mythology versus Reality: Iranian Political Economy and the Clinton Administration." Critique, no. 11 (Fall 1997): 3751.

f. gregory gause iii updated by eric hooglund