Iran: Assessing U.S. Strategic Options

01 Sep 2008

Iran: Assessing U.S. Strategic Options

By James N. Miller, Christine Parthemore, Kurt M. Campbell

Contributing Authors: Dennis Ross, Suzanne Maloney, Ashton B. Carter, Vali Nasr, Richard N. Haass

Center for a New American Century

September 2008


Coping with Iran’s nuclear program will be at or near the top of the list of thorny foreign policy challenges the next American president inherits. The atomic clock is ticking as Iran continues to pursue a uranium enrichment program that could provide enough material for a nuclear weapon within several years. Choices on Iran will also affect the next administration’s ability to manage other top-tier security and foreign policy problems including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the pursuit of Middle East peace, relations with Russia and China, nuclear nonproliferation, energy security, and (given the involvement of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany in current negotiations) even transatlantic relations.

In order to explore the full range of options available to the next president, in early 2008 the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) convened a bipartisan group comprised of experts on foreign policy and national security, retired military personnel, former diplomats and other government officials, and specialists on Iran and the region. This Experts Group (for membership, see Appendix B) met four times to discuss and debate papers addressing a range of U.S. policy options. Ambassador Dennis Ross presented a paper on diplomatic strategies for dealing with Iran, and Dr. Suzanne Maloney wrote on Iranian perspectives and potential responses. Dr. Ashton Carter evaluated various U.S. military options, and Dr. Vali Nasr described likely Iranian reactions and other potential impacts. Ambassador Richard Haass considered the challenges of living with a nuclear Iran. Their insightful papers comprise the subsequent chapters of this report. 

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