Containing Iran: Strategies for Addressing the Iranian Nuclear Challenge

Containing Iran: Strategies for Addressing the Iranian Nuclear Challenge

Containing Iran: Strategies for Addressing the Iranian Nuclear Challenge

Containing Iran: Strategies for Addressing the Iranian Nuclear Challenge

Excerpt

Iran’s development of the nuclear fuel cycle, and its continuing progress toward the ability to produce a nuclear weapons arsenal, is one of the most pressing foreign policy issues for the United States. An Iranian nuclear arsenal could further destabilize an already unsettled region and put a number of important U.S. interests at risk. The United States has a strong interest in preventing such an outcome.

Yet it is an open question whether the United States and its allies are able to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons at an acceptable cost. After almost a decade of concerted effort involving economic, diplomatic, and military sources of leverage, there has been little progress toward reversing or substantially slowing Iran’s nuclear progress. When the United States first began to seek UN Security Council action against Iran in 2003, the country had no stockpiles of enriched uranium, and lacked an industrial-scale enrichment capability. Today, despite all U.S. efforts, Iran has an extensive enrichment program and likely possesses the technical capacity to produce at least one nuclear weapon should it choose to do so. Sanctions, air strikes, or negotiations are unlikely to convince Iran to change course.

The objective of this study is to assess current U.S. policy options on the Iranian nuclear question and to identify a way forward. It addresses two important questions. First, how can the United States prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons? Second, failing this, how can the United States best mitigate the negative international effects of a nuclear-armed Iran? The research presented here indicates that although both of these goals are challenging, they can be . . .

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