Coping with a Nuclearizing Iran

Coping with a Nuclearizing Iran

James Dobbins
Alireza Nader
Dalia Dassa Kaye
Frederic Wehrey
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 154
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  • Book Info
    Coping with a Nuclearizing Iran
    Book Description:

    Some time in the coming decade, Iran will probably acquire nuclear weapons or the capacity to quickly produce them. This monograph provides a midterm strategy for dealing with Iran that neither begins nor ends at the point at which Tehran acquires a nuclear weapon capability. It proposes an approach that neither acquiesces to a nuclear-armed Iran nor refuses to admit the possibility--indeed, the likelihood--of this occurring.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-5867-6
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  4. Summary
    (pp. ix-xxii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    Although Iran poses one of the most-significant foreign policy challenges to U.S. interests in the Middle East, there are surprisingly few analyses of Iran that integrate the different facets of this challenge and formulate a comprehensive strategy toward this critical country. Although a plethora of studies have examined the nuclear issue or a particular policy instrument for dealing with it (e.g., engagement, sanctions, deterrence, or a military strike),¹ other aspects of the Iranian challenge, as well as the broader regional context, are often ignored. Comprehensive studies of Iran exist, including several by RAND authors, but none offers an integrative strategy...

  8. CHAPTER TWO U.S. Interests, Objectives, and Strategies
    (pp. 3-8)

    The United States has three broad objectives with respect to Iran: to halt and eventually reverse its nuclear program, to restrain its external behavior, and to promote internal political reform. These objectives could be mutually reinforcing, in the sense that progress toward any one might advance the others, but they are also in tension, in that efforts toward one can and often do make the others harder to achieve. Thus, internal reform in Iran could moderate that country’s external policies and slow its efforts to seek nuclear weapons, but visible U.S. efforts to promote such reforms will probably have the...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Iran’s Interests, Objectives, and Strategies
    (pp. 9-28)

    The 2009 Iranian presidential election highlighted the social, economic, and political transformation of Iran. The election and its violent aftermath portended an increasingly militarized system of government potentially possessing nuclear weapons. Yet the world also witnessed the power of an emerging opposition movement cutting across all sectors of Iranian society. Although the Green Movement has not succeeded in changing the political system, it nevertheless has demonstrated a real desire for change in Iran and, perhaps, a better future for U.S.-Iranian relations. The transformation of U.S.-Iranian relations, however, is constrained by the bitter history between the two nations. Iranian suspicions of...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR The Other Actors
    (pp. 29-70)

    Washington and Tehran are locked into a confrontation that, although it might not lead to actual collision, seems unlikely to ease as a result of initiatives from either capital. On the other hand, the region surrounding Iran is undergoing dramatic change. The long-term outcomes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are unclear, as are the effects of the Arab Spring on neighboring regimes, not to speak of that in Tehran itself. U.S. interests vis-à-vis Iran are largely derivative of its ties to these nearby states, and the success of any strategy is dependent on their support.¹

    At first glance,...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE U.S. Instruments and Iranian Vulnerabilities
    (pp. 71-92)

    The United States possesses multiple means by which to influence Iran’s internal and external behavior. They include diplomacy, sanctions, covert action, soft power, and military force. All of these have been employed in the past, not always to optimum effect. Iran is vulnerable to each to a varying degree.

    Intermittent and somewhat half-hearted engagement between Washington and Tehran has so far failed to resolve core differences between the two. There are several explanations. Some analysts argue that the United States and its allies have not been forthcoming enough in offering Iran a “grand bargain” that extends beyond the nuclear dispute...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Policy Alternatives
    (pp. 93-100)

    Competing U.S. approaches toward Iran might be characterized as engagement versus containment, preemption versus deterrence, and normalization versus regime change. Each of these three theoretical alternatives offers a spectrum of choices to the policymaker.

    A policy of pure engagement would emphasize the use of diplomacy to resolve differences while seeking to increase travel, cultural exchanges, and commerce between the United States and Iran. By contrast, a policy of pure containment would employ isolation, sanctions, and noncommunication to limit Iran’s external influence and compel changes in its internal policies. Preemption goes beyond mere containment to include an offensive threat or use...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Coping with a Nuclearizing Iran
    (pp. 101-110)

    It is not inevitable that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, or even the capacity to quickly produce them. U.S. and even Israeli analysts continually push their estimates for such an event further into the future. Nevertheless, absent a change in Iranian policy, it is reasonable to assume that the day will come when Iran possesses such a capability. Western policymakers shy away from addressing this prospect, lest they seem to be acquiescing in something they deem unacceptable. But there is a big difference between acknowledging and accepting another’s behavior. It is unacceptable that Iran should even be seeking nuclear weapons...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 111-128)