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Symposium on Iran and Policy Options for the Next Administration: Session Two: The Nuclear Dimension and Iranian Foreign Policy

Speakers: Ashton B. Carter, Codirector, Preventive Defense Project, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Gary Samore, Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Gideon Rose, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs
September 5, 2008

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The Bush administration has long-warned that an Iranian nuclear weapon would rank near the top of risks to national and global security. But after years of diplomatic efforts to derail Iran's nuclear program, Washington may have to come to grips with an inevitable fact: if Tehran wants a nuclear bomb, it will most likely get one. "I don't think we'll be able to talk them out of it," Gary Samore, Council on Foreign Relations Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, said during the second session of a CFR symposium on U.S. policy toward Iran. The best the United States can do, Samore said, "is create a package of incentives or disincentives to at least convince them to stop or at least slow down." Hawks within the Bush administration have hinted that military force could put a stop to Iranian nuclear ambitions. But Ashton B. Carter, codirector of the Preventive Defense Project at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, said not even military action can solve the problem. "The only other option, of course, is to invade," Carter said. "We've had plans to invade Iran for as long as I've been associated with the Department of Defense. I just don't think we have the ground forces to do it." Additionally, Carter said he sees a "50-50" chance that Israel—a sworn enemy of Iran—will unilaterally attack Iran's nuclear facilities between the U.S. presidential election and Inauguration Day.

This was part of the Symposium on Iran and Policy Options for the Next Administration, which was made possible through the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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