CFR Ebook Clarifies Options to Deal with Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

CFR Ebook Clarifies Options to Deal with Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

Seven CFR scholars come together to map the objectives, tools, and strategies for dealing with one of the most vexing problems facing the United States and the world today.

June 6, 2012 11:12 am (EST)

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As the P5+1 nations (United States, France, Britain, Russia, China, and Germany) and the world continue to grapple with Iran’s nuclear program, seven Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) scholars map the objectives, tools, and strategies for dealing with one of the most vexing foreign policy problems, in a new CFR ebook. Edited by former deputy national security adviser Robert D. Blackwill, the book serves to provide clarity on policy choices.

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"The aim of this volume is not to tell the reader what to think but rather how to think about Iran’s nuclear activities and the options for addressing them," writes CFR President Richard N. Haass in the foreword. Calling the stakes in Iran "great by any measure," he continues, "What is done and not done by the United States and others, what is averted, and what comes to be will have enormous consequences for the world economy, the future of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, and the trajectory of the greater Middle East."

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Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Chapters in Iran: The Nuclear Challenge include:

Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh: "What Do We Know?"

"At present, Iran can best be described as a country determined to preserve for itself the option of acquiring nuclear weapons capability at some future date: to shorten, to the greatest extent possible, the time it will take to build these weapons (and to warn the world) once the decision is made to do so, by developing dispersed, hardened dual-use nuclear fuel cycle capabilities; and to seek shelter from international nonproliferation pressure in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s promise of access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes."

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Adjunct Senior Fellow Meghan L. O’Sullivan: "The Role and Potential of Sanctions"

"Given the commitment of the United States and other countries to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the uncertain ability of sanctions to produce results in this case carries high stakes," she writes. "Whereas in many other instances, the failure of sanctions would not instigate another course of action, a failure vis-à-vis Iran today could well prompt military action by Israel or the United States."

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Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Adjunct Senior Fellow Richard A. Falkenrath: "Prospects for a Negotiated Outcome"

"Nuclear negotiations with Iran today cannot solve the Iranian nuclear problem; instead, the immediate aims of talks should be modest, technical, and perceptual. The real value of these talks is likely to play out over the longer term by creating conditions in which the international community is increasingly united and resolute with respect to Iran, and other Iranian leaders may have the latitude and the incentive to accept constraints that effectively lengthen the Iranian weaponization timetable."

Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow Matthew Kroenig: "Assessing Israel’s Military Option"

"It is possible that an Israeli strike might destroy many of Iran’s most important nuclear facilities, that Iran responds with only token retaliation, and that the United States is able to work diplomatically to quickly defuse the crisis. If the U.S. government could know this to be the case, an Israeli strike would have to rank, from Washington’s perspective, as a relatively attractive outcome. It is also possible, however, that an Israeli strike does minimal damage to Iran’s nuclear program yet unleashes the full range of downside consequences."

Senior Fellow Robert D. Blackwill: "A U.S. Attack on Iran"

- What would precipitate a U.S. attack on Iran?

- What would be the objectives of such American military operations?

- What would be the target set?

- How long would the attack last?

- What would be the potential Iranian reactions to the U.S. attack, and over what timeline?

- What would be the intensity, duration, and consequences of the regional and international reaction to such an attack?

- How would the United States cope with the Iranian and international reaction?

Senior Fellow Elliott Abrams: "Regime Change"

"Perhaps the first question to ask is whether a different regime in Tehran would indeed be likely to resolve America’s relationship with Iran. Then, one can look at what the United States might do to produce regime change, whether such actions have a chance of succeeding, what their costs might be, and what alternatives exist."

Senior Fellow Robert M. Danin: "Iran with the Bomb"

"However a nuclear Iran would act, its neighbors would feel more vulnerable. The incentive for one of them—especially Israel—to attack Iran before it grew even stronger would only increase. The only way to mitigate these dangers, short of rolling back Iran’s nuclear arsenal, would be a sustained and active military, economic, and political strategy led by the United States to deprive the Iranian regime of the perceived benefits of its nuclear status."

Blackwill notes, "Authors have made no effort to persuade readers on behalf of any particular American action." Summarizing the volume, he suggests four broad principles to assist in analyzing the issue:

- Be careful about historical analogies to influence U.S. policy decisions

- Concentrate on the feasibility of various policy options

- Consider carefully the day after, the month after, the year after, even the decade after

- Beware of unanticipated consequences of policy actions

The ebook is available in Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and print-on-demand versions. To order visit

The Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.


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