Strategic Options for Iran: Balancing Pressure with Diplomacy

Apr 19, 2013
  • Description

This third report from The Iran Project, considers the successes, shortfalls, and risks of strategies designed to pressure the Iranian government into changing its policies. It explores some of the advantages and disadvantages for U.S. interests in the Middle East that might flow from bilateral negotiations with Iran to achieve a nuclear deal, and propose steps that the President might take to establish a framework for direct talks with Iran's leadership that would build on the latest round of multilateral negotiations and proposals. Iran's actions -- particularly with regard to its nuclear program -- pose complex and dangerous challenges to U.S. interests and security, as well as to the security of Israel and possibly to stability in the Middle East. This paper sets out a response to these serious challenges. A strengthened U.S. diplomatic initiative would not replace the pressure track; rather, it would build on pressure already applied. Some measure of sanctions relief will have to be offered as part of a negotiated settlement; but pressure should not be eased without firm and verifiable Iranian commitments to greater transparency and agreed limits on Iran's nuclear program. The proposed bilateral discussions between the U.S. and Iran would not replace the multilateral negotiations that are now underway. Bilateral talks would have to proceed on a basis understood and ideally supported by the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) and U.S. allies. This paper differs from earlier Iran Project publications in that it takes policy positions and makes recommendations for government action. The authors have sought to base these suggestions on factual, objective, nonpartisan analyses, consulting with nearly 20 former government officials and experts and seeking advice from a larger group of signatories.