Gulf Kaleidoscope

Reflections on the Iranian Challenge

As the world works to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, there is widespread agreement on what failure looks like. It is an Iranian bomb—or, more likely, a number of Iranian bombs—that emboldens the Iranian government, threatens the Middle East, and prompts many of Iran’s neighbors to develop their own weapons, thereby raising tensions in the most energy-rich part of the world.

It is harder, though, to define success. For some, success can come only when the Iranian nuclear problem is “solved.” That is to say, success is when the government of Iran convincingly renounces any effort to develop nuclear weapons, opens all of its nuclear facilities to international inspection, and reveals the sources for its technology and materials. Anything short of that, they argue, represents an intermediate step in the “failure” category, and failure happens every day until success is achieved.

Understanding alternative outcomes and ways to accomplish them can help prevent the worst outcomes from coming to pass. This volume is an effort to understand the positions of key actors toward success and failure on Iran, and the responses of those actors to each other. Every party's actions affects that of the others, and the actions of all of the parties affect Iranian behavior. This volume covers what different U.S. diplomatic policies toward Iran might entail, focusing on engagement, containment, and deterrence. The volume then analyzes the attitudes and responses of key actors: Israel, Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbors, the emerging powers of Turkey, China, India, and Russia, and the Iranians themselves. The report concludes that success lies in a dynamic U.S. strategy that engages a range of other actors and gives them a stake in both strategies and outcomes.

Jon B. Alterman
Senior Vice President, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director, Middle East Program

Jon B. Alterman, Richard Dalton, Nathan Freier, Geoffrey Kemp, Haim Malka, Michael O'Hanlon, and Barbara Slavin

Foreword: Zbigniew Brzezinski