Best Analysis

A Nuclear Nightmare, Averted

Graham AllisonGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The Atlantic that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty offers an important example of the possibility of success in arms control agreements. He notes that while in the early 1960s policymakers feared that at least fifteen to twenty countries would have nuclear arsenals as early as the 1970s, today, greatly due to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, only nine nations have nuclear arsenals, and many states that could have pursued nuclear weapons have terminated their programs. He concludes that while all arms control negotiations, including the talks with Iran over the Iranian nuclear program, need to be assessed based on their own merits, the Non-Proliferation Treaty offers a seminal example of a successful arms control agreement that should provide encouragement when pursuing future disarmament commitments through diplomacy and negotiation.

Belfer Iran Brief – Khamenei rejects inspections of military sites or interview with scientists, Obama calls Khamenei anti-Semitic but not irrational, and other news

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he “will not allow foreigners to come and speak with prominent and dear scientists” nor would he allow inspection of “any of the military sites,” President Barack Obama characterized Khamenei as anti-Semitic but said “it doesn’t preclude you from being rational,” and more in this week’s Belfer Iran Brief, covering May 18-22, 2015.

The Divided Front Negotiating with Iran

Ariane TabatabaiAriane Tabatabai, Research Associate with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists that contrary to public statements, there are very really divisions between the countries within the P5+1 negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. Specifically, she notes China, the United Kingdom, and Germany as being generally more quiet and less active in the talks, while France, Russia, and the United States have been the most vocal and active players in trying to shape the negotiations. She concludes that while each country has an interest in a successful conclusion to the talks, the final outcome is also being determined by each nation's interests and goals as they approach the negotiations.

Three Myths About Iran Sanctions

Aaron ArnoldAaron Arnold, Research Associate with the Program on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center, writes in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that U.S. lawmakers advocating a continuation and strengthening of the sanctions program against Iran are operating on a series of misperceptions and myths about sanctions. Specifically, he argues that the United States cannot operate under the belief that international partners will automatically a continuation of sanctions, that snap-back sanctions will not be effective in hurting the Iranian economy in the event of a violation of the terms of a nuclear deal, and that the United States will continue to dominate the international financial system. This myths are out of sync with international realities, and domestic politics needs to catch up to this fact, he concludes.

Why Nuclear Dominoes Won't Fall in the Middle East

Dina EsfandiaryAriane TabatabaiDina Esfandiary, Research Associate at King's College, London, and Ariane Tabatabai, Research Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, write for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that an Iranian nuclear deal is unlikely to spark a major surge in developing nuclear technology in the countries of the Middle East. They look specifically at the cases of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates and examine the technical, diplomatic, and political challenges to each one to actively pursuing nuclear weapons programs, and argue from this assessment that a successful nuclear deal with Iran will not spur a nuclear arms race in the region. 

What are the Prospects for US-Iran Cooperation Against ISIS?

Mohsen MilaniMohsen Milani, Director of the Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida, writes about the factors that are driving the regional conflict in the Middle East. Specifically, he points to the ongoing regional proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia as key in helping create ISIS. He argues that there is not a single ground force with the technical and tactical abilities, and strategic desire, to defeat ISIS apart from Iran and the Shia militias it supports, and suggests that joint actions between the United States and Iran against ISIS may help end the adversarial relationship between them and help bridge the gap to talking about other issues of mutual concern and interest.

The Lausanne Nuclear Framework: The View from Tehran

Ali VaezAli Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst at the International Crisis Group, writes about the Iranian approach to the nuclear negotiations and their view of the resulting framework agreement. Specifically, he focuses on what were the key Iranian objectives, how successfully these objectives were achieved in the negotiations, and whether the Iranian negotiating will be successful in selling the agreement at home. He notes that in general Iran accomplished its major objective of sanctions relief, but cautions against judging the nuclear agreement as something that may drastically tilt the Iranian political balance, considering the complexity of Iranian factionalism. He concludes by stating that any final agreement should be judged primarily on how well it accomplishes the goals of both sides, not how it may have secondary political effects in Iran or the United States.

Belfer Iran Brief – Senate approves Iran bill, Iranian military denies inspection of bases, and other news

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill providing for Congressional review of a nuclear deal with Iran, Mahan Air defied international sanctions by obtaining nine Airbus passenger planes, and more in this week’s Belfer Iran Brief, covering May 4-12, 2015.

How to Save the Iran Deal

Dennis RossDennis Ross, International Council Member at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, argues in Politico that the key to a successful nuclear agreement with Iran is not the physical rollback of the Iranian program, but the transparency measures that allow the P5+1 to assess Iranian behavior. Specifically, he suggests that Iran is probably maneuvering to maintain the diplomatic "red lines" stated by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei regarding sanctions relief and enrichment, and so to both allow Iran to stay within most of their public limits while still assuaging American concerns, extremely robust verification measures are required.

"Three Myths about the Iran Sanctions"

Aaron ArnoldAaron Arnold, Associate with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that several myths continue to be referenced in discussion of the framework agreement between the P5+1 on Iran's nuclear program. Specifically, he critiques the ideas that international partners will continue to support America's efforts to sanction Iran in the absence of an agreement, that snap-back sanctions will not be effective in pressuring Iran, and that the United States can continue to control the financial system to the degree necessary to pressure Iran.