Best Analysis

What Should Obama Do Next on Iran?

Nicholas BurnsNicholas Burns, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center, argues in The New York Times that with the likely passage of the Iran nuclear deal, the President needs to put in place a strategy to continue to check Iran regionally and to ensure that they do not build a nuclear weapon. He suggests the US should reaffirm the American commitment to defend the Gulf Region from any aggressor, clarify that the United States will use force if Iran violates the deal and seeks to build a nuclear weapon, renew US-Israeli security cooperation and mend fences with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and reaffirm US commitment to maintaining a coalition of states opposed to Iran's regional and nuclear ambitions. 

Debating the Iran Nuclear Deal

Robert EinhornRobert Einhorn, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, outlines major issues at stake in the debate about the Iran nuclear deal. Specifically, he discusses what will happen to Iran's program after the initial ten years of the nuclear agreement, how the agreement addresses the potential military aspects of Iran's prior nuclear research, the extent of IAEA access, the importance of arms restrictions on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles, the potential implications of sanctions relief, and the consequences of rejecting the nuclear agreement.

How to put some teeth into the nuclear deal with Iran

Dennis RossDavid PetraeusDennis Ross, International Council Member of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and David Petraeus, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center, write in The Washington Post that it is necessary for the United States to continue to project a strong deterrent to Iran in order to insure that it does not develop nuclear weapons after the expiration of the most stringent controls of the nuclear deal. Specifically, they argue that the United States should provide Israel with the Massive Ordinance Penetrator bomb, capable of destroying the most heavily defending Iranian nuclear sites, in order to strengthen the deterrent against trying to break out and built a nuclear weapon.

Best Analysis on the Iran Nuclear Deal


Graham Allison, 
Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, highlights important analysis pieces discussing the recent Iran nuclear deal. Specifically, he focuses on pieces by Richard Haass, Sandy Berger, Efraim Halevy, Amos Yadlin, Shai Feldman, and Ariel Levite which analyze the important pros and cons of the nuclear deal, its repercussions for US and Israeli policy in the region, and how the United States should move forward in responding to the Iranian nuclear challenge.

Iran and the Arab World after the Nuclear Deal

Iran Report ThumbnailThe Iran Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has completed a report on Iranian relations with the Arab World in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal. The recent nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 in Vienna, or the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), is an historic agreement which is consequential not only for international security and nuclear proliferation but for Iran and the broader Middle East as a whole. In particular, one of the key arenas that the agreement will impact is Iran-Arab world security relations and, at its center, the Iran-Saudi cold war. Spawning regional conflicts and proxy wars from Yemen to Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, the confrontation between these two regional powers serves as the geopolitical and security background upon which the nuclear deal was forged. How this cold war proceeds—whether or not it is effectively managed and resolved, or how it escalates—will largely determine the security dynamics and landscape of the Middle East for years to come.

Given the significant ramifications that these openings may herald for the future of Iran-Arab world ties, it is more important than ever to engage and analyze viewpoints from scholars and analysts based in the region on the future of Iran’s role in the Middle East and Arab security. In this light, this publication brings together a diverse set of voices from Arab world experts to comment on the implications of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 on Iran-Arab security relations. This chapter accordingly begins with a summary and brief analysis of Arab expert opinion in order to elucidate the broader trends and patterns of analytic thought on Iran and the Arab world. Thereafter, the chapter turns to an examination of the implications of the agreement on Iranian politics and the factors shaping the possibility of Iranian foreign policy moderation. It does so because no serious discussion on Iran-Arab security relations can ignore the Iranian decision-making process and domestic Iranian politics.

Iran Deal Keeps Our Military Options Open

Graham AllisonGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, argues in The Boston Globe that contrary to certain statements, the Iran nuclear agreement actually does not constrain American or Israeli abilities to launch military options against Iran's nuclear facilities if needed in the future. He argues that the intelligence gained from monitoring the Iranian program will help targeting Iranian nuclear sites, and as a result the possibility for a military strike on Iran after the deal would be more likely to be successful than a military strike now.

Deal or No Deal: The Choice Before Congress

Albert CarnesaleAlbert Carnesale, Member of the Board of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The National Interest that the idea of another deal being negotiated after the current accord under review should Congress reject it is faulty. He argues that there is no diplomatic path to a better deal because American leverage would be significantly weaker if the agreement is rejected, a military solution will fail to set back Iran's program by more than a few years, and Iranian compliance with the deal without the US will tie American hands to influence further nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

How Congress Could Make the Iran Deal Work

William TobeyWilliam Tobey, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, with Judith Miller, write in Real Clear Politics about steps Congress can take to be confident in the agreement between Iran and the P5+1. They argue that Congress should seek greater clarification on how Iran will comply with its agreements with the IAEA, extend the review period in order to see how Iran responds to some of the early deadlines for compliance under the accord, authorize military force to halt Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state, establish an independent team of experts to assess Iranian compliance, sell weapons to Israel capable of damaging the fortified Iranian nuclear sites, and increase funding for actions to help counter Iran's regional activities.

Just How Vulnerable is Iran to Sanctions?

Aaron Arnold Aaron Arnold, Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The National Interest that contrary to what some have argued, the more Iran is connected the to global economy, the more vulnerable it is to the snapback sanctions measures built into the Iranian nuclear deal. He argues that as Iran becomes more connected to the global economy, the American dominance of financial markets and the importance of the dollar as a global currency will mean that in the event of snapback, companies will be deterred from action in Iran. As a result, the more Iran reconnects its economy to the world, the more vulnerable it will be to snapback measures.

9 Reasons to Support the Iran Deal


Graham Allison
, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The Atlantic that despite criticism, the current nuclear deal with Iran is the best option facing the United States for trying to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. He argues that there is a very little possibility of other countries returning to the bargaining table if the US stops the agreement, and states that despite the continued destabilizing actions of Iran in the region, the agreement presents the best chance of foreclosing the pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon.

The Iran Nuclear Deal: A Definitive Guide

The Iran Nuclear Deal: A Definitive GuideThe Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School has produced this briefing book on the Iran deal in the interest of contributing to informed Congres­sional review and public discourse on the agreement. First, we have provided a concise description of the complex agreement and the accompanying UN Security Council Resolution 2231, including areas that appear ambiguous. Second, we have tried to provide a balanced assessment of the agreement’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to its central objective to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Iran Edition: Hardliners Criticize Nuclear, Missile Limits

Iran EditionShirin Lotfi describes reactions in the Iranian press to the nuclear deal signed with the P5+1. Specifically, Iranian hardliners have criticized the deal in editorial comments, critiquing it for sections relating to Iran's ballistic missile program, the process of sanctions relief, and the potential for the United States to impose further sanctions for nonnuclear activities.

The Iran-North Korea Strategic Alliance

James WalshJames Walsh, Research Associate at the Security Studies Program at MIT and former Research Fellow at the Belfer Center, gave testimony to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee concerning the diplomatic and strategic ties between Iran and North Korea. He argued that while it is still possible for North Korea to assist Iran on cheating on its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he argued that the combination of existing safeguards and deterrents and incentives and verification measures put in place under the JCPOA make this outcome unlikely.

Statement by 60 National Security Leaders on the Announcement of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Nick BurnsMichele FlournoyJoseph NyeJim WalshNicholas Burns, Professor of Practice at the Harvard Kennedy School,  Michele Flournoy, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center and CEO of the Center for a New American Security, Joseph Nye, Professor and Former Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and James Walsh, Research Associate with the MIT Security Studies program were among a group of 60 former national security officials and analysts who signed a statement in favor of the nuclear agreement with Iran. The statement, while acknowledging faults with the agreement, supported it and urged the Administration and Congress to work closely to implement the deal.

A Good Deal for Israel

Chuck FreilichChuck Freilich, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center and former Israeli Deputy National Security Adviser writes in the New York Times and in Israeli media that the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, despite flaws, is in fact good for Israel. He argues that critics of the current agreement have not offered feasible alternative plans, and that the deal will buy Israel time to address immediate threats in its region, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, without worrying about the potential for an Iranian nuclear weapon. He concludes that the intransigence of Prime Minister Netanyahu is a dangerous course, as it is most likely either going to fail or seriously endanger the close relationship between Israel and the United States.

Elements of the Iranian Nuclear Deal

Gary SamoreGary Samore, Director of Research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, describes the main elements of the JCPOA. The July 14, 2015 comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) consists of the agreement itself and five technical annexes: Annex I – Nuclear-related measures; Annex 2 – Sanctions-related commitments; Annex III- Civil Nuclear Cooperation; Annex IV – Joint Commission; and Annex V – Implementation Plan. The version issued by the EU is used here because pages and paragraphs are numbered in proper order.  In coming days, the Belfer Center plans to publish a more detailed description and assessment of the agreement.

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