October 19, 2016


Atlantic Council Strategy Paper Series
A New Strategy for US-Iran Relations

A conversation with:

Ellen Laipson
Distinguished Fellow, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security
Atlantic Council

Michael Connell
Director, Iranian Studies Program
Center for Naval Analyses

Amir Handjani
Board Director
Atlantic Council

Moderated by:
David Sanger
National Security Correspondent
The New York Times

Nearly four decades since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the United States has found itself at cross-purposes with Iran throughout the Middle East. Though the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to limit Iran’s nuclear program has reopened channels of communication between the United States and Iran, new opportunities for engagement must be measured against the ongoing threat Iran poses to US partners and allies in the region. Ellen Laipson, Atlantic Council distinguished fellow and president emeritus of the Stimson Center, presents her ten-year vision for tackling these complex challenges in A New Strategy for US-Iran Relations. On October 19, Michael Connell, director of the Iranian Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses, Atlantic Council board director Amir Handjani, and national security correspondent for the New York Times David Sanger will join Laipson for a discussion of this first regionally focused installment in the Atlantic Council Strategy Paper series.

The paper, featuring a foreword by former US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and an endorsement from former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, proposes a US policy toward Iran that carefully balances deterrence and containment measures with more proactive engagement, with the ultimate goals of reducing the chances of military confrontation with Iran and improving the regional security environment. Among other policy responses, Laipson calls for: a new intelligence assessment of Iran’s capabilities, expanded diplomatic engagement, clarified economic and financial opportunities, and protection of the JCPOA’s nonproliferation success. At the same time, the paper acknowledges that the United States must retain the ability to counter Iran’s asymmetric threats, like the recent naval flare-ups in the Gulf.

The Atlantic Council Strategy Paper series is designed to enrich the public debate and build consensus on the great strategic challenges of our time, as well as to help shape strategic thinking in US and allied governments, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the global media.