As Iran faces unprecedented challenges, the new effort will undertake a holistic approach to the entirety of the Atlantic Council’s work on Iran

WASHINGTON D.C. – DECEMBER 2, 2022 – Today, the Atlantic Council announced the launch of its new Iran Strategy Project, designed to synchronize and bring together the Atlantic Council’s policy and analytical efforts on Iran under a single banner, reflecting the unprecedented level of discord and uncertainty in Iran.

The program will be overseen by Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative director Jonathan Panikoff, as part of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs. “The new Iran Strategy Project will take a holistic look at all issues related to the country: political, human rights, security, economic, nuclear, social, and natural resources,” said Panikoff. “It will provide a forum for experts across the political spectrum, and with varying functional expertise, to discuss and debate the future of Iran, and to provide concrete strategic options for policymakers.”

This new endeavor is driven by recent events such as the women-led Iranian social movement demanding freedom and autonomy, the near-term potential for a new Supreme Leader, Iran’s evolving role in the region (including its military support of Russia’s war in Ukraine), and the likely end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the prism through which US and European policy toward Iran has been based for much of the past decade.

An advisory committee of distinguished experts will provide strategic guidance and input into the project’s work. “There has never been a more pressing need for original and thoughtful policy recommendations and non-partisan analysis on Iran,” said Will Wechsler, senior director of Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council. “All of the distinguished members of the committee bring a history of leadership and experience addressing hard policy challenges that will further empower this new Iran program to prosper and have a real impact in the coming months and years.”

The Future of Iran Initiative, led by Barbara Slavin, will conclude its efforts at the end of the year as Slavin departs for a new role as a senior fellow at the Stimson Center. For over a decade, Slavin championed Iran-related work at the Atlantic Council and brought together a myriad of diverse voices, raising the bar for expert discourse on Iran in Washington. During that period, the Initiative produced dozens of publications, convened hundreds of events with key stakeholders, and generated valuable policy recommendations for three administrations.

“We are grateful for Barbara’s invaluable contributions at the Atlantic Council over the last twelve years,” said Atlantic Council President and CEO Fred Kempe. “As Barbara departs the Council, we wish her all the best and look forward to continuing to read and hear her insights on Iran.”

The Iran Strategy Project’s new advisory committee includes a cross-section of professionals from the diplomatic, intelligence, history, human rights, and military fields. The full advisory committee includes:

  • Dr. Ladan Boroumand, PhD, co-founder of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran 
  • Ambassador Paul Foley, former ambassador of Australia to the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Marjan Keypour, founder and director of the Alliance for Rights of All Minorities (ARAM)
  • Stuart Levey, former under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence
  • Ambassador Rob Macaire, former ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • General Frank McKenzie, former commander, US Central Command
  • Dr. Ernest Moniz, PhD, former US secretary of energy; co-chair and CEO, Nuclear Threat Initiative
  • Michael Morell, former deputy director, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Beth Sanner, former deputy director of national intelligence
  • Dr. Mahmood Sariolghalam, PhD, professor of international relations, Shahid Beheshti University
  • Frances Townsend, former homeland security advisor to the US president; former deputy US national security advisor for combating terrorism
  • Dr. Sanam Vakil, PhD, deputy director and senior research fellow, Middle East and North Africa Program, Chatham House