The Costs of Containing Iran: More Than the U.S. Is Bargaining For
About This Event

Post-Event Summary
To mark the release of their new AEI report, a group of prominent foreign policy and Iran experts, joined by keynote speaker Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), gathered Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center to discuss the challenges of containing and deterring a nuclear-armed Iran. Sen. Kirk argued that Iran's historic aggression in the region, support for terrorism and poor human rights record make it unlikely that a nuclear Iran can be successfully contained. To combat this threat, he urged Congress and the Obama administration to adopt sanctions against Iran's Central Bank. The director of AEI's Critical Threats Project, Frederick W. Kagan, criticized the Obama administration's "unseriousness" toward the Iranian nuclear threat, especially given Tehran's aggressive drive toward nuclear weaponization. AEI's vice president for foreign and defense policy studies, Danielle Pletka, highlighted the false assumption among policymakers that containment of Iran is an easy task for the United States and its allies. Thomas Donnelly, the director of AEI's Center for Defense Studies, followed up on this point, noting that pursuing such a policy would be a risky endeavor because of the Iranian regime's pattern of hostile and unpredictable behavior. Maseh Zarif, the research manager for AEI's Critical Threats Project, explained that no nuclear weapons state has limited its arsenal to one or two nuclear weapons; Iran, for its part, would likely produce enough nuclear weapons to develop a survivable deterrent. The speakers were united in their belief that the United States must evaluate its options to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat and formulate a coherent policy before Tehran acquires a nuclear weapon capability.
---Grant Gibson

Event Description
Ongoing efforts to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons have failed, and the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is fast approaching reality. Yet the United States and its allies have not formulated a policy to deal with such a threat. Many experts advocate a containment and deterrence strategy, but will it work? What are the real diplomatic, strategic and military costs and challenges? In a keynote address marking the release of AEI’s report “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran,” Senator Mark Kirk will address these questions and the future of U.S. policy toward the Iranian nuclear threat. Report co-authors Thomas Donnelly, Danielle Pletka and Maseh Zarif will follow with their insights.

****Please note that this event is off-site. Map of event location: Capitol Visitor's Center****


10:15 AM

10:30 AM
Keynote Address:

10:45 AM


12:00 PM

Speaker Biographies

Thomas Donnelly, a defense and security policy analyst, is the director of the Center for Defense Studies at AEI. He is the coauthor of “Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields” (AEI Press, 2010, with Frederick W. Kagan). Among his recent books are “Ground Truth: The Future of US Land Power” (AEI Press, 2008, with Mr. Kagan), “Of Men and Materiel: The Crisis in Military Resources” (AEI Press 2007, coedited with Gary J. Schmitt), “The Military We Need” (AEI Press, 2005) and “Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Strategic Assessment” (AEI Press, 2004). Mr. Donnelly was policy-group director and a professional staff member for the House Committee on Armed Services from 1995 to 1999, and he also served as a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He is a former editor of Armed Forces Journal, Army Times, and Defense News.

Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar in defense and security policy studies and director of the Critical Threats Project at AEI. In 2009, he served in Kabul, Afghanistan, as part of General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic assessment team, and he returned to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011 to conduct research for General David Petraeus. He is coauthor of the report “Defining Success in Afghanistan” (AEI and the Institute for the Study of War, 2011) and author of the series of reports “Choosing Victory” (AEI), which recommended and monitored the US military surge in Iraq. His most recent book is “Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields” (AEI Press, 2010, with Thomas Donnelly). Previously an associate professor of military history at West Point, he is a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard and has written for Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and other periodicals. 

Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was elected to the United States Senate in 2010 after five terms representing Illinois’s 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House. In 1989, he was commissioned as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve and currently holds the rank of commander. From December 2008 to January 2009, Kirk became the first House member to deploy to an imminent danger area since 1942 when he served as special adviser for counternarcotics in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He has also served in Iraq, Haiti and Bosnia and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the VADM Rufus Taylor Intelligence Unit of the Year award for his service in Kosovo. He worked on the staff of his predecessor in the House, Congressman John Porter, and also spent two years at the State Department as special assistant to the assistant secretary of state. He then went into private law practice and eventually became counsel to the House International Relations Committee, a post he held until 1999. In the Senate, he serves on the Appropriations; Banking; Housing and Urban Development; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees.

Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI. Before joining AEI, she served for 10 years as a senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. She writes frequently on national security matters with a focus on domestic politics in the Middle East and South Asia regions, U.S. national security, terrorism, and weapons proliferation. Ms. Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008, with Michael Rubin and Jeffrey Azarva) and the co-author of “Iranian Influence in the Levant, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2008, with Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan).

Maseh Zarif is the research manager and Iran team lead for AEI’s Critical Threats Project, which researches and analyzes key and emerging U.S. national security issues. His research focuses on the security threat posed by Iran, particularly its regional activities and nuclear program, and on Iran’s internal politics. He has written on Iran and related regional issues for The Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, National Review Online, The Daily Caller and CNN. He is a member of the Foreign Policy Initiative’s Future Leaders Program for 2011–12. Before joining AEI, Mr. Zarif worked as a financial analyst and consultant in the private sector.

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  • Maseh Zarif is the deputy director and Iran research Team Lead for the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project. He works on national security issues related to the Middle East and South Asia, with a particular focus on Iran’s nuclear program and its regional activities. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review Online, and Foreign Policy, among others, and has appeared on CNN and Fox. Before joining AEI, he worked for several years in corporate finance as an analyst and a consultant.

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