After having come tantalizingly close to a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program last weekend, the White House is dispatching senior administration officials to Capitol Hill to head off a new round of stiff sanctions. Amid accelerating negotiations with Tehran, AEI’s Danielle Pletka and Maseh Zarif hosted a video conversation with the Brookings Institution’s Robert Einhorn to analyze the agreement under consideration.
Given Iran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium and operational centrifuges, Zarif argued that the putative concessions listed in the current agreement would stop short of rolling back Iran’s program. He posited that the Obama administration’s efforts to “put the issue to bed” would effectively cede Iran’s nuclear weapons capability.
Disputing Zarif’s assessment, Einhorn said the administration’s true aim is to freeze the program while working toward a final agreement. Because the Iranian regime has skillfully framed enrichment as a matter of national sovereignty, Einhorn believes that maximalist proposals are counterproductive.
Pletka credited the Obama administration with the right intentions, but impugned the wisdom of its methods. Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons capability, she concluded, has changed America’s bottom line, yielding suboptimal outcomes.
After talks in Geneva to constrain Iran’s nuclear program stumbled over the weekend, negotiators are back to the drawing board. Given Iran’s flirtations with breakout capability, the endless rounds of talks are not cost free; the outcome could shape the contours of the Middle East for decades to come.
Can an agreement between Iran and world powers live up to expectations? What are the elements of a deal that would protect American interests and those of its allies in the region? Can the White House afford to ease sanctions in exchange for concrete Iranian concessions? And has Iranian President Hassan Rouhani managed to change his regime’s strategic calculus?
Join scholars from AEI and the Brookings Institution for a lively discussion of these questions and others.
Robert Einhorn, Brookings Institution
Danielle Pletka, AEI
Maseh Zarif, AEI
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Robert Einhorn is a senior fellow with the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Initiative and the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, both housed within the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution. During his career at the US Department of State, Einhorn served as assistant secretary for nonproliferation during the Clinton administration and as the secretary of state’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control during the Obama administration. At Brookings, Einhorn concentrates on arms control, nonproliferation and regional security issues (including Iran, the greater Middle East, South Asia, and Northeast Asia), and US nuclear weapons policies.
Danielle Pletka was a long-time US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia. In that role, Pletka was the point person on the Middle East, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel, and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia (Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan). She is the coeditor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the coauthor of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011). Her most recent study, “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan,” was published in May 2012. She is currently working on a follow-up report on US–Iranian competitive strategies in the Middle East, to be published in the summer of 2013.
Maseh Zarif is the deputy director and Iran research team lead for AEI’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.