Curbing the Iran Nuclear Crisis

A New Strategy for Action

CAP’s Joseph Cirincione and Andrew Grotto propose a strategy to combine containment with diplomacy to curb Iran’s enrichment of uranium.

There is no simple solution for solving the Iranian nuclear crisis, and little reason for America to have confidence in current U.S. strategy, which has failed to roll back Iran’s accelerating nuclear program over the past six years.

The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and Middle East and South Asia will hold a joint oversight hearing tomorrow to hear testimony on these issues and discuss possible next steps in Iran.

The Center for American Progress last month released a new report, “Contain and Engage: A New Strategy for Resolving the Nuclear Crisis with Iran,” which assesses the basic policy options for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program and identifies a policy of “contain and engage” as the strategy most likely to constrain Iran’s nuclear program.

The authors, CAP’s Joseph Cirincione and Andrew Grotto, argue that United States must remind Iran of the potential benefits of cooperation as well as the escalating costs of failure to comply with its nonproliferation obligations. Rather than pursue the faint hope that coercive measures will force Iran’s capitulation, our contain-and-engage strategy couples the pressures created by sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and investment freezes with practical compromises and realizable security assurances to encourage Iran onto a verifiable, non-nuclear weapons path.

Containing Iran requires the United States to continue to put the squeeze on Iran as long as it enriches uranium. The United States must work with its allies and partners to restrict Iran’s access to nuclear and missile technologies and invest in new and existing security and nonproliferation initiatives. The United States must prepare smart military options to thwart any offensive Iranian military activities, reassure allies in the region that the United States remains committed to their security, and lay the diplomatic groundwork for a long-term strategy of containing Iran should negotiations totally break down.

Engaging Iran means breaking the diplomatic stalemate over Iran’s defiance of the Security Council, talking to Iran without preconditions, being willing to address Iran’s security concerns in exchange for Iran addressing ours, and identifying economic “carrots” that will spark a debate among the Iranian people over the choice being presented to their leaders. The CAP report identifies one such carrot as U.S. support for foreign investment in Iran’s gasoline refinery sector.

The CAP report focuses on rolling back Iran’s enrichment program, but it is not a comprehensive long-term strategy for dealing with all aspects of Iranian foreign policy. The contain-and-engage strategy would, however, position the United States to more effectively tackle a broader range of issues with Iran and shore up global efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Contain-and-engage also lays the groundwork for a long-term containment strategy in case diplomacy fails.

For more information on this strategy, see:

· Contain and Engage: A New Strategy for Resolving the Nuclear Crisis with Iran

Additional Resources:

· Flow chart depicting the five options in Iran

· Nuclear fuel production schematic

· Timeline of Iran’s nuclear growth from 1967-1990

· Timeline of Iran’s nuclear growth from 1990-2015

· Joseph Cirincione and Andrew Grotto discuss the report (

To contact Joseph Cirincione or Andrew Grotto:

For TV, Sean Gibbons, Director of Media Strategy 202.682.1611 or For radio, Theo LeCompte, Media Strategy Manager 202.741.6268 or For print, Trevor Kincaid, Deputy Press Secretary 202.741.6273 or For web, Erin Lindsay, Online Marketing Manager 202.741.6397 or

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