This weekend’s news of a downed US drone over Iran was just the latest episode in what my colleague Tom Donnelly has described as a “low-level war” between Washington and Tehran. As Iran inches closer to a nuclear-weapons capability—Greg Jones from the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center has estimated that Iran could produce the highly enriched uranium needed for a nuclear weapon within two months—the prospect of a new geopolitical geometry in the greater Middle East looms large. Further, the spate of Iranian activity of recent months—from the abortive assassination of the Saudi Ambassador on American soil to the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran—indicates that the trend-line of Iranian misbehavior may be heading in the wrong direction. And, given the signals emanating from the White House, from an accelerated drawdown from Afghanistan, to the complete withdrawal from Iraq this year and slashed defense budgets, this should perhaps not come as a surprise.
Despite this pattern of Iranian behavior—a pattern likely only to worsen with a nuclear option—many seem resigned to a strategy of containing and deterring Iran. But what would containing and deterring Iran look like, and what would it require? In a report set for release tomorrow, Tom Donnelly, Dany Pletka, and Maseh Zarif will examine possible containment options. This promises to be a valuable addition to literature on American strategy in the Persian Gulf, and, even more, a contribution to a debate in Washington where many have decided on a strategy they have not scrutinized or explored fully. Tomorrow, the report will be unveiled in an event on Capitol Hill featuring the authors on a panel moderated by Fred Kagan as well as a keynote by Senator Mark Kirk, co-author of the most recent legislation on Iran-sanctions.