On July 14-15, the Saban Center at Brookings and the United States Central Command partnered for the first time to convene a joint conference, “Iran’s Quest for Regional Preeminence: Implications for Middle East Security.” Over one-hundred-and-fifty participants came together to analyze developments in Iran, including Iran’s support of terrorist groups, Iran’s foreign policy, and the Iranian nuclear program.
Iran has been at the forefront of U.S. national security concerns for the past thirty years. Yet, for the past three decades the United States has had limited contact with Iran’s leaders and has found it difficult to grasp the opaque workings of the regime. The momentous events since June 12, 2009 have compounded the challenge, and have made clear the importance of understanding better the Iranian landscape. The conference therefore aimed to foster discussion on the implications of the events of the past thirty years and of the past sixty days on U.S. national security priorities.
Much of the conference focused on discussing “tradeoffs”—what the United States should and should not be willing to give up in order to gain something in return. A particular point of discussion in the conference was whether the United States should halt engagement with the Iranian regime so as not to undercut the reformists or pursue this policy option because the “nuclear clock” is ticking quickly.