The Challenge of Iran


As the Biden administration surveys the Middle East, one of its top priorities will be how to deal with the threats to the region posed by Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, which have continued to evolve since the US withdrew from the Joint Cooperative Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018. At the same time, relations between Israel and the Gulf Arab countries have improved dramatically with the Abraham Accords, which have led to diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. What conditions should the US place on Iran if the US is to rejoin the JCPOA? Will Iran be prepared to refreeze its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief? How will other countries react to US efforts to reengage in regional nuclear diplomacy?

The Center for the National Interest hosted a webinar discussion on February 18, 2021 to discuss the challenges the Biden administration faces in developing a coherent Middle East policy featuring a highly qualified panel of regional experts:

  • Gary Samore is Professor of the Practice of Politics and Director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University. He served in the U.S. government for over 20 years, focusing on nuclear arms control and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, especially in the Middle East. He served both President Clinton and President Obama as the senior official in the National Security Council responsible for nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 

  • Ellen Laipson is a Distinguished Fellow and President Emeritus of the Stimson Center. Earlier she served as Vice Chair of the National Intelligence Council and on the State Department’s policy planning staff. She worked at the Congressional Research Service on Middle East policy for more than a decade. She was also a member of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board from and the Secretary of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. 

  • Shai Feldman is the President of Sapir Academic College, the largest public college in Israel. He previously served as the Judith and Sidney Swartz Director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies and Professor of Politics at Brandeis University and is the author of several books on Israel and the politics of the Middle East.

  • Geoffrey Kemp, the Center’s Senior Director for Regional Security and a former Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs on the National Security Council Staff under President Reagan, will moderate the meeting.