Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran poses the most serious and urgent set of security challenges to the United States and its allies in the greater Middle East. Since the Khomeini revolution in 1979, Iran has sought to export its radical ideology through the use of terrorism, subversion, and support to ideological fellow-travelers throughout the Muslim world.
“I don't believe we will be secure unless Iran changes.”
British Prime Minister Tony Blair
The situation is made more complicated by Tehran's pursuit of nuclear fuel enrichment in defiance of repeated UN Security Council resolutions and its failure to answer questions posed by international inspectors; the heightened level of U.S. and allied vulnerability, especially in Iraq; and the increasing power inside Iran of hardliners committed to a revolutionary agenda.
Meanwhile, the Iranian political scene remains difficult for Americans to understand, with complicated internal battles among the regime's supporters and clear indications that most Iranians want a more democratic and open society.
The Washington Institute's Iran Security Initiative aims to generate critical analysis, private dialogue, public debate, and operational recommendations designed to address these issues. The Institute has been a central player in national security debates regarding Iran for more than two decades. Its work on Iran is led by Dr. Patrick Clawson, the Institute's deputy director for research and a fluent Farsi speaker who has written or edited more than a dozen books and monographs.
Michael Eisenstadt, a Washington Institute senior fellow and director of the Institute's Military and Security Studies Program, brings to the Iran Security Initiative practical military experience from service in U.S. Central Command as a reserve army officer. He has authored several seminal works on U.S. Iran policy that were widely regarded as ahead of their time, including "Living with a Nuclear Iran?" (Survival, Autumn 1999) and "The Challenges of Preventive Military Action" (Army War College, 2004).
Mehdi Khalaji is a former Shiite religious cleric who left years of study in Qom -- home to Iran's many religious seminaries -- to become a journalist; he has authored several Policy Focus papers for The Washington Institute, including Apocalyptic Politics: On the Rationality of Iranian Policy.