Which Path to Persia?: Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran

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Crafting a new policy toward Iran is a complicated, uncertain, and perilous challenge. Since it is an extremely complex society, with an opaque political system, it is no wonder that the United States has not yet figured out the puzzle that is Iran. With the clock ticking on Iran's pursuit of nuclear capabilities, solving this puzzle is more urgent than ever.

In Which Path to Persia? a group of experts with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings lays out the courses of action available to the United States. What are the benefits and drawbacks of airstrikes? Can engagement be successful? Is regime change possible? In answering such questions, the authors do not argue for one approach over another. Instead, they present the details of the policies so that readers can understand the complexity of the challenge and decide for themselves which course the United States should take.

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About the author

Kenneth M. Pollack is director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. His books include A Path out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East (Random House). Daniel L. Byman is a senior fellow at the Saban Center, director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, and author of The Five Front War: The Better Way to Fight Global Jihad (Wiley). Martin Indyk is director of the Saban Center, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, and the author of Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East (Simon & Schuster). Suzanne Maloney is a senior fellow at the Saban Center. She has worked on the State Department's Policy Planning Staff where she provided analysis of Middle East issues. Michael E. O'Hanlon is a senior fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at Brookings and author of Budgeting for Hard Power (Brookings).

Saban Center Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel served as chairman of President Obama's Strategic Review of U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan and is the author of The Search for al Qaeda (Brookings).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Oct 1, 2009
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Pages
241
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ISBN
9780815703792
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / International Relations / Diplomacy
Political Science / International Relations / General
Political Science / Security (National & International)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Kenneth M. Pollack
Even the most seasoned Middle East observers were taken aback by the events of early 2011. Protests born of oppression and socioeconomic frustration erupted throughout the streets; public unrest provoked violent police backlash; long-established dictatorships fell. How did this all happen? What might the future look like, and what are the likely ramifications for the United States and the rest of the world? In The Arab Awakening, experts from the Brookings Institution tackle such questions to make sense of this tumultuous region that remains at the heart of U.S. national interests.

The first portion of The Arab Awakening offers broad lessons by analyzing key aspects of the Mideast turmoil, such as public opinion trends within the "Arab Street"; the role of social media and technology; socioeconomic and demographic conditions; the influence of Islamists; and the impact of the new political order on the Arab-Israeli peace process.

The next section looks at the countries themselves, finding commonalties and grouping them according to the political evolutions that have (or have not) occurred in each country. The section offers insight into the current situation, and possible trajectory of each group of countries, followed by individual nation studies.

The Arab Awakening brings the full resources of Brookings to bear on making sense of what may turn out to be the most significant geopolitical movement of this generation. It is essential reading for anyone looking to understand these developments and their consequences.

Tim Marshall
In this New York Times bestseller, updated for 2016, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers—“fans of geography, history, and politics (and maps) will be enthralled” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

Maps have a mysterious hold over us. Whether ancient, crumbling parchments or generated by Google, maps tell us things we want to know, not only about our current location or where we are going but about the world in general. And yet, when it comes to geo-politics, much of what we are told is generated by analysts and other experts who have neglected to refer to a map of the place in question.

All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. In “one of the best books about geopolitics” (The Evening Standard), now updated to include 2016 geopolitical developments, journalist Tim Marshall examines Russia, China, the US, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Greenland and the Arctic—their weather, seas, mountains, rivers, deserts, and borders—to provide a context often missing from our political reportage: how the physical characteristics of these countries affect their strengths and vulnerabilities and the decisions made by their leaders.

Offering “a fresh way of looking at maps” (The New York Times Book Review), Marshall explains the complex geo-political strategies that shape the globe. Why is Putin so obsessed with Crimea? Why was the US destined to become a global superpower? Why does China’s power base continue to expand? Why is Tibet destined to lose its autonomy? Why will Europe never be united? The answers are geographical. “In an ever more complex, chaotic, and interlinked world, Prisoners of Geography is a concise and useful primer on geopolitics” (Newsweek) and a critical guide to one of the major determining factors in world affairs.
Martin S. Indyk
By the time of Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States, he had already developed an ambitious foreign policy vision. By his own account, he sought to bend the arc of history toward greater justice, freedom, and peace; within a year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, largely for that promise.

In Bending History, Martin Indyk, Kenneth Lieberthal, and Michael O'Hanlon measure Obama not only against the record of his predecessors and the immediate challenges of the day, but also against his own soaring rhetoric and inspiring goals. Bending History assesses the considerable accomplishments as well as the failures and seeks to explain what has happened.

Obama's best work has been on major and pressing foreign policy challenges—counterterrorism policy, including the daring raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden; the "reset" with Russia; managing the increasingly significant relationship with China; and handling the rogue states of Iran and North Korea. Policy on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however, has reflected serious flaws in both strategy and execution. Afghanistan policy has been plagued by inconsistent messaging and teamwork. On important "softer" security issues—from energy and climate policy to problems in Africa and Mexico—the record is mixed. As for his early aspiration to reshape the international order, according greater roles and responsibilities to rising powers, Obama's efforts have been well-conceived but of limited effectiveness.

On issues of secondary importance, Obama has been disciplined in avoiding fruitless disputes (as with Chavez in Venezuela and Castro in Cuba) and insisting that others take the lead (as with Qaddafi in Libya). Notwithstanding several missteps, he has generally managed well the complex challenges of the Arab awakenings, striving to strike the right balance between U.S. values and interests.

The authors see Obama's foreign policy to date as a triumph of discipline and realism over ideology. He has been neither the transformative beacon his devotees have wanted, nor the weak apologist for America that his critics allege. They conclude that his grand strategy for promoting American interests in a tumultuous world may only now be emerging, and may yet be curtailed by conflict with Iran. Most of all, they argue that he or his successor will have to embrace U.S. economic renewal as the core foreign policy and national security challenge of the future.

Michael E. O'Hanlon
In this new Brookings Marshall Paper, Michael O’Hanlon argues that now is the time for Western nations to negotiate a new security architecture for neutral countries in eastern Europe to stabilize the region and reduce the risks of war with Russia. He believes NATO expansion has gone far enough. The core concept of this new security architecture would be one of permanent neutrality. The countries in question collectively make a broken-up arc, from Europe’s far north to its south: Finland and Sweden; Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus; Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan; and finally Cyprus plus Serbia, as well as possibly several other Balkan states. Discussion on the new framework should begin within NATO, followed by deliberation with the neutral countries themselves, and then formal negotiations with Russia.

The new security architecture would require that Russia, like NATO, commit to help uphold the security of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and other states in the region. Russia would have to withdraw its troops from those countries in a verifiable manner; after that, corresponding sanctions on Russia would be lifted. The neutral countries would retain their rights to participate in multilateral security operations on a scale comparable to what has been the case in the past, including even those operations that might be led by NATO. They could think of and describe themselves as Western states (or anything else, for that matter). If the European Union and they so wished in the future, they could join the EU. They would have complete sovereignty and self-determination in every sense of the word. But NATO would decide not to invite them into the alliance as members. Ideally, these nations would endorse and promote this concept themselves as a more practical way to ensure their security than the current situation or any other plausible alternative.

Michael E. O'Hanlon
How to stabilize the security relationship between Washington and Beijing.

The U.S.-China relationship has not always been smooth, but since Richard Nixon’s opening in the early 1970s, the two countries have evolved a relationship that has been generally beneficial to both parties. Economic engagement and a diplomatic partnership together with robust trade and investment relations, among other activities, have meant a peaceful context for reform and China’s rise, helping to lift millions of Chinese out of poverty and giving the PRC incentive to work within the U.S.-led global order.

The logic of the relationship, however, is now open to serious debate on both sides of the Pacific. After a period of American preoccupation with the Middle East, President Obama attempted a rebalancing of U.S. interests toward the Asia-Pacific region. With the Trump administration in office, the U.S.-China relationship appears to be at a crossroads: does it continue to focus on constructive engagement and managing differences, or prepare for a new era of rivalry and conflict?

Here, following up on their 2014 book, Strategic Reassurance and Resolve, the authors provide a more balanced assessment of the current state of relations and suggest measures that could help stabilize the security relationship, without minimizing the very real problems that both Beijing and Washington must address. The authors are hopeful, but are also under no illusions about the significance of the challenges now posed to the bilateral relationship, as well as regional order, by the rise of China and the responses of America together with its allies.

Michael E. O'Hanlon
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