Fellow Discusses Iran Relations

Robert J. Reardon, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, discussed the effectiveness of various foreign policy strategies for addressing nuclear proliferation in Iran on Thursday afternoon at the International Security Program’s first brown bag seminar of the year.

Nearly 50 professors, students, and other Harvard Kennedy School affiliates attended Reardon’s seminar, “Containing Iran: Why the Taboo Policy of Containment May Be the Right One,” in the Belfer Center Library.

Reardon, a specialist in nuclear nonproliferation policy, received his Ph.D. in political science from MIT and served as a nuclear security fellow at the Rand Corporation’s Washington office before coming to the Belfer Center.

Reardon began by pointing out misconceptions about the strategy of containment, the definition of which he thinks has been distorted in America’s political dialogue.

Reardon defined a strategy of containment as “preserving the status quo and preventing aggression rather than directly challenging or attacking an adversary.” He said that his research focuses on methods of positive inducement and coercion to encourage Iran to end its nuclear program.

“Iran has crossed a technological threshold [in that] acquiring weapons becomes a political question much more than a technological one,” Reardon said in his presentation.

While some in the U.S. and Israel have called for military strikes to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, Reardon explained that he believes this is a delaying tactic instead of a real solution.

In an interview after his presentation, Reardon said that politicians have turned Iran into “an extremely urgent issue in that the U.S. has to act in the very short term to avoid catastrophic consequences.” But he suggested that the imminence of this threat has been exaggerated because “it’s easy to make political hay out of it.”

The seminar was based off of Reardon’s book of a similar name—“Containing Iran: Strategies for Addressing the Iranian Nuclear Challenge”—which was released on Thursday by the Rand Corporation. Reardon’s presentation was the first in this academic year’s series of weekly seminars put on by the International Security Program’s fellows.

According to Susan Lynch, the program assistant for the International Security Program, the lunches can be a chance for fellows to receive feedback on ongoing or recently completed projects.

“He took on a controversial issue and I think he did a good job,” said Annie Tracy Samuel, a second-year research fellow at the Belfer Center. “But with this sort of issue there are always more questions to consider.”