Good strategy requires the identification of an achievable objective that can be obtained at a reasonable cost. President Obama and his senior officials have done exactly that with respect to Iran. President Obama has repeatedly said that America’s overriding strategic objective is to “prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” This is a clear strategic objective that with honest effort on both sides is reasonably attainable through diplomatic means.
President Obama in his recent address to the United Nations reiterated his strategic goal of prevention, endorsed Iran’s right to a civilian nuclear program, and sought to reassure Iranian leaders that regime change was not the goal of U.S. policy. Meanwhile, recently elected Iranian President Rouhani has pledged to provide additional transparency in order to reassure the international community that Iranian nuclear programs and technologies are indeed purely civilian in nature. In these public statements both leaders have thus sketched the broad outlines of a mutually acceptable deal. Iran secures international acceptance of a limited civilian nuclear program in exchange for enhanced inspections that ensure these activities are not diverted to military purposes. Formulating a detailed step-by-step plan for easing sanctions tied to specific Iranian actions is the next critical step in filling out this strategic diplomatic option.