Erasing the Leverage Deficit: How to Keep Tehran from the Bomb

If it is not already, Iran is on course to soon become a nuclear threshold state, with a potentially undetectable capacity to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in a matter of weeks. It has reached this dangerous tipping point at the exact same time as the future of Biden administration efforts to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are most uncertain. After months of stalling, Iran claims it might return to negotiations at some undeclared time, perhaps in November. Meanwhile, administration officials have suggested their patience is running out and that, should diplomacy fail, a “Plan B” might be required—without specifying either the timing or nature of their backup strategy.

Recommendations for the United States include:
  • Statements emphasizing readiness to use all elements of national power to prevent a nuclear Iran;
  • Updated contingency planning for operations against Iran and its proxies
  • Enhanced regional force posture, including deploying strategic bombers and massive ordnance penetrators (MOP) to Diego Garcia.
To strengthen Israel’s freedom of action, Washington should:
  • Provide Israel with adequate stockpiles of precision guided munitions (PGMs);
  • Expedite transfer of KC-46A aerial refueling tankers, F-35 multi-mission aircraft, and CH-53K heavy lift and SH-60/MH-60 multi-mission helicopters, and fast-track efforts to sell or transfer F-15 fighter aircraft; and
  • Ensure Israel has adequate air defense systems and interceptor stockpiles.
To reinforce regional diplomatic and strategic ties against Iran, the United States should:
  • Promote interoperability among U.S. partner forces via maritime security and air defense and;
  • Conclude the agreement to sell F-35 to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), subject to appropriate end-use monitoring.

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Iran Policy Project Co-Chairmen

Ambassador Eric Edelman
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

General Charles Wald, USAF (ret.)
Former Deputy Commander of United States European Command

Iran Policy Project Members

VADM John Bird, USN (ret.)
Former Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet

General James Conway, USMC (ret.)
Former Commandant of the Marine Corps

Lt Gen David Deptula, USAF (ret.)
Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, U.S. Air Force Headquarters

Larry Goldstein
Founder and Director of Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc.

Lt Gen Henry Obering, USAF (ret.)
Former Director of the Missile Defense Agency

Steve Rademaker
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control and Nonproliferation

Maj Gen Lawrence Stutzriem, USAF (ret.)
Former Director, Plans, Policy and Strategy at North American Aerospace Defense Command

Ray Takeyh
Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Roger Zakheim
Former General Counsel and Deputy Staff Director of U.S. House Armed Services Committee