Carnegie Corporation-Supported Peace Fellows Help Set Agendas on Two Vital Security Issues: Iran and the Nuclear Security Summit

Grantees in this story

Two recent reports, authored in part by scholars supported by the Carnegie Corporation-funded Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship, have helped to focus international dialogues around issues that present pressing challenges to both the U.S. and the wider international community: how to engage with Iran and its nuclear ambitions and, in a similar vein, how to view the potential outcomes of the Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul, March 26-27. 

Iran in Perspective: Holding Iran to Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology published by the Henry L. Stimson Center, an influential national security think tank, suggests that engaging Iran on shared interests in Afghanistan can help improve United States-Iran relations and maximise the chances for stability in the country following the withdrawal of U.S.-led combat forces by 2014. 

The United States and Iran have been at loggerheads since the birth of the Islamic Republic 33 years ago, but the two nations have never seemed as close to a major military conflict as they have since the beginning of 2012, write co-authors Barry Blechman, Founder and Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center and R. Taj Moore, a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Stimson Center. While Iran's leaders claim that their nuclear program is designed solely for peaceful purposes, concerns on the part of the U.S. and many other nations that Iran’s focus is actually on producing nuclear weapons seem to be coming to a boil.  

In their report, Blechman and Moore review developments in the Middle East between 2010 and early 2012, and provide recommendations about how the U.S. can persuade Iran to negotiate limitations on its nuclear program that can hold it reliably short of a weapons capability without instigating a new war in the Middle East. The report also reviews the status of Iran's nuclear and missile programs, the effects of sanctions and other coercive measures, the impact of internal politics in Iran and the U.S. on the state of the two nations’ current and future  relationship, and, most importantly, the populist movements that are transforming governance and alliances in North Africa and the Middle East, with particular emphasis on the continuing struggle in Syria.  

In the report’s summary, the authors write that their prescriptions are founded on the observation that the conflict between the U.S. and Iran predates and goes well beyond the nuclear issue—indeed, that it is really a consequence of more fundamental differences between the two states. Iran’s unrelenting hostility to Israel, its efforts to undermine neighboring Arab governments friendly to the US, and its goal of ejecting US-military forces from the region all challenge fundamental American interests. 

On a related subject, an independent report, The Nuclear Security Summit: Assessment of National Commitments, has been released by the Arms Control Association and Partnership for Global Security in advance of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, where leaders from 53 countries and four international organizations will meet. One of the objectives for the Seoul summit is to assess the progress that has been made since leaders endorsed the goal of securing all nuclear materials at the first summit in April 2010. At the Washington summit, leaders signed on to a consensus work plan and communiqué which focused on achieving these objectives. In addition, 30 countries made 67 specific national commitments designed to enhance the global nuclear security regime. It is these national commitments that are assessed in the report. 

The Nuclear Security Summit report finds that states are on track to meet most of the national commitments they made in 2010 to improve the security of nuclear-weapons usable materials worldwide, but that more work, political will, and financial resources are still required to address the ongoing challenge of safeguarding nuclear material. While these achievements are laudable, says Kelsey Davenport, a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Arms Control Association and co-author of the report, and countries should be commended for following through on their pledges of action, it is important to emphasize that much work remains to secure fissile materials and prevent nuclear terrorism. Even completing 100 percent of the national commitments offered at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit will not meet the goal of securing nuclear materials world-wide. Global nuclear security is a long term process that must grow and adapt to new threats. The national commitments made so far represent only a small fraction of the work that needs to be done. 

The Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship, supported in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York, is a highly-competitive national fellowship program that provides college graduates and graduate students with the opportunity to gain a Washington perspective on key issues of peace and security. Twice yearly, the Fellowship's Board of Directors selects a group of outstanding individuals to spend six-to -nine months in Washington. Supported by a salary, the fellows serve as full-time junior staff members at the participating organization of their choice. The program also arranges meetings for the fellows with policy experts. Many former Scoville Fellows have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in international relations and related fields and taken prominent positions in the field of peace and security with public-interest organizations, the federal government, and in academia.  

About Carnegie Corporation of New York 

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation’s work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy.