The Middle East Institute is proud to host Georgetown University professor Paul Pillar for a discussion about Iran and how best to address its nuclear ambitions. Pillar argues that the acceptable range of opinion on Iran has narrowed around the idea that all options, including a military strike, must be pursued to prevent the country from acquiring nuclear weapons. And yet, Pillar argues, if the combination of nuclear talks and sanctions do not yield the outcome the West and Israel seek, containment is preferable to war. A war with Iran, he believes, could be worse than the conjectured consequences of an Iranian bomb. Atlantic Council fellow Barbara Slavin will respond, posing the question of whether President Obama's position precludes a containment strategy or is part of an attempt to dissuade Iran from actually building a nuclear weapon.
Paul Pillar is director of Graduate Studies and a core faculty member of the Security Studies Program Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS). Professor Pillar retired in 2005 from a 28-year career in the U.S. intelligence community, in which his last position was national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia. Earlier he served in a variety of analytical and managerial positions, including as chief of analytic units at the CIA covering portions of the Near East, the Persian Gulf, and South Asia. Professor Pillar also served in the National Intelligence Council as one of the original members of its Analytic Group. He has been executive assistant to CIA's deputy director fori ntelligence and executive assistant to Director of Central Intelligence William Webster. He has also headed the Assessments and Information Group of the DCI Counterterrorist Center, and from 1997 to 1999 was deputy chief of the center. He was a Federal Executive Fellow at the Brookings Institution in 1999-2000. Professor Pillar is a retired officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and served on active duty in 1971-1973, including a tour of duty in Vietnam.
Barbara Slavin is is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center and Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor.com, a new website devoted to news from and about the Middle East. The author of a 2007 book, Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation, she is a regular commentator on U.S. foreign policy and Iran on NPR, PBS and C-SPAN. A career journalist, Slavin previously served as assistant managing editor for world and national security of The Washington Times, senior diplomatic reporter for USA TODAY, Cairo correspondent for The Economist and as an editor at The New York Times Week in Review. She has covered such key foreign policy issues as the U.S.-led war on terrorism and in Iraq, policy toward "rogue" states, the Iran-Iraq war, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. She has traveled to Iran seven times and was the first U.S. newspaper reporter to interview Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Slavin also served as a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she wrote Bitter Friends, and as a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where she researched and wrote the report "Mullahs, Money and Militias: How Iran Exerts Its Influence in the Middle East"