A new case for containment in Iran – moving beyond the status quo

This event, hosted by UK think tank the Henry Jackson Society, will discuss where we are in relation to Iran strategy, and where we might yet be able to head.

Despite many calls for reforms in Iran, the Opposition – both in and out of the country – has failed as a collective force to garner enough traction to manifest any tangible progress. Not only that but none of the internal proponents for change have been able thus far to mobilise international support for their platforms. Considering Iran’s new-found belligerence and the reality of Tehran’s expansionist policies in the MENA region, it stands to reason we now look at alternative approaches allowing for greater freedoms for Iran’s people.

As it were, Iran’s geography and ethnic make-up offer an opportunity we have yet to explore to push against the very forces within the regime which have threatened regional stability. As the world moves away from military interventionism to favour instead normalisation, there may be another option we have yet to consider in relation to Iran: hybrid containment.

Democracy need not be a distant dream for millions of Iranians if only we were to reframe our approach and look to encourage an approach that favours containment of the Iranian regime itself, but promotion of its people, in all their regional, religious and ethnic diversity.

The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to gather a panel of experts to discuss where we are in relation to Iran strategy, and where we might yet be able to head.


Jason Brodsky is currently the policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). Previously, he was senior Middle East analyst and editor at Iran International TV. From 2013-16, he served in a variety of capacities at the Wilson Center, including as special assistant (research/writing) to the Director, President and CEO former Congresswoman Jane Harman; as a research associate in its Middle East Program; and as special advisor to Distinguished Fellow Aaron David Miller. Earlier in his career, Jason served as a fellow at the White House in the Executive Office of the President. His research specialties include leadership dynamics in Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Shiite militias, and U.S. Middle East policy. He also has experience with foreign policy communications and speechwriting.

Catherine Perez-Shakdam is a French Jewish political analyst and commentator for the Middle East. A former consultant for the United Nations Security Council on Yemen’s War Economy; her research was instrumental in better understanding Yemen’s political landscape and actors’ financial interests. Her writing and commentaries on the Middle East have graced the cover of countless publications, including the Huffington Post, BBC Arabic, BBC Persia, Voices of America, and the Times of Israel. In 2017 Catherine was the only Western media personality to have been granted an interview with now-President Ibrahim Raisi.

Alex Vatanka is the founding Director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute. He specializes in Middle Eastern regional security affairs with a particular focus on Iran. He was formerly a Senior Analyst at Jane’s Information Group in London. Alex is also a Senior Fellow in Middle East Studies at the US Air Force Special Operations School (USAFSOS) at Hurlburt Field and teaches as an Adjunct Professor at DISAS at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He has testified before the US Congress and lectured widely for both governmental and commercial audiences, including the US Departments of State and Defense, US intelligence agencies, and a list of international corporations.

Dr Burcu Ozcelik holds a PhD in Politics and an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge and subsequently held the prestigious Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the Department of Politics and International Studies where she taught Conflict, Peacebuilding, and the Politics of the Middle East. Dr Ozcelik’s research primarily focuses on the international relations of the Middle East, non-state armed actors and peacebuilding. She has extensive experience with Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Israel. Dr Ozcelik grew up mainly in the US and lived in numerous countries including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, China, Iraq, and Belgium before moving to Cambridge. She is a native English speaker and is fluent in Turkish.

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