Over the past 60 years the United States and Iran have found themselves at cross
purposes regarding conventional and nuclear energy issues, South/Central Asian
security concerns, and Iranian sovereignty. Initial work will involve using CIA
and State Department Country data to provide a broad understanding of Iran's place
in the world. Through a guided investigation of five selected historical events
students, working in groups, will determine the roots of conflict that divide
our two nations and assess potential areas of collaboration that could defuse
the nuclear problem. Following this development of the historical context, students
will discuss and develop a range of options for addressing the situation. Decision
making skills will be described and practiced enabling student policy makers to
get a sense of complexity and collaboration in government policy making. Students
will use resources from the Miller
Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia to assess their deliberations.
During the first class the teacher should provide students with
an overview of several aspects of Iran's national profile. You can print out or
point students to the State
Department and/or CIA
country data pages. If there is time, students can offer short presentations on
physical and human geography, resources, neighbors, infrastructure, economy, and
religious factors. Especially important will be to emphasize Iran's Persian/Shia
heritage in contrast to the previous Baathist regime in Iraq with the minority,
but powerful, Sunni.
Have a classroom discussion using the following guiding
- Who are Iran's neighbors and what challenges might
they present for Iran's security and vice versa?
- What has Iran's oil wealth
meant to Iran's development in the past 60 years?
- What economic challenges
does Iran face in the next decade?
Break students into five working
groups and assign one topic to each from the list. (This background
attachment provides guidance on the kind of meaning that could be extracted
from the student research.)
- British/US coup against the Mossadegh
regime in 1953
- The 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah.
The Iran/Iraq war during the 1980's
- The first Gulf War in 1991
The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent Iranian involvement
the attachment Case
Study Analysis to each group for a homework assignment. The intent of
this assignment is to identify stages in the development of the US/Iranian relationship
that shapes the nuclear disagreement today.
five groups present their findings to the class as a whole. Highlight the patterns
in US/Iranian behavior in the areas of: the search for Iranian sovereignty and
security, and regional dominance.
Two resources that would be very useful,
but depend on your students' time and reading level, are James Risen's April 16,
2000 article in the New York Times "Secrets
of History - The CIA in Iran", and Henry Kissinger's February 16, 2009
Newsweek opinion essay titled "Our
Nuclear Nightmare." The Kissinger article introduces the concepts of
nuclear proliferation and the dangers presented to regional and international
security with multiple nations in possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Note Israeli security concerns and their preemptive raid on Iraq's reactor and
the potential for such unilateral action against Iran. The case studies should
reveal that Iran has consistently sought regional hegemony, with nuclear weapons
as a way to assure sovereignty and to push back against their perceived foes.
students watch lesson one (7 minutes) of Robert McNamara in The
Fog of War (this link is a YouTube video but it can also easily available
for rent.) Ask the students to pay special attention to how this lesson pertains
to a nuclear armed Iran and what challenge that presents to US interests. What
does this lesson teach us?
Ask students to describe either individually,
or by working groups, what they would like to see happen in US/ Iranian relations
around the issue of nuclear weapons. (Note that this is the first step in
policy analysis - know what you want to accomplish.) From this the students will
develop a range of options that could achieve policy goals.
focus questions on the board to guide discussion:
- What are the
consequences of a nuclear armed Iran in this volatile region?
- Could Iran
and the US mutually deter each other from aggressive action if Iran has nuclear
weapons, or would it serve to embolden Iran to be more aggressive towards Israel,
or to perhaps extort concessions from the US?
- What role does US energy
security policy play in influencing Iranian nuclear decisions?
- What role
does Iran's Muslim heritage play in their decision making?
- Does Iran,
as they have claimed for decades, have an "inherent national right to nuclear
- Do you agree or disagree with the former Shah of Iran's
1977 statement that "no country has the right to dictate atomic policy to
- What role could Russia play in this situation? (The Russians
are distressed about the US installing an antimissile system in Eastern Europe.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is telling the Russians it is designed to protect
Europe and them from Iranian nuclear attack.)
Assign the Decision
Making Skills guide sheet for students to read for homework.
The final lesson will involve students developing a policy action plan that will
achieve the goal(s) identified in the previous class.
At the start of the
class review and clarify the ground rules for decision making. Class discussion,
based on working group input, will develop a series of action steps that can be
taken to achieve policy goals.
Have students compare their policy debate
and decision making to Professor John Owen's "The
Iran Debate" from the Miller
Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. Summarize the content
of Professor Owen's arguments pro and con regarding the debate resolution by writing
on the board: "America can not tolerate a nuclear Iran and must go to any
length to prevent it."
On the pro side Professor Owen notes four arguments:
- Iran could attack vital US interests in the Middle East and South Asia.
could seriously harm vital US interests by reshaping the Middle Eastern Order.
could transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists.
- Egypt and Saudi Arabia could
be provoked into obtaining nuclear weapons.
On the con side Professor
Owen notes two arguments:
- The use of US or Israeli force does more
harm than good.
- A nuclear Iran could serve as a stabilizing force.
the feasibility and logic of Iran as a stabilizing force given all of the publicity
given Iran over the past 8 years as part of the Axis of Evil.
The final step could either be a final consensus policy paper from the whole class
or individual student writings about the process and product of their deliberations
and the comparison of their discussion to the Iran White Paper.