Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Harvard KSG Iran simulation

The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University recently held a simulation examining Iran and the nuclear weapons issue, with the key roles played by a rather impressive list of former officials and subject matter experts.  The Israeli paper Haaretz has a quite extensive summary of the outcome:

Haaretz, 10 December 2009


Experts say Iran has clear path to nuclear weapons

By Yossi Melman

Last week the Harvard Kennedy School held a simulation game of the Iranian nuclear crisis, and Israel should be very concerned about its course and its outcome.

The game made it clear: Iran will not stop on its path to producing nuclear weapons. The United States will not embark on a military action and will find it difficult to enlist support at the United Nations for imposing more severe sanctions, while relations between Israel and the United States will deteriorate.

Prof. Graham Allison, a leading analyst of American security policy for decades, conducted the game, whose participants were representatives from countries and organizations likely to be affected by the real outcome.

Israel was represented by Dore Gold, former ambassador to the United Nations, and Dr. Shai Feldman, currently at Brandeis University, and by a former brigadier general and a nuclear physicist. Their decisions were made by consensus. The U.S. team, headed by Nicholas Burns, who was an assistant to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice during the administration of George W. Bush and was responsible for the “Iranian portfolio,” included Admiral William Fallon, head of U.S. Central Command from 2007-2008.

Iran was represented by Prof. Gary Sick of Columbia University, who was a member of the U.S. National Security Council under Jimmy Carter.

Also participating were American and European academics (some of them former government officials), representing Russia, China, U.K., France and Germany and the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar). Also present as observers – the game lasted an entire day – were journalists David Ignatius of the Washington Post and David Singer of The New York Times, who “played” the media. All the participants promised to maintain secrecy about the game and not to reveal the identity of the participants, but details have leaked in the United States and now here as well.

Conclusions: The U.S. will not attack Iran. Russia and China will not agree to imposing serious sanctions. The U.S. will pressure Israel to prevent it from attacking Iran, and so a serious crisis is liable to develop between the two countries. Under these circumstances and in view of operational capability, Israel does not in effect have a real option of attacking Iran. If it so desires, Iran can produce nuclear weapons.

You’ll also find a report on the simulation from David Ignatius of the Washington Post (one of the participants) here.

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