Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been a critical challenge for American policymakers, turning from friend to foe overnight. In the ensuing four decades, nearly every American president has had an Iran-related crisis help define his presidency. Over the course of the seminar, fellows will gain a clear understanding of the history of America’s relationship with Iran and take an in-depth look at the ideological nature of the Iranian regime. They will delve into the challenges the regime presents to the United States, from its nuclear program to its regional ambitions to its oil diplomacy.

Taught by leading scholars in the field, SSS will consist of 15 evening sessions that meet from September-May and will afford participating fellows an opportunity to gain a breadth of knowledge on critical subjects, forge relationships with senior scholars and practitioners, sharpen analytical frameworks through written and oral arguments, and build a cohort with their peers. Through the lens of strategic competition with Iran, fellows will examine:

  • What are our goals and how do we achieve them?

  • What does the strategic competition look like? What are we competing over?

  • What do we need to understand about our adversary in order to achieve our goals?

Images from Official website of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Michael Doran on America, Israel, & the Middle East

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

Assigned Reading:


Discussion Questions:

  1. We are in a competition with China, Iran, and Russia. We compete in order to win. What does winning the competition mean?
  2. What do we need to understand about ourselves in order to develop an appropriate strategy for competing with China, Iran, and Russia?
  3. What can we learn from our most recent great power competition with the Soviet Union that is relevant to our current competition?

Assigned Readings:


Discussion Questions:

  1. How would the crisis have been resolved had the CIA not intervened?
  2. Was 1953 really the hinge year that it is made out to be for the future of Iran, namely did it make the 1979 revolution inevitable?
  3. What were the objectives of the shah’s foreign policy?
  4. Can the shah really be described as an ally of the United States?

Assigned Readings:


Discussion Questions:

  1. Why can’t the Islamic Republic politically evolve into a non-revolutionary political system, let alone a democracy?
  2. Why do Westerners always want to see hopeful signs within the theocracy, transforming men who were never ‘moderates’, at least not by a Western definition, into men who want to reach a modus vivendi with the West?
  3. Why did the reform movement behind the election of Mohammad Khatami fail in 1997 so spectacularly?


About the Security & Strategy Seminars

In partnership with the Alexander Hamilton Society and the Public Interest Fellowship, we are pleased to sponsor in-depth educational opportunities for public policy professionals in Washington, DC. Ideal candidates are 25- to 35-year old professionals working in national security and foreign policy institutions and organizations, such as government, academia, think-tanks, media, defense and intelligence communities, etc.

About the Alexander Hamilton Society

The Alexander Hamilton Society is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit, national organization that seeks to identify, educate, and launch young men and women into foreign policy and national security careers imbued with the Hamiltonian perspective of strong and principled American leadership in global affairs.

About the Public Interest Fellowship

The Public Interest Fellowship provides exceptional young men and women with professional opportunities and a continuing education in the tradition of freedom. The unique combination of work and study is designed to advance fellows’ pursuit of careers devoted to enriching the political and cultural life of the United States.

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