A New Case for Containment in Iran – Moving Beyond the Status Quo

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A New Case for Containment in Iran – Moving Beyond the Status Quo

30th August 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

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.

Jason holds a B.A., summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Brandeis University; a J.D., cum laude, from the University of Miami School of Law; and an LL.M., with distinction, from the Georgetown University Law Center. His commentaries and essays have been featured in Foreign Affairs; Foreign Policy; The National Interest; Newsweek; The Wall Street Journal; The Hill; The Jerusalem Post; The Daily Beast; and on CNN.com. He is also frequently interviewed on TV for i24News, BBC Persian, and Voice of America.



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.

Her ability to move close to Iran’s Leadership and have access to key information as to the regime’s propagandist structure bought her the ire of Tehran and allegations that she had operated in Iran at the behest of foreign powers.

Once a close friend to Nader Talebzadeh, Catherine had a front row seat to the inner-workings of the Islamic Republic.



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.

Born in Tehran, he holds a BA in Political Science (Sheffield University, UK), and an MA in International Relations (Essex University, UK), and is fluent in Persian and Danish. He is the author of two books: “The Battle of the Ayatollahs in Iran: The United States, Foreign Policy and Political Rivalry Since 1979” (2021) and “Iran and Pakistan: Security, Diplomacy, and American Influence” (2015).

He has also written chapters for a number of books, including “Authoritarianism Goes Global” (2016); “Handbook on Contemporary Pakistan” (2017); “Russia in the Middle East” (2018), “Winning the Battle, Losing the War: Addressing the Drivers Fueling Armed Non-state Actors and Extremist Groups (2020); “Global, Regional and Local Dynamics in the Yemen Crisis.” (2020); “Routledge Handbook of Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations” (2021); and “Understanding New Proxy Wars” (2022). He is presently working on his third book “Iran’s Arab Strategy: Defending the Homeland or Exporting Khomeinism?”



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.

Prior to joining HJS, Dr Ozcelik was an associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and has previously worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Turkey and in civil society, focusing on democracy and human rights. In addition to her scholarly articles, Dr Ozcelik’s research has been widely published in journals including War on the Rocks, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs, New Lines Magazine, Middle East Eye, the Royal United Services Institute and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Dr Ozcelik also acted as contributing editor of The politics of race and racialisation in the Middle East (Routledge 2022) and authored An Analysis of Seyla Benhabib’s The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens (Routledge and Macat 2017).





The Henry Jackson Society was pleased to welcome Jason Brodsky, Alex Vatanka, and Catherine Perez-Shakdam for a discussion on the future of Iran strategy and the case for ‘containment’. Dr Burcu Ozcelik began the conversation by introducing the speakers. Jason Brodsky highlighted how Iran isn’t just a ‘nuclear file’ and that there has been an absence of a multi-lateral effort to counter other non-nuclear malign behaviour. He further argued that firm policy consequences are needed to counter actions such as hostage taking and human rights abuses. Alex Vatanka discussed why internal opposition and reform hasn’t been successful in challenging the Iranian regime and argued that the US should focus on empowering the Iranian population. Catherine Perez-Shakdam explained the lack of cohesion amongst opponents to the regime and argued the case for ‘hybrid containment’. Finally, the speakers answered questions on how we can best support the Iranian people whilst being wary of a backlash, the weaponization of water by the Iranian government, and whether a military option should be left on the table.



You can RSVP for your tickets HERE.



30th August 2022
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


United Kingdom + Google Map


Jason Brodsky, Catherine Perez-Shakdam, Alex Vatanka, Katherine Thompson


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