Greg Thielmann has served more than three decades in the executive and legislative branches of government, specializing in political-military and intelligence issues. Before joining ACA in 2009, he worked for four years as a senior professional staffer of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). He was previously a U.S. Foreign Service Officer for 25 years, last serving as Director of the Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs Office in the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. His foreign posts include Deputy Political Counselor of the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil; Political-Military Affairs Officer in Moscow, USSR; and Political-Military Affairs Officer in Bonn, Germany. Thielmann also served as Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of German, Austrian and Swiss Affairs; Special Assistant to Ambassador Paul Nitze (then Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State on Arms Control Matters); and State Department advisor to the U.S. Delegation at the Geneva INF arms control negotiations. Greg is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association (2003-2005). His July 2003 appearance at an ACA press briefing on faulty intelligence assessments on Iraq’s WMD capabilities led to a CBS News 60 Minutes II segment “The Man Who Knew,” which won an Emmy Award for reporter Scott Pelley.
Greg Thielmann's primary research areas include:
The Obama administration has identified September as a time for reassessing its approach to negotiation with Tehran over Iran's nuclear program. It is imperative that this reassessment be based on a realistic appraisal of Iran's weaponization capabilities and limitations and not fall prey to politically motivated hyperbole. Iran's nuclear program is undeniably bringing that country closer to an ability to construct nuclear weapons-bad news for the region, the United States, and the world. Yet, a nuclear-armed Iran is years, not months, away, which is ample time for negotiating an outcome that prevents Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon state while strengthening the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Although the possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons is a major concern for Israel and the United States, leaving the "military option" on the table is counterproductive. Preventive military action by either country against Iran's nuclear facilities would only delay, rather than halt, Tehran's nuclear program, and it would cause Iran to retaliate against the United States as well as Israel. The aftermath of such an attack would be disastrous for the U.S.position in the region-particularly for relations with Israel and with Iraq-and its position in the wider world.
Strategic Missile Defense offers no real disincentive for rogue regimes such as North Korea or Iran to develop or use ballistic missiles, nor does it offer any protection against the more acute threat of terrorist groups smuggling weapons of mass destruction into the United States. Instead the aggressive pursuit of strategic missile defense makes it more difficult to constrain the potential offensive nuclear threat from Russia and China.
Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology, and possibly nuclear weapons, stems from its complicated threat environment and the historical grievances it harbors concerning the United States. Tehran now faces large numbers of U.S. troops in its neighbors to the west and east with few regional allies. The most productive path for averting nuclear weapons development in Iran is for Washington to seek to alter Iran’s threat perceptions.