International Affairs
Congressional Newsletter
Quarterly updates to Congress on RAND's work in international affairs

Better Understanding the Rivalry Between Israel and Iran

The flags of Israel and Iran

Israel and Iran have come to view each other over the past decade as direct regional rivals, with Iran viewing Israel as being bent on undermining Iran's revolutionary system and Israel viewing Iran as posing grave strategic and ideological challenges to the Jewish state. Such rivalry increases the risks for regional crises leading to military conflict. A RAND Corporation study explores the strategic, political, and ideological underpinnings of each country's threat perceptions of the other and their implications for U.S. regional interests.

The study finds that the growing rivalry between them has intensified in recent years, particularly with the rise of "principlist" (fundamentalist) leaders in Iran and the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Israeli leaders now view every regional threat through the prism of Iran, even while their strategic community is divided about how to address this challenge and, particularly, the utility of a military strike option. Iran, which currently views Israel in more ideological and less pragmatic terms, may be emboldened to further challenge Israel if it has a nuclear weapons capability. Despite the current animosity, the study finds that the two countries have not always been rivals. Both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution, shared geopolitical interests led to years of pragmatic policies and, at times, extensive cooperation.

Study authors recommend that the United States can help manage this rivalry by focusing on policies aimed at prevention and preparation. This means discouraging an Israeli military strike, while bolstering Israeli capabilities in preparation for a future where Iran has managed to acquire nuclear weapons. For Iran, this means dissuading the regime from weaponizing its nuclear program and, if that fails, making preparations to deter it from brandishing or using its weapons.

READ THE REPORT: Israel and Iran: A Dangerous Rivalry

How Is Mexico Dealing with Police Corruption?

a row of Mexican riot shields

Corruption in the Mexican police forces is widely acknowledged and longstanding, and the Mexican government has undertaken police reforms in recent years focused on professionalizing the Mexican police, including changes in compensation and personnel policies as a way to create a civil service for police personnel. Whether these reforms are the right ones or have helped are open questions. A RAND Corporation report draws on previous research on corruption and personnel incentives, analyzes information related to police reform in Mexico, and provides an initial assessment about the effects of Mexico's attempts at reform.

Study results suggest progress on some fronts. Although police corruption has remained generally stable in the past decade, the data suggest corruption levels among other Mexican government employees, such as transit agents and public servants, have risen at the same time. The types of reforms being introduced are consistent with previous research findings on personnel and workforce management practices that are effective in developing and maintaining a professional workforce, although evidence is absent on how effective these policies are in the Mexican security force context. Also, the study's analysis of the education and pay of Mexico's police finds some signs of improvement in indicators that are consistent with improved police professionalization and performance: Education and pay levels of police have increased in recent years, though wage growth across age groups still remains relatively flat. The study concludes that continuity in elected officials and their policies, coordination within and between levels of government, and transparency and accountability can contribute to reducing police corruption--but more research is needed to assess the efficacy of these policies.

READ THE REPORT: Mitigating Corruption in Government Security Forces: The Role of Institutions, Incentives, and Personnel Management in Mexico

Assessing Australia's Submarine Design Capabilities and Capacities

an Australian Collins-class submarine

In the mid-2020s, the Royal Australian Navy plans to retire the oldest of its Collins-class submarines and acquire 12 new submarines--known as the Future Submarine--to replace the Collins-class vessels. The Australian Government is considering the option of designing domestically and building the vessel in South Australia, but Australia has not designed a submarine in the modern era. As a result, the Australian Department of Defence asked the RAND Corporation to assess the domestic engineering and design skills that industry and the government will need to design the vessels, the skills they currently possess, and ways to fill any gaps between the two.

The study finds that although Australian industry has numerous technical draftsmen and engineers, few have experience in submarine design, and their availability may be limited because of demands on their time from other programs. The researchers concluded that (1) using this inexperienced domestic workforce instead of a fully experienced one to design the new submarine would lengthen the time it would take to complete the design by three to four years and would increase the costs by about 20 percent, (2) adding submarine-experienced personnel from abroad would shorten the schedule and lessen the cost increase, and (3) expanding the time it takes to design the submarine from the planned 15 years to 20 years would reduce the peak demand for designers and draftsmen.

READ THE REPORT: Australia's Submarine Design Capabilities and Capacities: Challenges and Options for the Future Submarine


Laurel Miller

Laurel Miller

Laurel Miller is a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, where she works on a variety of national security and foreign policy issues. She is currently leading a study about the challenges to and prospects for democratization in the wake of the Arab Spring, drawing lessons from past experiences around the world. Her recent projects have included studies regarding state building in Haiti, police reform efforts in Afghanistan, and criminal violence in Iraq. During previous government service she focused on conflict resolution and post-conflict stabilization, including as Senior Advisor to the U.S. special envoy for the Balkans, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues. She was directly involved in peace negotiations in Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia. She also served as Director for western hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council. Miller received her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, and her A.B. from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Read more about Laurel Miller »


Lindsey Kozberg
Vice President, Office of External Affairs

Winfield Boerckel
Director, Office of Congressional Relations

Kurt Card
International Affairs Legislative Analyst

RAND Office of Congressional Relations
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