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Religion, nationalism, ethnicity, economics, and geopolitics all are important in explaining Iran's goals and tactics in its relationship with the outside world, as are the agendas of key security institutions and the ambitions of their leaders. This report assesses Iran's security policy in light of these factors. It examines broad drivers of Iran's security policy, describes important security institutions, explores decisionmaking, and reviews Iran's relations with key countries. The authors conclude that Iraq is widely recognized as the leading threat to Iran's Islamic regime and Afghanistan is seen as an emerging threat. In contrast, Iran has solid, if not necessarily warm, relations with Syria and established working ties to Pakistan and Russia. Iran's policies toward its neighbors are increasingly prudent: It is trying to calm regional tension and end its isolation, although its policies toward Israel and the United States are often an exception to this policy. Iran's security forces, particularly the regular military, are often voices of restraint, preferring shows of force to overactive confrontations. Finally, Iran's security forces generally respect and follow the wishes of Iran's civilian leadership; conducting rogue operations is rare to nonexistent.

Table of Contents

  • Preface PDF

  • Tables PDF

  • Summary PDF

  • Acknowledgements

    Acknowledgments PDF

  • Acronyms PDF

  • Chapter One

    Introduction PDF

  • Chapter Two

    Fundamental Sources of Iranian Foreign and Security Policies PDF

  • Chapter Three

    Security Decisionmaking in Iran PDF

  • Chapter Four

    Major Security Institutions and Their Composition PDF

  • Chapter Five

    The Military and Iranian Society PDF

  • Chapter Six

    Impact on Foreign Policy PDF

  • Chapter Seven

    Implications PDF

  • Bibliography PDF

  • Authors

    About the Authors PDF

Book Review Excerpts

"…Written by four of the most perceptive analysts of the Iranian security system… It is well worth reading."

- Iranian Studies

This research was conducted within RAND's National Defense Research Institute.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.