More than 30 years after Iran's revolution, its political, military, and international activities continue to challenge and perplex its neighbors and many Western democracies. RAND research has informed and influenced U.S. policymakers on a range of topics, from engagement and containment and Tehran's ability to exploit pan-Islamic causes to Iran's ongoing development of nuclear capabilities.
Much of RAND's Middle East work is coordinated by its Center for Middle East Public Policy (CMEPP). CMEPP is the mechanism by which RAND's experts on health, education, and national security research are paired with its experts on the political, societal, and cultural issues in the region. In this way, RAND is able to bring to bear a full array of analytic capabilities to understand the Middle East in the broadest possible sense.
Neither Ahmadinejad nor Mashaei will be the political “messiahs” many religious and secular Iranians long for, writes Alireza Nader. Much like Khatami and the reformists, figures like Ahmadinejad are willing to challenge the system only to a limited degree.
Tehran views Syria as a strategic gateway to the Arab world, a bulwark against American and Israeli power, and, perhaps most importantly, a crucial link to Lebanese Hezbollah, writes Alireza Nader.
The economic pains caused by the Iranian regime's mismanagement, corruption, and international sanctions have dealt serious blows to worker wages, benefits, and job security — enough reason for Iranian laborers to organize and oppose the regime.
Non-Persian ethnic minorities make up roughly 40 to 50 percent of Iran's population. Marginalized from society, they may choose a path of political apathy. On the other hand, Tehran's refusal to acknowledge minority rights may lead to future ethnic insurgencies and uprisings.
The June election will not be about mobilizing the Iranian public. It is instead the culmination of a years-long evolution in Iranian politics: the transformation of the Islamic Republic from a mildly representative theocracy into a Revolutionary Guards-controlled kleptocracy, writes Alireza Nader.
Khamenei's mounting pressures may compel him to be more flexible on the nuclear program, writes Alireza Nader. Otherwise, he will face greater sanctions, more internal political opposition, and, possibly, the wrath of his own people.
If Obama's election didn't change Tehran's view of U.S. policy, it's hard to see how Hagel's nomination could. After all, America's war-weariness is no secret, and it's hardly limited to Vietnam veterans such as Hagel, writes Alireza Nader.
Iran is still willing to give diplomacy a chance after a seven-month hiatus, as demonstrated by the announcement of new talks. But Tehran wants the P5+1 to make the first move, writes Alireza Nader.
In the absence of any diplomatic breakthrough and the continued advance of Iran's nuclear enrichment program this year, we can expect Israeli leaders across the political spectrum to press the Obama administration for military options, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.
Jafari now commands one of the most feared militaries in the Middle East, which is also far better equipped than Iran’s conventional army, navy and air force, writes Alireza Nader. He has an estimated 150,000 troops under his control.
Iran's inability to sell its oil due to sanctions will not only shrink the resources available to the Guard as a military force, but will crimp the wealth of individual Guard officers. This could erode the Guard's loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, writes Alireza Nader.
The Islamic Republic faces the potential of stronger economic sanctions and even a military strike because of its intransigence in complying with U.N. resolutions on its nuclear program. It also must deal with twin domestic challenges—deepening malaise among the young and increasing tensions among the political elite, writes Alireza Nader.
The U.S. effort to isolate and pressure Iran in order to extract concessions on the nuclear program faces a significant vulnerability: the ties between Iran and the People's Republic of China, writes Alireza Nader.
The dilemma is how sanctions and pressure would dissuade Iran's leaders from pursuing their nuclear program (as Mr. Romney recommended) if a President Romney wouldn't agree to sit down and talk with them, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.
Politicizing the Iran-Israel issue at Monday's presidential debate could prove a setback for efforts to ultimately prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.
Any instability in Iran, even if it is meant to pressure Ahmadinejad, is bad news for the entire regime. The nose-diving economy has affected the lives of millions of Iranians; they are unlikely just to blame Ahmadinejad alone, writes Alireza Nader.
Just by threatening to close the Strait, Iran increases pressure on the U.S. to restrain Israel from attacking Iran. Other key players—including major oil importers such as China, Japan, and India—would be reluctant to support military action because of heavy dependence on Persian Gulf oil, writes Alireza Nader.
In a conflict with the United States or Israel, Tehran could turn to terror tactics—directly or indirectly through proxies—to create leverage when it is significantly outmanned and outgunned against conventional military forces, writes Alireza Nader.
Iranian leaders are well aware that they cannot defeat the U.S. military in a face-to-face conflict. But as Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel demonstrated, battlefield losses (or draws) can be turned into psychological victories, writes Alireza Nader.
Not until the Obama administration had Iran faced sanctions with serious bite. The administration has managed to build a wide and deep international coalition against Iran, writes Alireza Nader.