Ariane M. Tabatabai

Photo of Ariane Tabatabai
Associate Political Scientist
Washington Office

Education

Ph.D. in war studies, King's College London; M.P.H.IL in war studies, King's College London; M.A. in international peace and security, King's College London; B.A. in political science and cinema and cultural studies, SUNY Stony Brook

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

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Overview

Ariane M. Tabatabai is an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation and an adjunct senior research scholar at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). She is also a Truman national security fellow and a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) term member. 

Prior to joining RAND, she served as the director of curriculum and a visiting assistant professor of security studies at the Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and an international civilian consultant for NATO. Previously, Tabatabai was a post-doctoral fellow (2017-18) in the International Security Program and a Stanton nuclear security fellow (2013-14) in the International Security Program and the Project on Managing the Atom at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs where she was also an associate (2014–2015). Tabatabai also held positions as a non-resident scholar with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute; senior associate in the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and adjunct senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Center for A New American Security (CNAS).

She is the co-author of Triple Axis: Iran's Relations With Russia and China and has published widely in academic, policy, and mainstream outlets, including International Security, the Journal of Strategic Studies, the New York Times, the Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy. Tabatabai holds a Ph.D. in war studies from King's College London.

Languages

Persian; French

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Ahval News; Al Jazeera; Radio Free Europe; NPR, Morning Edition; War on the Rocks

Commentary: The Atlantic; Foreign Affairs; Foreign Policy; Haaretz; The Hill; Newsweek; New York Times; Washington Post

Commentary

  • An Iraqi demonstrator reacts as he walks in front of Iraqi security forces during ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq, November 14, 2019, photo by Alaa Al-MarjaniReuters

    Don't Overestimate the Power of Iraqi Protests

    As protests in Iraq grow, a “good news” narrative seems to be developing that they are a significant blow to Iranian influence. But the bigger story is not who is up and who is down between Washington and Tehran; it is that yet another Arab public has taken to the streets demanding change.

    Nov 14, 2019 Foreign Policy

  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017, photo by TIMA/Reuters

    Iran, the Unitary State

    Current and future U.S. policy toward Iran must begin with the premise that the Islamic Republic is the sum of its parts and that to try to empower moderates or disempower hard-liners is naive. Rather, Washington should strive to deal with Iran as it is, not as Washington wishes it were.

    Oct 18, 2019 Foreign Affairs

  • Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah wave Hezbollah and Lebanese flags at a rally marking the 10th anniversary of the end of Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel, in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon August 13, 2016, photo by AZIZ TAHER/Reuters

    Iran's Proxies Are More Powerful Than Ever

    The Trump administration has pursued a so-called maximum pressure strategy designed to alter the course of Iran's foreign and security policies, which relies heavily on sanctions to change Iranian behavior. Financial sanctions are an important part of any counterterrorism strategy. But they aren't enough.

    Oct 16, 2019 Foreign Policy

  • A member of Iran's Revolutionary guards sits in front of a picture of a soldier at a war exhibition to commemorate the anniversary of Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in southern Tehran, September 26, 2007, photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

    Syria Changed the Iranian Way of War

    To get a sense of the playbook that Tehran might consult in any future conflict with the United States, Washington should pay close attention to what the Iranians have learned in Syria.

    Aug 16, 2019 Foreign Affairs

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference in Tehran, Iran, August 5, 2019, photo by Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA/Reuters

    Iran's Cooperation with the Taliban Could Affect Talks on U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has acknowledged that his country has some level of cooperation with the Taliban. How did Iran's relationship with the Taliban come about? And how might it affect the future of U.S.-Taliban talks?

    Aug 9, 2019 The Washington Post Monkey Cage Blog

  • The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2019, photo by Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

    A Post-2020 U.S. Return to the Iran Nuclear Deal?

    Now that the United States is out of the Iran nuclear deal, signing back on will not be as simple or as practical as some may hope. Too much has happened since it was first inked in 2015. With the political landscape in Tehran and Washington still taking shape, those who want to return to some kind of deal should start planning.

    Jun 20, 2019 Foreign Policy

  • Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader holding pictures of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Beirut, Lebanon, October 11, 2016, photo by Aziz Taher/Reuters

    Iran's Network of Fighters in the Middle East Aren't Always Loyal to Iran

    Iran's nonstate partners are emerging as central players in the escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, and may be a driver of further escalation. But how involved is Iran with these proxy groups?

    May 21, 2019 The Washington Post Monkey Cage Blog

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani listens during a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 26, 2018, photo by Brendan McDermid

    The U.S. and Iran: Beyond the Rhetoric

    Since the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran, tensions between the two countries have increased. Washington has stepped up pressure on Tehran in the hopes of reopening negotiations or ushering in the regime's collapse, while inside Iran, President Rouhani is facing pressure to retaliate.

    May 17, 2019 Haaretz

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq March 11, 2019, photo by Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

    Can Anyone Save the Iran Nuclear Deal Now?

    Europe faces mounting pressure from both Tehran and Washington regarding the Iran nuclear deal. European countries could take steps to signal their commitment to upholding the deal, but doing so may alienate the United States.

    May 10, 2019 New York Times

  • The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln conducts a replenishment-at-sea operation with other carrier group ships. The carrier group is now in the Red Sea earlier than planned at the direction of the White House, photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Sherman/U.S. Navy photo

    U.S., Iran Must Both Tread Lightly with Tensions Running So High

    Tensions between the United States and Iran have increased, raising concerns that they may be headed for war. But conflict is not inevitable. The United States and Iran could seek to re-establish communications channels, as well as look for available off-ramps to de-escalate tensions and keep the slightest misstep from spiraling into an all-out conflict.

    May 9, 2019 The Hill

  • Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy march during a parade in Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2011, photo by Stringer Iran/Reuters

    The U.S. Designated the Revolutionary Guards as a Terrorist Group. What Happens Next?

    The U.S. designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization was meant to serve America's interests by isolating Iran. Instead, it may increase the likelihood of a tit-for-tat escalation that will require significant resources to avoid a broader regional conflagration.

    Apr 11, 2019 Foreign Policy

  • U.S. President Donald Trump announces his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement during a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, DC, May 8, 2018, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Can the U.S. Attain Foreign Policy Goals with 'Maximum Pressure' Campaigns?

    The Trump administration's record in two of today's most pressing nuclear nonproliferation challenges, North Korea and Iran, highlights the potential dangers of a “maximum pressure” strategy.

    Mar 6, 2019 Foreign Policy

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 17, 2019, photo by Andreas Gebert/Reuters

    Behind the 'Surprise' Resignation of Iran's Foreign Minister

    Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, announced his resignation after a nearly six-year tenure. His resignation has sparked as much controversy as his tenure, one dominated by overtures to the West and resulting tensions at home. Although his departure will likely be felt most acutely in Europe, it may have a deeper impact in Tehran.

    Feb 26, 2019 Foreign Policy

  • Iranian youths sit under a large picture of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (L), and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a park in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2016

    The Islamic Republic's Foreign Policy at Forty

    Forty years have passed since the Islamic Revolution. While Iran hasn't departed from its revolutionary roots, its foreign policy today is largely shaped by threat perceptions and interests, not ideology.

    Feb 8, 2019 Atlantic Council

  • Popular Mobilisation Forces fighters ride in a tank near the Iraqi-Syrian border in al-Qaim, Iraq, November 26, 2018

    Withdrawing from Syria Leaves a Vacuum That Iran Will Fill

    President Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from Syria may be unintentionally signaling that the United States is unwilling to compete in critical geopolitical hotspots. Such a message could embolden powerful states—including Iran—to expand their presence.

    Jan 8, 2019 Foreign Affairs

  • U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, March 20, 2018

    Could America Use Its Leverage to Alter the Saudis' Behavior?

    As the Saudis' chief political and military partner and the undisputed security guarantor in the Middle East, the United States has considerable influence it can wield over Saudi decisionmaking. The Trump administration could consider using its influence to encourage Saudi leadership to moderate its assertive and damaging policies abroad.

    Nov 15, 2018 Newsweek

  • Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and Vladimir Putin of Russia hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, April 4, 2018

    Is Major Realignment Taking Place in the Middle East?

    The shifting alignments in the Middle East have intensified since the murder of the Saudi journalist Khashoggi in Istanbul. Turkey has drifted away from NATO and toward Iran and Russia. Like Tehran and Moscow, Ankara is now more anti-Western than at any point in recent memory. What does this mean for the United States?

    Oct 31, 2018 Foreign Affairs

  • Mourners carry the coffin of Amin Karimi, a member of Iranian Revolutionary Guards who was killed in Syria, during his funeral in Tehran, October 28, 2015

    America's Indefinite Endgame in Syria

    The Trump administration's position on the Syrian civil war has shifted from countering ISIS to containing Iran. America will remain in Syria as long as Iran does. But an unending timetable for the withdrawal of troops is far more problematic for Washington than it is for Tehran.

    Oct 16, 2018 The Atlantic

  • Chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali-Akbar Salehi makes a speech during a ceremony to receive locally-produced yellowcake, in Isfahan, Iran, December 5, 2010

    Can U.S. Pressure Lead to a New Iran Nuclear Deal?

    It could be a mistake for the United States to assume that more pressure will bring Iran closer to ending or reducing its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. When it comes to measures aimed at Iran's nuclear program, more pressure could worsen nuclear risks and further drive a wedge between the United States and its European allies.

    Sep 18, 2018 Foreign Policy

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz are seen on the mobile phone screen as they attend a news conference at the Chancellery in Vienna, Austria July 4, 201,8

    Iran's Disinformation Campaigns

    New reports suggest that the Kremlin may have company in its efforts to shape the United States' domestic information landscape: Iran. As Americans prepare to return to the voting booths this fall, Washington would be well advised to look into Iran's disinformation capabilities and intentions.

    Aug 24, 2018 Foreign Affairs

Publications