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October 11, 2019

Virtual Societal Warfare, Iran, Opioids: RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss virtual societal warfare and how it may affect the future; why Iran's domestic debates should matter to the United States; federal policy options for supervised consumption sites; data on state gun laws; the effects of shared environmental resources on India-Pakistan relations; and how the United States could “overextend” Russia.

Concept of artificial intelligence winning at chess, photo by JohnDWilliams/Getty Images

Photo by JohnDWilliams/Getty Images

The Emerging Risk of Virtual Societal Warfare

Virtual societal warfare is a new category of cyberaggression that involves a wide range of tactics—from deploying classic propaganda on social media to hijacking virtual and augmented reality systems. What's the primary goal of such aggression? In many cases, it may not be to cause physical harm. Instead, attackers use it to sow confusion and accelerate society's loss of confidence in major social institutions. A new RAND report examines this growing threat, providing three scenarios for how it could affect advanced societies over the next decade.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the ceremony of the National Army Day parade in Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2019, photo by West Asia News Agency via Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the ceremony of the National Army Day parade in Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2019

Photo by West Asia News Agency via Reuters

Why Iran's Domestic Debates Should Matter to the United States

In the United States, the nuances of Iran's domestic debates are often overlooked—lost in a busy news cycle or drowned out by the regime's bombastic rhetoric. But understanding these debates is crucial to developing a realistic U.S. policy toward Iran. That's according to RAND's Ariane Tabatabai. In a new paper, she explains why: Areas of consensus among Iranian elites indicate regime redlines. Conversely, disagreements may highlight opportunities for future compromise.

A supervised injection site for people who use drugs, in Lausanne, Switzerland, September 28, 2018, photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

A supervised injection site in Lausanne, Switzerland, September 28, 2018

Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Supervised Consumption Sites: Understanding the Options

Some U.S. jurisdictions have explored supervised consumption sites as one way to help reduce opioid-related overdose deaths, especially those involving fentanyl. Also called “safe injection sites,” these are designated spaces where people who use heroin and other drugs can be supervised by medical professionals. Last week, a judge ruled that one Philadelphia nonprofit's plans to open such a site did not violate federal drug laws. RAND experts weighed in on this issue earlier in the year, outlining four options for federal policymakers.

RAND's State Firearm Law Navigator provides state-by-state data (from 1979 to the present) on four types of gun laws

Animation by Alyson Youngblood/RAND Corporation

See the Data on State Gun Laws

Research on the effects of gun laws requires good data on when and where different types of laws have been implemented. To help illustrate this data, RAND researchers developed a new online tool. You can use it to see which U.S. states since 1979 have enacted four types of laws: background checks, concealed-carry, stand-your-ground laws, and child-access prevention laws. This tool is part of RAND's Gun Policy in America initiative, which seeks to establish a shared set of facts that support the development of fair and effective gun policies.

Laborers walk on a bridge near the 450-megawatt hydropower project at Baglihar Dam on the Chenab River which flows from Indian Kashmir into Pakistan, October 10, 2008, photo by Amit Gupta/Reuters

Laborers walk on a bridge near a 450-megawatt hydropower project on the Chenab River, which flows from Indian Kashmir into Pakistan, October 10, 2008

Photo by Amit Gupta/Reuters

India-Pakistan Relations: The Effects of Shared Environmental Resources

An important, yet sometimes overlooked, potential flashpoint between India and Pakistan is the ongoing discussion over shared water resources and air quality. A new RAND report finds that managing these resources may continue to be a stressor in the relationship between the two nations. But coordination on some key issues, such as agricultural burning and planned hydroelectric projects, could yield positive results. The authors note that cooperation on water and air management may also extend into other areas.

Red Square in Moscow, Russia, photo by mnn/Adobe Stock

Photo by mnn/Adobe Stock

How the U.S. Could 'Overextend' Russia

Russia's use of information warfare and its military arsenal make it a formidable U.S. opponent. But Moscow has many vulnerabilities. In a recent RAND congressional briefing, experts looked at what policies the United States could adopt to stress Russia's military, its economy, and the regime's political standing at home and abroad. They found the two most-promising measures were in the economic domain: expanding U.S. energy production and intensifying sanctions.

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