Featured Commentary

RAND researchers often write commentaries for publications on a variety of topics. This page lists recent commentaries and op-eds about the Middle East. For a complete list of commentaries and op-eds by RAND staff, visit the RAND Blog.

  • U.S. Marines engage targets during a live-fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept, 7, 2018, photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez/U.S. Marine Corps

    In the Middle East, Russia and China Expand Their Influence

    Sep 18, 2020

    While the United States is concerned primarily about a resurgent China's inroads in the Middle East, it is also nervous about the gambits of a revanchist Russia. As the United States decides when and how to contest China and Russia—in and beyond the Middle East—it will have to resist alarmism as vigorously as complacency.

  • Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, special envoy of the foreign minister of Qatar are seen during talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

    The Islamic State in Afghanistan Is Down, but Not Out

    Sep 14, 2020

    The Afghan Taliban is on the verge of entering into a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government in a peace deal facilitated by the United States. Washington seems to be holding out hope that the deal will stabilize the country. But the Islamic State Khorasan Province remains a concern. The Islamic State in Afghanistan may be down, but it's not out.

  • A man wearing a t-shirt with an image of Zakir Rashid Bhat, the leader of an al Qaeda affiliated militant group in Kashmir, in Dadasara, Kashmir, May 24, 2019, photo by Danish Ismail/Reuters

    Is al Qaida Still a Threat?

    Sep 9, 2020

    Nineteen years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, does al Qaida still pose a significant threat to U.S. national security? Among researchers, military and intelligence officials, and policymakers who study the group, there is little consensus. An accurate assessment of al Qaida's organizational health must take into account the group's recent and dramatic resurrection.

  • The Evidence on Kids and COVID-19, China's Use of Big Data, Telemedicine: RAND Weekly Recap

    Sep 4, 2020

    This weekly recap focuses on what we know (and what we don't) about kids and COVID-19, how China is using big data, the future of telemedicine, and more.

  • The port of Beirut and its construction cranes, destroyed by an explosion of ammonium nitrate on August 4, 2020, photo by Karine Pierre/Hans Lucas Pictures/Reuters

    Addressing Lebanon's Ailments, Acute and Chronic

    Sep 1, 2020

    The recent explosion in Beirut has again led to calls for political and economic reforms in Lebanon. The country has an economy in crisis, corruption, few job opportunities, and an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Sustained global investment is needed if Lebanon is to recover over the long run.

  • Radicalization, the Gender Pay Gap, Israel-UAE Deal: RAND Weekly Recap

    Aug 21, 2020

    This weekly recap focuses on the potential for a new era of radicalization, insights into the gender pay gap, why the Israel-UAE deal doesn't merit the hype, and more.

  • Israeli and Emirati flags flutter along a highway following the agreement to formalize ties between the two countries, Netanya, Israel, August 17, 2020, photo by Nir Elias/Reuters

    Why Israel-UAE Deal Doesn't Merit the Hype

    Aug 18, 2020

    Some have called the Israel-UAE normalization agreement a geopolitical earthquake. But the hyperbole is not warranted; this deal is unlikely to be a strategic game changer in the Middle East.

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping and his entourage meet with Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran, January 23, 2016, <a href="https://english.khamenei.ir/photo/3211/China-s-President-met-with-Ayatollah-Khamenei">photo</a> by <a href="https://english.khamenei.ir">Khamenei.ir</a> / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/">CC BY 4.0</a>

    What to Watch to Understand the Sino-Iranian Relationship

    Aug 13, 2020

    Beijing and Tehran are in the process of finalizing an ambitious partnership covering a range of security and economic issues. The United States should not overreact to shifting geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East, and should instead keep an eye out to assess the evolution of the relationship and take stock of what is delivered instead of what is merely promised.

  • Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Vladimir Putin of Russia arrive for a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, September 16, 2019, photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Can America Weaken the Russia-Iran Axis?

    Jul 31, 2020

    America's slow-motion retreat in Syria could embolden Iran and Russia and perhaps lead them to underestimate U.S. resolve to protect its interests in the Middle East. Clearer U.S. priorities and more deliberate engagement could reduce risk and help avoid miscalculation.

  • Sudan's Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, head of Military Transitional Council, and the military's chief of staff Lieutenant General Kamal Abdul Murof Al-mahi shake hands after being sworn in as leaders of Military Transitional Council in Sudan in this still image taken from video on April 11, 2019, photo by Sudan TV/Reuters

    Can Sudan Escape Its History as a Hub for Violent Extremists?

    Jul 24, 2020

    Sudan continues to confront major challenges that could derail its path back to the mainstream of international politics. Sudan must show that it is no longer a haven for terrorist and violent extremist groups and that it is committed to ensuring that this remains true.

  • Internally displaced Syrians drive back to their homes, as some people are afraid of the COVID-19 outbreak in crowded camps, in Dayr Ballut, Syria, April 11, 2020, photo by Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

    U.S. Is Just Getting Started in New Bid to End the War in Syria

    Jul 22, 2020

    In June, the U.S. government announced the implementation of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act with a flurry of sanctions against 39 people and entities connected with the Assad regime. There is much more to come. Syria, and Russia and Iran, have not yet felt the Caesar Act in full force.

  • COVID Learning Loss, Russian Trolls, Artificial Intelligence: RAND Weekly Recap

    Jul 17, 2020

    This weekly recap focuses on helping students recover learning losses, fighting Russian trolls, racial disparity in unemployment benefits, the race for AI leadership, and more.

  • A view of a damaged building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility, in Isfahan, Iran, July 2, 2020, photo by Wana News Agency/Reuters

    An Israeli Escalation Against Iran?

    Jul 15, 2020

    Israeli involvement in recent attacks on Iran would not be surprising, and more such attacks might be coming. However, Israel's bet that the Iranians will not respond is risky. It's hard to control escalation when things are so volatile, especially as hardline Iranian leaders may increase pressure to retaliate.

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan at the annual NATO heads of government summit in Watford, UK, December 4, 2019, photo by Peter Nicholls/Reuters

    A Way Forward for the United States and Turkey

    Jul 9, 2020

    Relations between the United States and Turkey, while fraught with tension, must also align with a mutual interest in stability in the Middle East and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. It may be important for the region's stability and prosperity to find constructive ways for the United States to work with Turkey in the years ahead.

  • A Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile system fires a missile during the International Army Games 2017 outside Astrakhan, Russia, August 5, 2017, photo by Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

    Drone-Era Warfare Shows the Operational Limits of Air Defense Systems

    Jul 2, 2020

    External powers have intervened in the civil wars in Libya and Syria, supplying advanced conventional weapons that have intensified the conflicts. But not all of the weapons have performed as claimed.

  • Russian military jets at Khmeimim Air Base in Syria, June 18, 2016, photo by Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defense Ministry via Reuters

    Russia Is Eyeing the Mediterranean. The U.S. and NATO Must Be Prepared

    Jun 30, 2020

    Russia is seeking more access and freedom of movement in the Mediterranean region, and is bolstering its military footprint to achieve this objective. The United States and NATO could respond by developing a more robust southern strategy, with a reinforced air and naval presence, respectively.

  • Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two move in a tactical formation during a training evolution to locate, identify, render safe and dispose of an IED, July 12, 2010

    Competition in Iraq

    Jun 5, 2020

    Tensions between the United States and Iran reached a boiling point in January 2020, when Iranian-backed forces attacked U.S. military and diplomatic facilities on Iraqi soil, and the United States retaliated. Policymakers and experts again asked: Why are we in Iraq? What would happen if we left, and why would it matter?

  • Smoke rises during a fight between members of the Libyan internationally recognized government forces and Eastern forces, in southern Tripoli, Libya June 22, 2019, photo by Yosri Aljamal/Reuters

    Is the Conflict in Libya a Preview of the Future of Warfare?

    Jun 2, 2020

    The Libyan conflict, now entering its ninth year, could well be a testing ground for how wars will be fought in the future. External nation-states have long interfered in other countries' civil wars, so what is new, exactly, about what is happening in Libya?

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, May 17, 2018, p

    Russia's Challenge and Syria's Chance

    May 20, 2020

    With much of Syria lying in ruins, Russia can back a revived United Nations–led peacemaking process, or see the West rebuff its appeals for large-scale aid. If Russia chooses wisely, the West, wealthy Gulf countries, and China could help. If Moscow procrastinates, the West may withhold assistance and continue cooperation with regional partners.

  • Women work on a production line at a mobile phone factory in Assuit, Egypt, September 30, 2018, photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

    Economic Recovery in Egypt Should Include Women

    May 11, 2020

    Despite tremendous strides in educational attainment, women's engagement in the labor force in Egypt remains limited. Will Egypt's post-pandemic recovery further exacerbate structural barriers and inequities? Or could the current economic crisis be an opportunity to develop new opportunities to employ women and foster conditions for a more inclusive and diversified labor force?

  • A Proposed COVID-19 Cure, Economic Decline, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    May 1, 2020

    This weekly recap focuses on the unintended consequences of a proposed COVID-19 treatment, another wave of economic destruction, North Korea after Kim Jong Un, and more.

  • Trucks wait to cross the Afghanistan-Iran border in Zaranj, Afghanistan, May 10, 2011, photo by Sgt. Mallory VanderSchans/U.S. Marine Corps

    Does the U.S. Deal with the Taliban Present Opportunities for Iran in Afghanistan?

    Apr 6, 2020

    Iran is watching closely as the United States and the Taliban negotiate an end to America's operations in Afghanistan. If the expected withdrawal of significant U.S. forces destabilizes Afghanistan, how much will Tehran assert its influence over its neighbor to the east?

  • COVID-19's Effects on Mental Health, Food Access, and Education: RAND Weekly Recap

    Apr 3, 2020

    This weekly recap focuses on COVID-19 and mental health, food security challenges during the pandemic, supporting children while schools are closed, and more.

  • An empty market after a curfew was imposed to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, March 18, 2020

    Prof Considers Economic Consequences of COVID-19 in the Middle East, Implications for U.S. National Security

    Apr 1, 2020

    The global COVID-19 pandemic will have a dramatic impact on economies across the globe, but the Middle East may be particularly affected given the simultaneous fall in oil prices, writes Prof. Howard Shatz. The economic consequences of this pandemic are also likely to affect U.S. interests in the region.

  • COVID-19 and the Economy, America's Blood Supply, 10 Years of the ACA: RAND Weekly Recap

    Mar 27, 2020

    This weekly recap focuses on COVID-19 and the economy, strengthening the U.S. blood supply, 10 years of the Affordable Care Act, and more.