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.

  • In the area of Khaldieh towards Tripoli, the poorest city in Lebanon, Lebanese and Syrian refugee families are waiting to be received at the medical bus of the Order of Malta NGO, August 2021, photo by Didier Bizet/Hans Lucas via Reuters

    Lebanon: Challenges and Successes in COVID-19 Pandemic Response

    May 6, 2022

    In Lebanon, COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and daily deaths continue to decline. This is an accomplishment worthy of celebration in the midst of hyperinflation, all-time high unemployment, nadir purchasing power, and a health sector on the verge of collapse.

  • Two women wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at the Iran Mall shopping center in western Tehran, Iran, February 5, 2022, photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

    Iran: Challenges and Successes in COVID-19 Pandemic Response

    Apr 20, 2022

    Iran has faced an uphill battle since the first cases of COVID-19 were found in the country. Despite limited resources, Iran has also had its share of successes and innovations in combating the virus.

  • Two hands holding a heart made out of flowers in the colors of Ukraine'a flag, photo by Maryna Petrenko-Shvets/Getty Images

    Reopening Old Wounds: Two Stories, One Lesson

    Apr 16, 2022

    The shocking events unfolding in Ukraine serve as a vivid reminder to two RAND researchers of the profoundly human consequences tied to the strategic level of decisionmaking they study and weigh in on each day.

  • Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani arrives at Palais Coburg for nuclear talks Vienna, Austria, February 28, 2022, photo by Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

    A Renewed Nuclear Deal With Iran: Turning Back the Clock?

    Mar 4, 2022

    Diplomats from Europe, the United States, Russia, China, and Iran are in Vienna trying to revive the Iran nuclear agreement of 2015. But even if negotiations succeed, the post-deal environment could be much more unstable than it was seven years ago.

  • The Most Popular RAND Research of 2021

    Dec 22, 2021

    As another extraordinary year draws to a close, we continue to believe that objective, nonpartisan research and analysis has a key role to play in navigating what continues to be a difficult time. Here are the 10 research projects that resonated most with rand.org readers in 2021.

  • RAND Commentary Highlights of 2021

    Dec 21, 2021

    Vaccine rollouts, an attack on the U.S. Capitol, massive ransomware attacks, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, record numbers of job openings and people quitting, and more. RAND researchers weighed in on all these topics and more.

  • RAND Video Highlights of 2021

    Dec 20, 2021

    The best RAND videos from the past year brought our research to life in new ways. From the sidewalks of Pittsburgh to preschools in the Middle East, see how people around the world are using RAND research to make their communities safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous.

  • Afghan nationals enter Iran at the Dowqarun border crossing between Iran and Afghanistan, Razavi Khorasan Province, Iran, August 29, 2021, photo by Majid Asgaripour/WANA/Reuters

    Afghan Refugees Are Being Recruited to Join an Iranian Paramilitary

    Nov 23, 2021

    As Western policymakers consider how to deal with Afghan evacuees, including former members of the Afghan security forces, they might consider how to prevent adversaries such as Iran from recruiting Afghan refugees for dangerous and destabilizing operations. Greater attention to these risks may become increasingly important as refugee flows from Afghanistan continue.

  • Jonathan Wong and Joslyn Fleming at RAND's Santa Monica headquarters in September 2021, photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

    A Tradition of Service: Q&A with Two Veterans

    Nov 7, 2021

    Before they became RAND researchers, Jonathan Wong and Joslyn Fleming served as U.S. Marines. In this interview, they discuss what made them want to join the service, what led them to research, and how their military experience guides the work they do at RAND.

  • Paramilitary soldiers walk past the Pakistan Parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 10, 2015, photo by Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

    Negotiating with TTP—A Different Perspective

    Oct 27, 2021

    America's withdrawal and the Taliban's swift return to power in Afghanistan could be a primary force in shaping the trajectory of the continuing armed struggle with Pakistan's Taliban. It may be time for Islamabad to consider whether to renew efforts aimed at reaching a political settlement.

  • U.S. and UK military leaders tour Main Operating Base Price, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, April 7, 2013, photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline/U.S. Marine Corps

    Reconsidering U.S. Decisionmaking Within NATO After the Fall of Kabul

    Oct 25, 2021

    With NATO, the United States often tries to have it all: U.S. leadership of the alliance and increased allied burden-sharing. But the recent experience in Afghanistan shows how the form U.S. leadership takes can frustrate allies. Prioritizing allied preferences would help to preserve alliance unity and maybe even strengthen burden-sharing.

  • Four-Day School Weeks, Domestic Terrorism, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    Oct 8, 2021

    This weekly recap focuses on the trade-offs of a four-day school week, how to counter domestic violent extremism, racial disparities in who is convicted of more-serious speeding charges, and more.

  • Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division board a U.S. Air Force C-17 at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 30th, 2021, photo by Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett, 82nd Airborne Public Affairs/U.S. Army

    The Big Unanswered Question of the Afghanistan War

    Oct 4, 2021

    The United States' war in Afghanistan may be over, but the debate over the legacy of America's longest war has just begun. The U.S. defeat raises many questions. For the future of American defense strategy, one big question perhaps stands out above all: Does the United States still have the grit necessary to fight and win long wars?

  • Supporting Undocumented and Asylum-Seeking Children, L.A. Housing, Veterans: RAND Weekly Recap

    Oct 1, 2021

    This weekly recap focuses on educating and supporting undocumented and asylum-seeking children in U.S. schools, what drives America's adversaries to use military forces, and measuring the compounding effects of racism.

  • Paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division prepare to board a U.S. Air Force C-17 at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 30th, 2021, photo by U.S. Army via Reuters

    Panel Discusses Biden Strategy of Diplomacy as Tool of First Resort in the Middle East

    Oct 1, 2021

    A distinguished panel of Middle East and national security experts expressed concerns about potential side effects of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on U.S. Middle East policy and encouraged the Biden administration to proactively engage allies in the future.

  • Taliban flags are seen on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 16, 2021, photo by West Asia News Agency via Reuters

    China and Pakistan See Eye to Eye on the Taliban—Almost

    Sep 21, 2021

    Beijing and Islamabad share a long history of cooperation and have much in common on Afghanistan. Both are poised to benefit strategically from the Taliban's success. But the Taliban's resurrection almost certainly will add some stress to an otherwise positive and productive bilateral partnership.

  • Boosting Vaccine Acceptance, Afghanistan's Refugee Crisis, Environmental Racism: RAND Weekly Recap

    Sep 10, 2021

    This weekly recap focuses on addressing vaccine hesitancy, preventing an even-bigger humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and how to develop antiracist environmental policies.

  • Afghan refugees board buses that will take them to a processing center after arriving at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, September 2, 2021, photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

    With the Evacuation Over, Afghanistan Is Left to Contend with a Worsening Refugee Crisis

    Sep 7, 2021

    The more than 100,000 civilians recently evacuated from Afghanistan are a small fraction of those who have lost their homes and livelihoods due to war. To avoid worsening the existing humanitarian crisis, the global community should take swift action, including close coordination with regional and national players.

  • U.S. Failure in Afghanistan, Critical Race Theory Bans, Income Inequality: RAND Weekly Recap

    Sep 3, 2021

    This weekly recap focuses on how early mistakes led to America's failure in Afghanistan, the potential effects of critical race theory bans, an art installation that breaks down RAND data on income inequality, and more.

  • Navy Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, commanding officer of the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, observes from the bridge wing as the ship sails in the South China Sea, Oct. 20, 2020, photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Markus Castaneda/U.S. Department of Defense

    Reinforcing U.S. Deterrence in the Indo-Pacific After the Fall of Afghanistan

    Sep 3, 2021

    China and North Korea are seizing on the U.S. departure from Afghanistan to press their own political warfare messages. What can the United States do to mitigate the impact of the Taliban takeover on America's interests in the Indo-Pacific?

  • A NATO helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 29, 2020, photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters

    Lessons from Afghanistan

    Sep 3, 2021

    The British invaded Afghanistan multiple times from 1839 to 1919. These wars offer wider context for understanding America's intervention in that same nation—and its ultimate failure.

  • Marines guide a woman and her child during an evacuation from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2021, photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Department of Defense

    Afghanistan Was Lost Long Ago

    Aug 30, 2021

    The United States failed to build a lasting state in Afghanistan. Although the mission was not doomed from the start, early miscalculations and critical mistakes made success unlikely.

  • Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of the Taliban, in Tianjin, China, July 28, 2021, photo by Li Ran/Xinhua via Reuters

    Chinese Recognition of the Taliban Is All but Inevitable

    Aug 27, 2021

    China is likely to recognize and legitimize the new leadership in Afghanistan within the coming weeks or months. Even if China has real concerns about the Taliban's willingness to keep its promises, the potential benefits are simply too great for Beijing to ignore.

  • Just How Many Lives the Vaccines Have Saved, Afghanistan, Unemployment: RAND Weekly Recap

    Aug 27, 2021

    This weekly recap focuses on the number of lives saved during the early U.S. vaccination effort, what leaving Afghanistan says about other U.S. commitments, global competition for virtual-reality dominance, and more.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre in the Moscow Region, Russia, August 23, 2021, photo by Ramil Sitdikov/Kremlin via Reuters

    After Afghanistan, Could Russia Misjudge America?

    Aug 26, 2021

    Over the years, the United States has been humbled abroad more than once but bounced back. Now, as it withdraws from Afghanistan, might Russia see the United States as defeated and vulnerable to pressure? This could be an error.