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.
Without a formal peace agreement that commits to safety for returnees and creates a foundation for investment in Syria's demolished infrastructure, Syrians will not go home. They fear returning because of reports of returnees being arrested, imprisoned, and tortured.
More than one-quarter million Yemenis have been killed in the nation's civil war. And 150,000 children have died from starvation and left Yemen on the brink of collapse. The foundations of peace must be Yemeni-led, but there is much that the new U.S. administration could do to support the process.
Young Syrian women refugees face enormous challenges in finding meaningful work in host countries, with many relying on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs. How can employment obstacles be addressed for young Syrian women refugees in a post–COVID-19 environment?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.