From the RAND Blog

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

  • Islamic State 2.0

    Aug 10, 2017

    Many of Iraq's Sunnis are frustrated with the slow pace of reconstruction and a Baghdad government they consider too friendly to Iran. The U.S. needs to shift from supporting military operations in cities such as Mosul to helping the Iraqi government better address political grievances. Failure risks sowing the seeds of ISIS's resurgence.

  • State Competition, Not Sectarianism, Key Driver of Middle East Politics

    Aug 3, 2017

    Sectarianism is real and dangerous in the Middle East, but the region is more complicated. The next leaders in Iran and Saudi Arabia, under pressure from youthful populations and worsening economic challenges, may no longer see value in a costly sectarian agenda.

  • ISIS Is So Desperate It's Turning to the Drug Trade

    Jul 25, 2017

    As the Islamic State loses territory, it is forced to seek new revenue streams to exploit, including drug trafficking. Proceeds garnered from peddling narcotics affords jihadis in Europe the financial flexibility to travel to Syria, to fund attacks, and to pay for their return trips home.

  • Moving Beyond Mosul

    Jul 18, 2017

    The Islamic State group has been defeated in Mosul. But this military routing isn't enough to ensure lasting stability, either in Mosul or in Iraq more broadly. What comes next will require careful planning, diplomacy, implementation, and coordination.

  • Can the Islamic State Survive If Baghdadi Is Dead?

    Jun 30, 2017

    If and when self-declared Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed, it will have little effect on the threat posed by the Islamic State to global security. The far more important objective is to continue dismantling the organization as a whole, including its affiliates in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and Afghanistan.

  • How Innovation Can Assist the Refugee 'Pathway'

    Jun 27, 2017

    New ways to collaborate and coordinate humanitarian actions are needed so that refugees, host communities, and other stakeholders are empowered to create and spread innovative solutions. These efforts should consider the entire refugee pathway, not only emergency and arrival assistance.

  • Is ISIS Leader Baghdadi Still Alive?

    Jun 22, 2017

    The Russian military announced that it might have killed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in an airstrike in Raqqa. Would his death weaken the group or will ISIS continue to adapt, evolve, and expand like al Qaeda did?

  • The Islamic State's Disposable Army

    Jun 20, 2017

    To leaders of the Islamic State group, murder of its own and collective suicide are keys to its defense strategy. The group targets malcontents and the most suggestible, knowing they are desperate to belong to something and willing to die for it.

  • Time for Quiet Diplomacy, Not Taking Sides

    Jun 7, 2017

    Disputes within the Gulf Cooperation Council are inevitable given differing threat perceptions and political interests, but there is no reason for the U.S. to pursue policies that aggravate the differences and risk fueling greater instability. Instead, Washington could assure both sides that it will support any agreement they reach.

  • Why Trump's Pressures on Iran Won't Benefit America

    May 25, 2017

    The Trump administration has demonstrated a renewed policy of pressure against Iran. In doing so, it risks losing the ability to leverage the greatest potential source of change in Iran: millions of Iranians who want a better country at peace with the world.