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.
It will take time to assess the extent to which Russia has “won“ in Syria. Absent a peaceful end to the conflict and an infusion of large-scale Western aid, downside risks for Russia could take some of the bloom off of its rose in Syria.
President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria could provide the ISIS terrorist group with the time and space to regrow its organization and extend its networks throughout the Middle East. The longer-term strategic effects of the decision could reverberate in the region for years to come.
Without an orderly process for its national security decisions, the Trump administration has defaulted to the worst option regarding Syria. The sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces has left an opening for Russia to exploit. It also left the Kurds, a U.S. partner, to fend off a Turkish assault.
Current and future U.S. policy toward Iran must begin with the premise that the Islamic Republic is the sum of its parts and that to try to empower moderates or disempower hard-liners is naive. Rather, Washington should strive to deal with Iran as it is, not as Washington wishes it were.
Core qualities of statesmanship and statecraft have been notably lacking in charting the U.S. administration's Syria end game. This has compounded the unavoidable costs of withdrawal with charges of betrayal and a retreat under fire.
The Trump administration has pursued a so-called maximum pressure strategy designed to alter the course of Iran's foreign and security policies, which relies heavily on sanctions to change Iranian behavior. Financial sanctions are an important part of any counterterrorism strategy. But they aren't enough.
Civil war is not a pretty thing to see or be a part of. Those understandably engaged with the intense debate over whether or not the president should be impeached should not suggest that impeachment would result in civil war in our country. There are peaceful means available for us as Americans to follow in order to solve the problems at hand.
Africa's security forces most often make headlines when they commit atrocities, crack down on protesters, or seize power in coups. But Africa's troops can also contribute to democracy and peace when they lay down their arms or refuse orders to turn their guns against the people.
Israel has a right to defend itself from Iranian threats to its country. American leaders should consider balancing support for Israel's efforts to counter Iran with firm redlines about activities negatively impacting American interests.
Since 2013, Egypt has been engaged in the Sinai Peninsula against a deadly ISIS-affiliated insurgency. To make headway, the Egyptian government could focus on providing services in the region and repairing its relationship with citizens.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has acknowledged that his country has some level of cooperation with the Taliban. How did Iran's relationship with the Taliban come about? And how might it affect the future of U.S.-Taliban talks?
Pushing an economic development plan for the Middle East without addressing the political issues specific to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is like trying to sell a car without an engine. Why? Because an economic strategy that doesn't address core political issues would have no governing entity to put it into effect.
President Trump halted a retaliatory strike against Iran on the basis that it would have claimed many Iranian lives and was not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. There are many good reasons to avoid attacking Iran, but if Washington must resort to force in the future, it should avoid the flawed logic of proportionality.
America's vast power, and the weakness of most of its enemies, has allowed it to get away with a striking absence of deliberative judgment when deciding on war, as the Iraq case makes clear. But that free pass is coming to an end. It's time for the United States to rethink the way it decides on wars of choice.
Now that the United States is out of the Iran nuclear deal, signing back on will not be as simple or as practical as some may hope. Too much has happened since it was first inked in 2015. With the political landscape in Tehran and Washington still taking shape, those who want to return to some kind of deal should start planning.
Even if the United States and Iran avoid a direct military clash, recent escalation and the U.S. maximum pressure campaign are exacting long-term costs for U.S. interests and regional stability in ways that may be difficult if not impossible to reverse.
Iran's nonstate partners are emerging as central players in the escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, and may be a driver of further escalation. But how involved is Iran with these proxy groups?
Since the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran, tensions between the two countries have increased. Washington has stepped up pressure on Tehran in the hopes of reopening negotiations or ushering in the regime's collapse, while inside Iran, President Rouhani is facing pressure to retaliate.
During the Islamic State's rise, looted artifacts were said to be a significant source of income for the group. But no one had identified the value, using empirical data and systematic calculations, of the artifacts that were known to exist in Syria's archaeological sites. Until now.