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.

  • China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif exchange documents during the signing ceremony of a 25-year cooperation agreement, in Tehran, Iran March 27, 2021, photo by Majid Asgaripour/WANA via Reuters

    China Does Not Have to Be America's Enemy in the Middle East

    Apr 19, 2021

    China and Iran made a deal in which China promised to boost its investment in Iranian infrastructure in exchange for a steady supply of oil. This uptick in Chinese influence does not necessarily erode U.S. power in the region. The United States may even find overlapping interests with China since both have a stake in containing conflicts and instability.

  • COVID-19 Demographic Trends, Vaccinating 'High-Contact' People, the Iran Threat Network: RAND Weekly Recap

    Apr 16, 2021

    This weekly recap focuses on how the pandemic is shaping demographic trends, targeting vaccines to "high-contact" people, the Iran Threat Network, and more.

  • European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria April 6, 2021

    The Biden Administration Will Find It Difficult to Contain Israel and Iran's Escalating Tensions

    Apr 14, 2021

    Iranian officials are blaming Israel and vowing revenge for a major blackout that damaged centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear research facility. The attack is likely to complicate nuclear diplomacy, further erode trust between Tehran and Washington, and may only incentivize Iran to advance its program. What does this mean for the nascent nuclear talks in Vienna?

  • People walk at a street market in Sanaa, Yemen, February 5, 2021, photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    Congressional Options to Advance Peace in Yemen

    Mar 29, 2021

    An enduring peace in Yemen will require addressing Yemen's most immediate needs while working to develop its economic, political, and security institutions. U.S. lawmakers have the tools to help shape this effort and could help end the conflict and bring stability to Yemen.

  • L-R: Bahrain Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump, and UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the Abraham Accords signing ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 15, 2020, photo by Gripas Yuri/ABACA/Reuters

    Abraham Accords Offer Historic Opportunity to Spur Mideast Growth

    Mar 25, 2021

    The Abraham Accords have heralded a dramatic shift in the relationship between Israel and the Muslim nations of the world. While these accords represent a major political breakthrough, they also represent a possible new chapter in the region's development: away from conflict and toward a shared economic vision of prosperity.

  • Game Theory to Help the Vaccine Rollout, Abraham Accords, Telehealth: RAND Weekly Recap

    Mar 19, 2021

    This weekly recap focuses on how game theory can help the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, potential economic benefits of the Abraham Accords, telemedicine use during the pandemic, and more.

  • U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a nationally televised address to the nation in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., March 11, 2021, photo by Chris Kleponis /Pool via CNP/Reuters

    Reevaluating U.S. Partnerships in the Middle East Under the Biden Administration

    Mar 17, 2021

    U.S. partnerships in the Middle East are in particular need of modernization, and the Biden administration could seize the opportunity to reevaluate its relations with traditional partners. A good start could be to elevate regional stability as the United States' primary interest in the Middle East and to pursue this aim with tools that extend beyond military cooperation.

  • Delegates attend talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

    The Biden Administration's Afghanistan Challenge

    Mar 16, 2021

    American efforts to speed up plodding Afghan peace talks seem unlikely to produce results fast enough to facilitate a withdrawal of remaining American and NATO forces by May 1. But the initiative could prove beneficial if it impels the two Afghan sides to at least begin engaging on the principles upon which an expanded government should operate.

  • U.S. soldiers and airmen enter an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter at an Afghan National Army combat outpost in Afghanistan on June 23, 2015, photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/U.S. Air Force

    Getting Out of Forever Wars: What Are Biden's Options in Afghanistan?

    Mar 12, 2021

    U.S. counterterrorism strategy has long been driven by the assumption that security at home depends on fighting terrorists abroad. How will that square with the president's pledge to end forever wars? Is it possible to get out of warfighting without shutting down vital counterterrorist operations?

  • A pro-government tribal fighter stands at his position in Marib, Yemen, October 2, 2020, photo by Ali Owidha/Reuters

    Pathways to Peace in Yemen: National Reconciliation or a 'Phased' Approach?

    Mar 5, 2021

    Any pathway to an enduring peace in Yemen could take decades to recover from the economic, political, and social costs of this civil war. A phased approach could require patience from the Yemeni people and a robust and enduring commitment from the international community. But war has brought Yemen to this point, and there are few remaining options.

  • Vaccine Hesitancy, Sexual Misconduct in the U.S. Military, the Iran Nuclear Deal: RAND Weekly Recap

    Mar 5, 2021

    This weekly recap focuses on Black Americans’ vaccine hesitancy, sexual harassment and sexual assault in the U.S. military, rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, and more.

  • A U.S. Air Force 34th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-35 Lighting II conducts an inflight refueling in the skies above the United Arab Emirates, May 8, 2020, photo by Tech. Sgt. Kat Justen/U.S. Air Force

    What the UAE Weapons Deal Says About the United States and Its Alliances

    Mar 1, 2021

    Various U.S. administrations have long wanted U.S. allies to do more, but in many parts of the world the most logical partners are authoritarian states with different interests than those of the United States. The sale of military equipment to the United Arab Emirates provides just the latest example.

  • Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, June 25, 2020, photo by Mark Makela/Reuters

    Why Biden Can't Turn Back the Clock on the Iran Nuclear Deal

    Mar 1, 2021

    Enacted in 2016, the Iran nuclear deal was predicated on a geopolitical context that no longer exists. Addressing Iran's nuclear program today may require a different solution.

  • Teachers Quit Due to Stress, Peace in Yemen, America's Middle Class: RAND Weekly Recap

    Feb 26, 2021

    This weekly recap focuses on how stress leads teachers to quit their jobs, U.S. strategy in the Middle East, America's shrinking middle class, and more.

  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, COVID-19 Variants, Myanmar: RAND Weekly Recap

    Feb 12, 2021

    This weekly recap focuses on alternatives in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military, how couples can sleep better during the pandemic, and more.

  • Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, signs an agreement with Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar, February 29, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

    Afghanistan: Give Peace a Chance

    Feb 9, 2021

    The timetable set out in the Afghan peace agreement was always unrealistically ambitious. If the Biden administration postpones the May withdrawal of U.S. troops, then this could provide the two Afghan sides more time to address core issues that must be resolved if any settlement is to stick.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani wait prior to signing the Abraham Accords at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020, photo by Tom Brenner/Reuters

    Implementing Arab Gulf Reconciliation

    Jan 27, 2021

    As the Arab Gulf states prepare to engage with a new U.S. administration, their recent reconciliation announcement offers an opportunity to advance their interests as well as mutual interests with the United States. But the Gulf states' intent to end their feud will very likely not be sufficient unless the agreement is deepened through confidence-building measures and expanded by reaching a parallel understanding with Turkey.

  • The Most Popular RAND Research of 2020

    Dec 21, 2020

    Here are the RAND research projects that resonated most in 2020, a year unlike any in living memory. Topics include remote learning, election disinformation, income inequality, and more.

  • Supporting Working Women, the Intelligence Community, Refugees: RAND Weekly Recap

    Dec 4, 2020

    This weekly recap focuses on supporting America's working women, challenges facing the next Director of National Intelligence, how Syria's forever war is creating forever refugees, and more.

  • Children play together at Atmeh camp, near the Turkish border, Syria, June 13, 2020, photo by Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

    The Syrian Forever War Has Created Forever Refugees

    Nov 24, 2020

    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.

  • A boy with followers of the Houthi movement carries a rifle during a rally to commemorate the Ashura, the holiest day for Shi'ite Muslims, in Sanaa, Yemen, August 30, 2020, photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    Yemen's Chaos Creates a New Opportunity for the Biden-Harris Team

    Nov 24, 2020

    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.

  • Schools and COVID-19, Health Care Resources, Leaving Afghanistan: RAND Weekly Recap

    Nov 20, 2020

    This weekly recap focuses on allocating scarce but lifesaving resources during a pandemic, insights from America’s educators, the lopsided telework revolution, and more.

  • Syrian refugees living in Jordan work under Jasmine, a project which hires and trains Syrian refugee women to create handicrafts, in Amman, Jordan, July 11, 2016, photo by Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

    Five Strategies to Address Employment Hurdles Faced by Young Syrian Women Refugees

    Oct 30, 2020

    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?

  • 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.