Iran

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More than 30 years after Iran's revolution, its political, military, and international activities continue to challenge and perplex its neighbors and many Western democracies. RAND research has informed and influenced U.S. policymakers on a range of topics, from engagement and containment and Tehran's ability to exploit pan-Islamic causes to Iran's ongoing development of nuclear capabilities.

  • U.S. President Trump just before signing a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, May 8, 2018

    Commentary

    The Strategic Fallout of U.S. Withdrawal from the Iran Deal

    May 10, 2018

    President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement. What will happen next? Friction between the United States and its European allies will likely increase, while Iran moves closer to China and Russia. Also, the resentment of a new generation of Iranians toward America is likely to grow.

  • Project

    The RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy

    Jun 17, 2016

    The RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy (CMEPP) brings together analytic excellence and regional expertise from across the RAND Corporation to address the most critical political, social, and economic challenges facing the Middle East today.

Explore Iran

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, June 14, 2019, photo by Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters

    Commentary

    The Costs of Confrontation with Iran Are Mounting

    Even if the United States and Iran avoid a direct military clash, the 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.

    Jun 17, 2019

  • Research Brief

    The Growing Need to Focus on Modern Political Warfare

    RAND researchers analyzed how political warfare is practiced today and identified ways that the U.S. government, its allies, and its partners can respond to or engage in this type of conflict to achieve U.S. ends and protect U.S. interests.

    May 31, 2019

  • Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader holding pictures of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Beirut, Lebanon, October 11, 2016, photo by Aziz Taher/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iran's Network of Fighters in the Middle East Aren't Always Loyal to Iran

    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?

    May 21, 2019

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani listens during a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 26, 2018, photo by Brendan McDermid

    Commentary

    The U.S. and Iran: Beyond the Rhetoric

    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.

    May 17, 2019

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq March 11, 2019, photo by Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

    Commentary

    Can Anyone Save the Iran Nuclear Deal Now?

    Europe faces mounting pressure from both Tehran and Washington regarding the Iran nuclear deal. European countries could take steps to signal their commitment to upholding the deal, but doing so may alienate the United States.

    May 10, 2019

  • The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln conducts a replenishment-at-sea operation with other carrier group ships. The carrier group is now in the Red Sea earlier than planned at the direction of the White House, photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Sherman/U.S. Navy photo

    Commentary

    U.S., Iran Must Both Tread Lightly with Tensions Running So High

    Tensions between the United States and Iran have increased, raising concerns that they may be headed for war. But conflict is not inevitable. The United States and Iran could seek to re-establish communications channels, as well as look for available off-ramps to de-escalate tensions and keep the slightest misstep from spiraling into an all-out conflict.

    May 9, 2019

  • Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy march during a parade in Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2011, photo by Stringer Iran/Reuters

    Commentary

    The U.S. Designated the Revolutionary Guards as a Terrorist Group. What Happens Next?

    The U.S. designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization was meant to serve America's interests by isolating Iran. Instead, it may increase the likelihood of a tit-for-tat escalation that will require significant resources to avoid a broader regional conflagration.

    Apr 11, 2019

  • Soldiers in military gear are silhouetted against the setting sun.

    Multimedia

    Strategic Rethink: America's Security Deficit

    The global security landscape is shifting dramatically. How can the United States protect itself in today's tumultuous world? This video provides an overview of findings from the second volume in RAND's Strategic Rethink series, which recommends a suite of options that could help policymakers ensure that resources remain aligned with strategic demands.

    Mar 7, 2019

  • U.S. President Donald Trump announces his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement during a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, DC, May 8, 2018, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Commentary

    Can the U.S. Attain Foreign Policy Goals with 'Maximum Pressure' Campaigns?

    The Trump administration's record in two of today's most pressing nuclear nonproliferation challenges, North Korea and Iran, highlights the potential dangers of a “maximum pressure” strategy.

    Mar 6, 2019

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 17, 2019, photo by Andreas Gebert/Reuters

    Commentary

    Behind the 'Surprise' Resignation of Iran's Foreign Minister

    Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, announced his resignation after a nearly six-year tenure. His resignation has sparked as much controversy as his tenure, one dominated by overtures to the West and resulting tensions at home. Although his departure will likely be felt most acutely in Europe, it may have a deeper impact in Tehran.

    Feb 26, 2019

  • Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro meets with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran, October 22, 2016, photo by Miraflores Palace/Handout/Reuters

    Commentary

    Hezbollah Is in Venezuela to Stay

    Whatever the benefits of replacing the current Venezuelan regime with Washington's preferred alternative, Juan Guaidó, there's reason to doubt that it would change the country's problematic relationship with Hezbollah. Hezbollah is well-entrenched in Venezuela, where it has established a vast infrastructure for its criminal activities.

    Feb 11, 2019

  • Iranian youths sit under a large picture of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (L), and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a park in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2016

    Commentary

    The Islamic Republic's Foreign Policy at Forty

    Forty years have passed since the Islamic Revolution. While Iran hasn't departed from its revolutionary roots, its foreign policy today is largely shaped by threat perceptions and interests, not ideology.

    Feb 8, 2019

  • Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gesture as they hold Hezbollah flags in Marjayoun, Lebanon, May 7, 2018

    Commentary

    Helping Lebanon Succeed Is More Than About Countering Iran

    As tensions increase on the Israeli-Lebanese border the possibility is growing that a confrontation with Iran may move from Syria to Lebanon. For the United States, turning its back on this small but strategically critical country and conflating U.S. interests in Lebanon solely with countering Iran could be short-sighted, and a missed opportunity at a time when the region has few.

    Jan 16, 2019

  • Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria, November 4, 2018

    Commentary

    America's Absence Could Be Syria's New Nightmare

    President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria reverses his administration's recent policy of retaining them as long as Iranian troops stay. U.S. withdrawal would give Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and Russia freer rein to subdue opposition forces. And Assad could feel emboldened to act with greater impunity and brutality.

    Jan 10, 2019

  • Popular Mobilisation Forces fighters ride in a tank near the Iraqi-Syrian border in al-Qaim, Iraq, November 26, 2018

    Commentary

    Withdrawing from Syria Leaves a Vacuum That Iran Will Fill

    President Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from Syria may be unintentionally signaling that the United States is unwilling to compete in critical geopolitical hotspots. Such a message could embolden powerful states—including Iran—to expand their presence.

    Jan 8, 2019

  • Senators Marco Rubio (left) and Jim Risch speak at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, June 13, 2017

    Commentary

    Congress Can Save Arms Control

    The Trump administration is seeking agreements with North Korea and Iran to eliminate their nuclear arms potential. Success may hinge on cooperation between the White House and Congress.

    Nov 27, 2018

  • Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and Vladimir Putin of Russia hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, April 4, 2018

    Commentary

    Is Major Realignment Taking Place in the Middle East?

    The shifting alignments in the Middle East have intensified since the murder of the Saudi journalist Khashoggi in Istanbul. Turkey has drifted away from NATO and toward Iran and Russia. Like Tehran and Moscow, Ankara is now more anti-Western than at any point in recent memory. What does this mean for the United States?

    Oct 31, 2018

  • U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, meets with Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, May 20, 2017

    Commentary

    The Khashoggi Case and the Cost of Subcontracting U.S. Policy

    Following the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the United States needs to, at minimum, return toward a distinctly American policy toward the Middle East, one which can be distinguished from that of its local partners.

    Oct 23, 2018

  • Mourners carry the coffin of Amin Karimi, a member of Iranian Revolutionary Guards who was killed in Syria, during his funeral in Tehran, October 28, 2015

    Commentary

    America's Indefinite Endgame in Syria

    The Trump administration's position on the Syrian civil war has shifted from countering ISIS to containing Iran. America will remain in Syria as long as Iran does. But an unending timetable for the withdrawal of troops is far more problematic for Washington than it is for Tehran.

    Oct 16, 2018

  • Chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali-Akbar Salehi makes a speech during a ceremony to receive locally-produced yellowcake, in Isfahan, Iran, December 5, 2010

    Commentary

    Can U.S. Pressure Lead to a New Iran Nuclear Deal?

    It could be a mistake for the United States to assume that more pressure will bring Iran closer to ending or reducing its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. When it comes to measures aimed at Iran's nuclear program, more pressure could worsen nuclear risks and further drive a wedge between the United States and its European allies.

    Sep 18, 2018