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.

  • Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah wave Hezbollah and Lebanese flags at a rally marking the 10th anniversary of the end of Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel, in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon August 13, 2016, photo by AZIZ TAHER/Reuters


    Iran's Proxies Are More Powerful Than Ever

    Oct 16, 2019

    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.

  • 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

  • Former Senator Chuck Hagel shakes hands with Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta


    Reading Chuck Hagel in Tehran

    If Obama's election didn't change Tehran's view of U.S. policy, it's hard to see how Hagel's nomination could. After all, America's war-weariness is no secret, and it's hardly limited to Vietnam veterans such as Hagel, writes Alireza Nader.

    Feb 6, 2013

  • Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili listens to a reporter's question during a news conference in New Delhi January 4, 2013


    What Is Iran's Strategy at New Talks?

    Iran is still willing to give diplomacy a chance after a seven-month hiatus, as demonstrated by the announcement of new talks. But Tehran wants the P5+1 to make the first move, writes Alireza Nader.

    Feb 5, 2013

  • Yesh Atid on Election Night


    When Winning Means Losing: Israel After the Election

    It is not clear whether or to what extent Netanyahu will abandon his traditional coalition partners on the right and turn toward the fragmented political center. However, such a turn may be necessary, writes Shira Efron.

    Jan 23, 2013

  • U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to speak after he took the oath of office during swearing-in ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, January 21, 2013


    Israeli Election Not Likely to End Pressure on Obama for Iran Action

    In the absence of any diplomatic breakthrough and the continued advance of Iran's nuclear enrichment program this year, we can expect Israeli leaders across the political spectrum to press the Obama administration for military options, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Jan 23, 2013

  • Iran's Revolutionary guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks during a conference to mark the martyrs of terrorism in Tehran, September 6, 2011


    Profile: Revolutionary Guards Chief Gen. Jafari

    Jafari now commands one of the most feared militaries in the Middle East, which is also far better equipped than Iran’s conventional army, navy and air force, writes Alireza Nader. He has an estimated 150,000 troops under his control.

    Jan 22, 2013

  • James Dobbins at Politics Aside 2012


    Dobbins to Debate Whether Israel Can Live with a Nuclear Iran

    Amb. James Dobbins, director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center, argues that "Israel Can Live with a Nuclear Iran" Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in a live debate at 6:45 p.m. EST at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.

    Jan 14, 2013

  • Members of the revolutionary guard attend the anniversary ceremony of Iran's Islamic Revolution at the Khomeini shrine in the Behesht Zahra cemetery, south of Tehran, February 1, 2012


    Sanctions Squeeze Revolutionary Guard

    Iran's inability to sell its oil due to sanctions will not only shrink the resources available to the Guard as a military force, but will crimp the wealth of individual Guard officers. This could erode the Guard's loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, writes Alireza Nader.

    Jan 8, 2013

  • Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque at Imam Square in Isfahan, Iran


    Iran: A Rough Year in 2013

    The Islamic Republic faces the potential of stronger economic sanctions and even a military strike because of its intransigence in complying with U.N. resolutions on its nuclear program. It also must deal with twin domestic challenges—deepening malaise among the young and increasing tensions among the political elite, writes Alireza Nader.

    Jan 2, 2013

  • flags of China and Iran


    Chinese-Iranian Ties in the Face of the Nuclear Crisis

    The U.S. effort to isolate and pressure Iran in order to extract concessions on the nuclear program faces a significant vulnerability: the ties between Iran and the People’s Republic of China, writes Alireza Nader.

    Nov 12, 2012

  • U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question during the final U.S. presidential debate with President Barack Obama in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012


    A Crucial Difference on Iran

    The dilemma is how sanctions and pressure would dissuade Iran's leaders from pursuing their nuclear program (as Mr. Romney recommended) if a President Romney wouldn't agree to sit down and talk with them, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Oct 23, 2012

  • news stories about Iran and Israel showing in the Al Jazeera English newsroom


    Israel, Iran, and the Redline Debate

    Politicizing the Iran-Israel issue at Monday's presidential debate could prove a setback for efforts to ultimately prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Oct 17, 2012

  • A person holding Iranian currency


    The Iranian Regime Is in Trouble

    Any instability in Iran, even if it is meant to pressure Ahmadinejad, is bad news for the entire regime. The nose-diving economy has affected the lives of millions of Iranians; they are unlikely just to blame Ahmadinejad alone, writes Alireza Nader.

    Oct 4, 2012

  • Famous mural of Statue of Liberty with a skull face in front of an American flag, former US Embassy, Tehran


    Would Iran Turn to Terror?

    In a conflict with the United States or Israel, Tehran could turn to terror tactics—directly or indirectly through proxies—to create leverage when it is significantly outmanned and outgunned against conventional military forces, writes Alireza Nader.

    Oct 3, 2012

  • A sailor mans a small craft attack team post in the Strait of Hormuz


    Will Iran Close the Strait of Hormuz?

    Just by threatening to close the Strait, Iran increases pressure on the U.S. to restrain Israel from attacking Iran. Other key players—including major oil importers such as China, Japan, and India—would be reluctant to support military action because of heavy dependence on Persian Gulf oil, writes Alireza Nader.

    Oct 2, 2012

  • Iranian protest-rally against Ahmadinejad September 26, 2012 in NYC


    How Would Iran Fight Back?

    Iranian leaders are well aware that they cannot defeat the U.S. military in a face-to-face conflict. But as Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel demonstrated, battlefield losses (or draws) can be turned into psychological victories, writes Alireza Nader.

    Oct 1, 2012

  • Iranian flag over archaeological site, Bishapur - Southwestern Iran


    Smart Sanctions: Actually, Obama's Iran Policy Is Working Great

    Not until the Obama administration had Iran faced sanctions with serious bite. The administration has managed to build a wide and deep international coalition against Iran, writes Alireza Nader.

    Sep 26, 2012

  • U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


    Israelis Need Convincing that a Military Attack on Iran Is a Bad Idea

    Instead of committing the United States to take military action against Iran, a better option would be convincing more Israeli leaders and people that a military attack is still a bad idea if the goal is to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Sep 6, 2012

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and U.S. President Barack Obama


    Concerns Over Protecting Israel's Credibility May Heighten Odds of Iran War

    Despite the unprecedented levels of U.S. assistance and military cooperation with Israel in recent years, Netanyahu's government does not appear convinced that the United States will deal with Iran down the road if Israel holds off now, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Sep 5, 2012

  • Iranians supporting Mousavi in Azadi Square


    Why Washington Should Leave Regime Change to the Iranians

    Emphasizing human rights will demonstrate to the Iranian people that the U.S. cares for their future. Threats of military action and war will only convince the Iranian opposition that America is a hostile power that supports regime change for its own narrow purposes, write James Dobbins and Alireza Nader.

    Aug 23, 2012

  • U.S. Marines assigned to Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team


    An Assessment of the Current Terrorist Threat: A Resurgence of Iranian-Sponsored Terrorism

    The future threat posed by Iranian-sponsored terrorism will be contingent upon Iran's calculations of risk. The current shadow war could escalate further if Iran thinks military attack by either Israel or the United States is inevitable and imminent or, obviously, if hostilities begin.

    Jul 23, 2012