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.

  • 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

    Commentary

    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.

  • A view from space of the Middle East, West Asia, and East Europe at night, photo by wael alreweie/Getty Images

    Report

    Reimagining U.S. Strategy in the Middle East

    Feb 23, 2021

    Long-standing U.S. policies in the Middle East that rely on defeating threats and keeping partners on “our side” have fallen short. What if the U.S. approach shifted from focusing on the threat of the day to a positive vision of a region supported by increased diplomatic and economic investments?

Explore Iran

  • Kurdish Peshmerga troops are deployed in the area near the northern Iraqi border with Syria, August 6, 2012

    Report

    How an Independent Kurdistan Might Impact Its Neighbors

    The Kurds make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never formed a permanent nation state. If the Kurdish region of northern Iraq were to declare its independence, the move would create political and economic problems for Turkey, Iran, and the Iraqi central government.

    Nov 14, 2016

  • News Release

    News Release

    An Independent Kurdistan Would Impact Its Neighbors

    If the Kurdish region of northern Iraq were to become an independent nation the move would create important political and economic problems for the neighboring nations of Turkey and Iran, as well as for the Iraqi central government.

    Nov 14, 2016

  • Supply sergeants for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment's field artillery troop defend a hilltop as a 16th Sustainment Brigade logistics supply column passes by during exercise Saber Junction 15

    Report

    As Anti-Access and Area Denial Capabilities Grow, U.S. Needs New Strategy

    A U.S. military strategy based primarily on an ability to deploy troops anywhere will face greater costs and risks in critical regions by 2025. Why? Other nations will get better at denying access. The United States should embrace a multipronged strategy to prevent aggression.

    Oct 12, 2016

  • News Release

    News Release

    U.S. Military Facing Challenges as Other Nations Improve Abilities to Deny Access to Territory

    A United States military strategy based primarily on an ability to deploy troops anywhere it feels necessary will face heightened costs and risks in critical regions by 2025, owing to other nations' improved abilities to deny the U.S. access.

    Oct 12, 2016

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a news conference near the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, September 22, 2016

    Commentary

    Whoever Wins the Presidency, the Next Big International Crisis Will Come from Iran

    The next U.S. president is likely to meet many international crises after taking office, and Iran may be one of the most challenging. The continuing climate of repression, the next Iranian presidential election, and Khamenei's eventual demise may provide some important opportunities for him or her.

    Sep 29, 2016

  • Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participates in a forum hosted by the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, November 10, 2015

    Report

    Israel's Iran Policies After the Nuclear Deal

    Israel was one of the most vocal opponents of the Iran nuclear talks. But once the nuclear deal became a reality, Israel's attention turned to nonnuclear challenges, particularly Iran's growing role in Syria.

    Aug 29, 2016

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, July 20, 2016

    Commentary

    What Erdogan and Khomeini Have in Common

    The analogy between Islamist Iran and a possibly soon-to-be Islamist Turkey is not perfect. But there are striking similarities between the state of affairs in Turkey today and the 1979 revolution in Iran that established the Islamic Republic.

    Aug 24, 2016

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Golan Heights, near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, April 17, 2016

    Report

    What Are Israel's Interests and Options in Syria?

    Israel has few good options for intervening in the Syrian conflict. Why? Because there is no likely outcome that would be more favorable to Israel than Syria's violent status quo.

    Jul 18, 2016

  • World foreign ministers/secretaries of state in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015, when Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal

    Q&A

    RAND Experts Q&A on the Iran Nuclear Deal, One Year Later

    Looking back on the past year, five RAND experts respond to a series of critical questions about the Iran nuclear deal, its implementation, and potential challenges ahead.

    Jul 12, 2016

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (center) listens as President Barack Obama meets with veterans and Gold Star Mothers about the Iran nuclear deal at the White House in Washington, DC, September 10, 2015

    Commentary

    Before Obama Leaves Office, Here's What He Should Do About Iran

    The United States needs to pursue policies designed to preclude regional hegemony and create a balance of power in the Middle East, while also expressing support for human rights and engaging Iran diplomatically.

    Jun 17, 2016

  • Chess pieces in front of an American flag

    Report

    Russia, China, and Iran Use Measures Short of War to Further Strategic Ends Against the U.S.

    The United States will have to address the problems of foreign intervention and threats short of war if it is to prevent further erosion of its global influence by its competitors. Policymakers and the military services should consider ways to better identify, forestall, and counteract the use of measures short of war against U.S. and allied interests.

    May 31, 2016

  • News Release

    News Release

    Russia, China and Iran Use Measures Short of War to Further Strategic Ends Against the U.S.

    The United States will have to address the problems of foreign intervention and threats short of war if it is to prevent further erosion of its global influence by its competitors.

    May 31, 2016

  • News Release

    News Release

    Countering Islamic State Requires a Stronger U.S.-Coalition Strategy

    While the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has degraded the group by targeting its leadership and retaking a portion of territory, achieving lasting defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria will be elusive without local forces capable of holding territory.

    Apr 20, 2016

  • Peshmerga soldiers provide security during react-to-contact training near Irbil, Iraq, October 2015

    Report

    Countering ISIL Requires a Stronger U.S.-Coalition Strategy

    While the campaign against ISIL has degraded the group by targeting its leadership and retaking a portion of territory, achieving lasting defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria will require increased effort by the U.S. to help train local forces to hold territory. Also, political agreements must be forged to resolve key drivers of conflict among Iraqis and Syrians.

    Apr 19, 2016

  • RAND's Alireza Nader (right) discusses the future of Iran with Dan Simpson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at RAND's Pittsburgh office, March 30, 2016

    Blog

    Impact of Iran Nuclear Deal Discussed at RAND Event

    The Iran nuclear deal has been the subject of strong criticism from U.S. presidential candidates, including promises to scrap the agreement in favor of taking a much tougher stance with Iran. But should a president “tear up” the deal on his or her first day in office? What would be the outcome for the United States?

    Apr 1, 2016

  • Iranian women holding electoral leaflets attend a reformist campaign for upcoming parliamentary election, in Tehran February 18, 2016

    Multimedia

    Where Is Iran Headed?

    Ali Nader, author of The Days After a Deal with Iran: Continuity and Change in Iranian Foreign Policy, offers insights into Iranian politics, the effect of sanctions relief on the Iranian economy, and Iran's role in regional conflicts.

    Mar 30, 2016

  • Report

    Will the Iran Deal Survive? Iran, Regional Crises, and U.S. Policy

    At this daylong conference hosted by the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy, experts discussed current and future challenges facing the Iran nuclear deal and implications for Iran, the region, and U.S. policy. The panels also addressed a variety of non-nuclear issues.

    Mar 24, 2016

  • U.S. Treasury Building in Washington, D.C.

    Commentary

    Time for Washington to Amp Up the Power to Coerce

    The U.S. government should start preparing systematically for the use of coercion as it does for military warfare, including analyzing options, assessing requirements and capabilities, conducting war games to refine these capabilities, and planning with allies.

    Mar 22, 2016

  • U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Iran at the White House, January 17, 2016

    Commentary

    The Iran Deal Is Working: What Now?

    U.S. policy will likely continue to balance the tensions between containing and deterring Iran with regional allies, while testing areas where engagement with Iran might either be unavoidable (as in Syria) or desirable (such as in counternarcotics cooperation or efforts to stabilize Afghanistan).

    Mar 9, 2016

  • Chess pieces on a board

    Report

    Countering Adversaries Without Going to War

    How can the United States coerce unfriendly states without going to war? The three potentially most cost-effective options are financial sanctions, support for nonviolent political opposition, and offensive cyber operations.

    Mar 3, 2016