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 ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Reza Najafi attends a news conference in Vienna

    Commentary

    A 'Nixon to China' Moment with Iran?

    The current negotiations with Iran designed to eliminate its nuclear weapons capability seem to lack a broader strategic objective: stabilizing the Middle East with a regional balance of power. What does the China experience tell us about prospects for a strategic breakthrough with Iran?

    Dec 24, 2013

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the United Nations Headquarters after the P5+1 member nations concluded a nuclear deal with Iran in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 24, 2013.

    Commentary

    A First Step in Geneva

    The Geneva agreement is only a first step toward a comprehensive deal but it is an important achievement. Iran's ability to move toward a nuclear weapons breakout capability has been halted in return for limited sanctions relief.

    Nov 25, 2013

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem November 6, 2013

    Commentary

    Playing Good Cop, Bad Cop with Iran

    On the one hand, U.S. negotiators must convince their Iranian counterparts that the United States is serious about offering genuine sanctions relief in return for Tehran making concessions on its nuclear ambitions. On the other hand, the negotiating team must also assuage the concerns of allies and members of Congress.

    Nov 22, 2013

  • Nuclear talks at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva November 20, 2013

    Commentary

    We're Close to a Good Deal with Iran. Why Sabotage It?

    It appears that Iran and the P5+1 are close to agreeing for Tehran to suspend major aspects of its program, including the enrichment of uranium to a medium level of 20 percent, and installation of more advanced centrifuges, in return for reversible and limited easing of sanctions.

    Nov 21, 2013

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses an international assembly of reporters upon arriving in Geneva

    Commentary

    The Geneva Blame Game

    Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany) came tantalizingly close to reaching a nuclear deal this past weekend in Geneva, but the talks ended without an agreement. Although both Iran and the United States expressed optimism that much was achieved, a blame game between the different players soon ensued.

    Nov 15, 2013

  • Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

    Commentary

    A Different Israeli Take on Iran

    An agreement did not come out of last week's talks. But when the participants resume negotiations later this month, they should keep one thing in mind: Not all Israelis are as alarmed about a potential deal as Netanyahu. Despite Netanyahu's hard line, many Israelis believe diplomacy can work.

    Nov 12, 2013

  • European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before the start of two days of nuclear talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva October 15, 2013

    Commentary

    Pause on Additional Iran Sanctions Crucial to Negotiations

    The Nov. 7–8 negotiations between Iran and six world powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany) could prove to be a critical point in the Iranian nuclear crisis. New sanctions under consideration by Congress could lead to a weakening of the overall U.S. position.

    Nov 6, 2013

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks to the media after a meeting of foreign ministers at the U.N. Headquarters in New York September 26, 2013

    Commentary

    Zero-Sum Enrichment

    Sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy, and the Islamic Republic may finally be motivated to take steps to rein in its nuclear program, including accepting limits on uranium enrichment, in exchange for lessening the pressure.

    Oct 14, 2013

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani takes questions from journalists during a news conference in New York September 27, 2013

    Commentary

    The US Iran Wrestling Match

    According to Khamenei, the Islamic Republic is willing to engage its enemy, or show “flexibility,” in order to win the overall competition. However, Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards have also laid out clear red lines for Rouhani. He is to demonstrate no weakness or “humility” with the opponent, the United States.

    Sep 27, 2013

  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his ballot in central Tehran June 14, 2013

    Commentary

    Obama Should Take Iran's Overture Seriously

    If his words are any guide, Iran's supreme leader is pivoting to diplomacy. Long an advocate of “resistance” to the United States, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now praises his new president, Hassan Rouhani, for his administration's “heroic” and “artful” approach toward foreign policy.

    Sep 23, 2013

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif speaking at a news conference in Baghdad, September 8, 2013

    Commentary

    What to Do Now? Iran Torn on Syria

    Iran has a strategic interest in opposing chemical weapons due to its own horrific experience during the 1980–1988 war with Iraq. But it also has compelling reasons to continue supporting Damascus. The Syrian regime is Iran's closest ally in the Middle East and the geographic link to its Hezbollah partners in Lebanon.

    Sep 11, 2013

  • U.N. chemical weapons investigation team in Damascus

    Commentary

    US Should Keep Focus on Syria, Not Iran

    Those arguing for US-led airstrikes based on the premise of preventing a precedent with Iran would only make it easier for Iran and Syria to paint military action against the brutal Assad regime as an Israeli-inspired scheme rather than a regionally and internationally supported option, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Sep 6, 2013

  • The official photo of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

    Commentary

    Rowhani's Syria Dilemma

    Syria is Iran's only real state ally in the Middle East. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's behavior puts Iranian leaders, especially the newly elected President Hassan Rowhani, in a quandary.

    Aug 30, 2013

  • News Release

    Rivalry, Cooperation Between Turkey and Iran Changing Along with the Middle East

    Economic cooperation between Turkey and Iran has increased over the past decade — mainly due to Iran's vast oil and natural gas reserves — but the degree of cooperation between the two nations should not be exaggerated.

    Aug 29, 2013

  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (right) talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (left) during their meeting in Tehran in 2009

    Report

    Rivalry, Cooperation Between Turkey and Iran Changing Along with the Middle East

    Economic cooperation between Turkey and Iran has increased over the past decade — mainly due to Iran's vast oil and natural gas reserves — but the degree of cooperation between the two nations should not be exaggerated.

    Aug 26, 2013

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks during an event to mark Nawroz, the Persian New Year, in Kabul March 27, 2014

    Commentary

    A Last Chance for Iran's Pragmatists

    Rouhani's new government is not pro-Western by any stretch of the imagination, writes Alireza Nader. But its political interests and Iran's current predicament provide a unique opportunity to solve the nuclear crisis peacefully.

    Aug 12, 2013

  • A 2009 rally in support of Mir Hussein Mousavi before he was put on house arrest.

    Commentary

    Will Iran's Opposition Leaders Be Released?

    The resolution of Iran's nuclear crisis does not only depend on U.S.-Iranian relations, but also on other factors including the fate of three Iranian prisoners.

    Aug 2, 2013

  • U.S. helicopter squadron in the Persian Gulf launches an MK-105 Mod 4 Sled

    Commentary

    By Land and by Sea

    There are good reasons for the United States to rethink how it counterbalances Iran, reassures local allies, and projects power with fewer resources. However, tying down large numbers of fighter aircraft in the Gulf is likely only to exacerbate old problems and create new ones.

    Jul 22, 2013

  • Hassan Rouhani giving a speech

    Commentary

    Before Piling on New Sanctions, Give Rouhani a Chance

    The imposition of sanction after sanction without a clear diplomatic approach may convince Iran's leadership that the United States seeks regime implosion and overthrow rather than a solution to the nuclear crisis, write Alireza Nader and Colin H. Kahl.

    Jun 27, 2013

  • Multimedia

    Arab Spring: The State of the Democratic Reform in the Middle East

    Jeffrey Martini, Senior Middle East Analyst at the RAND Corporation, discusses the political landscape of the Arab world and how the tumult in the region affects the interests of the United States.

    Jun 24, 2013