Islamic Republic of 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.

  • The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2019, photo by Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

    Commentary

    A Post-2020 U.S. Return to the Iran Nuclear Deal?

    Jun 20, 2019

    Now that the United States is out of the Iran nuclear deal, signing back on will not be as simple or as practical as some may hope. Too much has happened since it was first inked in 2015. With the political landscape in Tehran and Washington still taking shape, those who want to return to some kind of deal should start planning.

  • 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

  • Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a working lunch at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Osaka, Japan, on Friday, June 28, 2019, photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Reuters

    Commentary

    Japan's Hormuz Dilemma

    Japan is a staunch U.S. ally in the Indo-Pacific. But any decision to support a coalition against Iran in the Middle East is likely to put Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a tough position.

    Aug 16, 2019

  • A member of Iran's Revolutionary guards sits in front of a picture of a soldier at a war exhibition to commemorate the anniversary of Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in southern Tehran, September 26, 2007, photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

    Commentary

    Syria Changed the Iranian Way of War

    To get a sense of the playbook that Tehran might consult in any future conflict with the United States, Washington should pay close attention to what the Iranians have learned in Syria.

    Aug 16, 2019

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference in Tehran, Iran, August 5, 2019, photo by Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iran's Cooperation with the Taliban Could Affect Talks on U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has acknowledged that his country has some level of cooperation with the Taliban. How did Iran's relationship with the Taliban come about? And how might it affect the future of U.S.-Taliban talks?

    Aug 9, 2019

  • The purported wreckage of an American drone is seen displayed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran, June 21, 2019, photo by Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency via Reuters

    Commentary

    The Flawed Logic of Proportionality

    President Trump halted a retaliatory strike against Iran on the basis that it would have claimed many Iranian lives and was not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. There are many good reasons to avoid attacking Iran, but if Washington must resort to force in the future, it should avoid the flawed logic of proportionality.

    Jul 1, 2019

  • Bomb blasts and artillery fire thundered across Baghdad as U.S. forces tightened their grip on the capital's fringes and brought up more troops, April 6, 2003, photo by Faleh Kheiber/Reuters

    Commentary

    Changing the Way America Goes to War

    America's vast power, and the weakness of most of its enemies, has allowed it to get away with a striking absence of deliberative judgment when deciding on war, as the Iraq case makes clear. But that free pass is coming to an end. It's time for the United States to rethink the way it decides on wars of choice.

    Jun 25, 2019

  • 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, recent 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