Middle East

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As the center of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths; the world's main source of petroleum; and a religious, political, and ethnic tinderbox, the Middle East plays a considerable role in world affairs. RAND research on the region covers a wide range of cultural, economic, educational, military, and political topics, including in-depth examinations of Qatar, Palestine, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Israel.

  • Workers repair the damage in front of Aleppo's historic citadel, as posters depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are erected in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria, January 31, 2017

    Report

    Exchange Reconstruction Assistance for Bottom-Up Reform in Syria

    Nov 30, 2017

    Syrian peace talks are not working. What leverage the United States and its allies have derives largely from their ability to offer or withhold reconstruction aid. Offering reconstruction on a community-by-community basis could provide a way forward in Syria.

  • 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 Middle East

  • 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

  • A destroyed building with a wall painted with the black flag commonly used by Islamic State militants, is seen in the town of al-Alam, Iraq, March 10, 2015

    Commentary

    ISIS's New Plans to Get Rich and Wreak Havoc

    Although the Islamic State has lost nearly 98 percent of the territory it once controlled, it is ripe for a comeback in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq and Syria. The group has proven that it is capable of making money even without controlling large population centers.

    Oct 10, 2018

  • Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) run across a street in Raqqa, Syria, July 3, 2017

    Commentary

    The Power of Affiliates: Which Islamic State Franchise Could Become the Most Capable?

    With the Islamic State's caliphate in ruins, one of its affiliates could grow to become even more deadly and operationally capable than the core organization was during its peak in 2015. With ISIS franchise groups and affiliates across the globe, there is no shortage of contenders to supplant ISIS as the world's most dangerous terrorist group.

    Oct 9, 2018

  • Soldiers set off for a foot patrol after disembarking from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan, September 4, 2018

    Commentary

    The Risks of Permanent War

    Why are we in Afghanistan? What interests justify our sacrifices? How will the war end? If the U.S. finds it challenging to answer such questions after nearly two decades, the coming years are unlikely to provide clarity. If a campaign has no end, it can have no objective; if it has no objective, it cannot be won.

    Sep 28, 2018

  • A Palestinian woman drags a cart loaded with water containers after filling them from a public tap in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 28, 2017

    Report

    How to Solve the Water Crisis in Gaza

    Gaza has long had water and sanitation challenges, but today it's in a state of emergency. The crisis could be resolved through greater investment in water and power infrastructure as well as more water or electricity purchases. But political complications and other barriers remain.

    Sep 26, 2018

  • A student walks along a damaged street in the town of Kafr Batna, in eastern Ghouta, Syria, September 5, 2018

    Commentary

    Why We Should Measure the Economic Impact of Terrorism in the Middle East

    Though physical impacts of terrorism in the Middle East should be the main focus of counterterrorism efforts, financial impacts should not be ignored. Officials could help mitigate devastating economic effects by identifying and protecting essential regional revenue streams like tourism and oil.

    Sep 24, 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

  • Brochure

    Eye on the Mediterranean

    This article from the RAND Review highlights the scope of the humanitarian and security crisis in the Mediterranean region.

    Sep 13, 2018

  • Marines unload from an MV-22B Osprey at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, June 4, 2018

    Report

    Preparing for Post-ISIL Access Challenges

    As the conflict against ISIL enters a new phase, a stronger basing posture against adversary networks in and around Syria and the Sinai Peninsula is needed. U.S. Central Command must plan for the possibility of losing access to Iraqi bases and airspace. An interactive tool can help identify robust basing options.

    Sep 10, 2018

  • Multimedia

    An Overview of Current Trends in Terrorism and Illicit Finance

    An overview of testimony by Colin P. Clarke presented before the House Financial Services Committee, Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance on September 7, 2018.

    Sep 7, 2018

  • French President Emmanuel Macron gives a speech at an international conference to discuss ways of cutting funding to terrorist groups, at the OECD headquarters in Paris, France, April 26, 2018

    Testimony

    Current Trends in Terrorist Financing

    How do terrorists generate income? And how might ISIS, the wealthiest group in history, seek to use its funds to make a comeback? Terrorist financing has evolved, making it difficult to counter. But these efforts must continue to keep ISIS isolated from external patrons and state sponsors.

    Sep 7, 2018

  • Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims attend prayers during Eid al-Fitr as they mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, at the site of a suicide car bomb attack over the weekend in Baghdad, Iraq, July 6, 2016

    Report

    Blaming Sunni-Shi'a Split for Middle East Unrest Is Too Simplistic

    Policy decisions are being made based on the assumption that the Middle East is riven by a purely dualistic sectarian war between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. While sectarianism is relevant, geopolitical competition, local disputes, and political rivalries are the core drivers of conflict in countries like Iraq and Syria.

    Aug 30, 2018

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin comforts the widow of Andrei Karlov, Russia's former ambassador to Turkey, at a memorial ceremony in Moscow, December 22, 2016

    Report

    How Russia Uses Media and Information Operations in Turkey

    Russian media have employed propaganda strategies to undermine Turkey's political and security cooperation with the United States and Europe. Russian media have also contributed to anti-American discourse in Turkey and have reinforced the Turkish government's propaganda pursuits.

    Aug 28, 2018

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz are seen on the mobile phone screen as they attend a news conference at the Chancellery in Vienna, Austria July 4, 201,8

    Commentary

    Iran's Disinformation Campaigns

    New reports suggest that the Kremlin may have company in its efforts to shape the United States' domestic information landscape: Iran. As Americans prepare to return to the voting booths this fall, Washington would be well advised to look into Iran's disinformation capabilities and intentions.

    Aug 24, 2018

  • Shelly Culbertson and a United Nations Mine Action Service Implementation Partner survey the grounds of the Al-Shifa Hospital complex in Mosul, Iraq.

    Multimedia

    Making Victory Count: Stabilizing Mosul

    RAND researchers Shelly Culbertson and Linda Robinson visited Iraq nine months after the Battle of Mosul to gauge the progress being made in rebuilding and stabilizing the region. In the aftermath of combat operations against ISIS, what are the critical requirements for achieving lasting stability and the resumption of city life in Mosul?

    Aug 22, 2018

  • Israeli armored vehicles take part in a drill in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, August 7, 2018 August 7, 2018

    Commentary

    The Growing Risk of a New Middle East War

    Escalating clashes between Israeli and Iranian forces in Syria have demonstrably increased the risk of a new, large-scale regional conflict that would likely involve the U.S. military. Tehran's continued provocations and violations of Israel's stated red lines are fueling escalation with the potential to rapidly spin out of control.

    Aug 21, 2018

  • U.S. President Trump arrives to announce his decision to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, May 8, 2018

    Commentary

    Bringing Back Sanctions Will Hurt U.S. Allies and Iran, but Will It Help America?

    What happens if leaving the Iran nuclear deal and applying “maximum pressure” doesn't lead Iran to change its behavior or the regime to collapse? The Trump administration may find that it's much easier to break a deal than to replace it with something better.

    Aug 7, 2018

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on the Trump administration's Iran policy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, May 21, 2018

    Commentary

    Regime Change in Iran: Watch What You Ask For

    Mike Pompeo's speech in May signaled a desire for regime change in Iran, but the U.S. will have to change its approach to shape a positive outcome. This could involve targeting sanctions more narrowly rather than seeking to impoverish the general population. And lifting the ban on Iranian visitors to the U.S. would be a good start.

    Aug 2, 2018

  • A Russian soldier near the Nasib border crossing with Jordan in Deraa, Syria, July 7, 2018

    Commentary

    Russia's Wars and Trump

    At the July 16 summit in Helsinki, President Trump might stress that the West will persist in imposing costs on Russia for current and any future malign interventions. At the same time, he could offer to work with Putin in the search for peace in Syria and Ukraine if Moscow were to decide to withdraw its forces.

    Jul 11, 2018

  • Syrian and Russian soldiers at a checkpoint near Wafideen camp in Damascus, Syria, March 2, 2018

    Commentary

    Time to Make a Deal on Syria

    U.S. leverage is much diminished by the Assad regime's recent gains but there are still opportunities for Washington and Russia to achieve a settlement that preserves some U.S. interests. These include maintaining the gains made against the Islamic State and constraining Iranian influence in Syria.

    Jul 10, 2018