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.

  • Two workers in a factory in Jordan, October 2018

    Report

    Syrian Refugees Can Add Value to Middle Eastern Labor Markets

    Dec 13, 2018

    Over 5 million Syrian refugees entered Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan due to the civil war. This has placed a severe strain on the host countries' labor markets, public services, and social cohesion. The future prosperity and stability of the region rests on creating mutually beneficial economic opportunities for Syrian refugees and host-country workers.

  • 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

  • Workers repair a bridge in Mosul, Iraq, January 28, 2018

    Commentary

    If We Don't Get the Peace Right, Iraq Will Slide Back into the Morass

    Actions taken now by the United States, the Iraqi government, and private parties could determine the war-torn country's future. The message the Sunnis receive in these next six months will determine whether Iraq is on the path to stability.

    Feb 12, 2018

  • Smoke rises after an airstrike during fighting between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State militants, Raqqa, Syria, August 15, 2017

    Commentary

    Tillerson's All of the Above Policy for Syria

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proposed to suppress any ISIS resurgence in Syria, oust Bashar al Assad, reduce Iranian influence, continue to back a Kurdish-dominated enclave, and reassure Turkey. It's important to understand why such an “all of the above” approach would not be workable.

    Feb 1, 2018

  • U.S. President Donald Trump applauds in front of Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Paul Ryan during his first State of the Union address in Washington, January 30, 2018

    Blog

    Trump's First State of the Union: Insights from RAND

    RAND research, analysis, and expertise provide context for the issues discussed in the president's first State of the Union address, including infrastructure, North Korea, and opioids.

    Jan 31, 2018

  • Birds fly above damaged buildings in a rebel-held area in Deraa, Syria, January 25, 2018

    Commentary

    Counteracting Iran's Gray Zone Strategy in Syria

    Iran is extending its influence throughout Syria as the Islamic State's influence declines. To counter Iranian efforts and the inevitable similar actions of other countries, the United States should dedicate significant resources to crafting a strategy to prevent Tehran from taking advantage of the conflict and humanitarian crisis.

    Jan 25, 2018

  • Two boys stand near fuel trucks that were set ablaze in the Bolan district of Pakistan's Baluchistan province, December 12, 2011

    Commentary

    The United States and Pakistan: Best Frenemies Forever?

    A realistic approach to dealing with Pakistan does not mean selling out Afghanistan or taking a loss on the substantial U.S. investment in the region. Rather, it is necessary for giving Afghanistan a better shot at a more stable future than the current approach is likely to produce.

    Jan 16, 2018

  • An Iranian scratched flag with a grunge texture

    Commentary

    Unrest in Iran: An Opportunity for Democratic Change

    As the unrest that began in Iran on Dec. 28 begins to wane following a crackdown, it is difficult to assess what may come next. But this is not the first time Iranians have come out on the streets to protest and challenge authoritarian rule, nor will it be the last; the Iranian people have a long history of seeking a democratic political order.

    Jan 14, 2018

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, November 1, 2017

    Commentary

    Iran's Efforts to Create Instability Abroad Have Led to Protests at Home

    Iran has spent billions of dollars in its quest to be a regional leader, but its main achievement has been to spark instability across a wide swath of the Middle East. Ordinary Iranians are struggling and protesters are urging a retreat from costly foreign fights and more aid at home.

    Jan 12, 2018

  • Mosul in March 2016, under Islamic State control, when nighttime lighting had fallen by 55 percent compared to its pre-ISIS levels in January 2014

    Essay

    What Life Under ISIS Looked Like from Space

    Satellite images show how ISIS attempted to govern in Iraq and Syria, the economic damage the group left behind, and what it will take to rebuild.

    Jan 9, 2018

  • Tehran skyline with Iranian flag and Milad Tower

    Commentary

    Why the Iranian Uprising Won't Die

    The Iran uprising of 2017 is the biggest challenge Iran's theocracy has ever faced. And now, Iranians are no longer contained by the wall of fear created by the Islamic Republic.

    Jan 8, 2018

  • Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand in the al-Khafsa area on the western bank of the Euphrates River, Syria, March 9, 2017

    Commentary

    Where Is Assad Getting His Fighters from?

    The Assad regime's defense against insurgents in Syria's ongoing civil war is being provided by forces imported from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Lebanon and Iraq. Most of these fighters are being trained and equipped by Iran. Could this network of foreign fighters help Iran establish a greater presence beyond the Middle East?

    Jan 4, 2018

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: January-February 2018

    This issue highlights RAND research on life inside the Islamic State and on the economic returns of early childhood investments, plus lessons for the U.S. from Britain's approach to free child care.

    Jan 3, 2018

  • Demonstrators wave Turkish and Palestinian flags during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2017

    Commentary

    Jerusalem Embassy Move Sparks Turkey-Israel War of Words

    President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital has exacerbated tensions between Turkey and Israel. Economic interests had provided incentives for thawing relations in June 2016, but separating economic interests from political differences is harder today given the mistrust between Ankara and Jerusalem.

    Jan 2, 2018

  • Jerusalem's Old City and the Dome of the Rock, December 5, 2017

    Commentary

    What to Make of Trump's Decision on Jerusalem

    While the Israeli-Palestinian issue is not a high priority in the Arab world today with all the other turmoil engulfing the region, not even the Trump administration's closest allies support the president's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. And it risks inflaming regional tension and increasing anti-American sentiment.

    Dec 28, 2017

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd L) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria, December 11, 2017

    Commentary

    Russia Trapped in Syria

    Russia alone can neither guarantee the future security of Syria nor mobilize the resources to enable it to recover and rebuild. Only by linking arms with the international community to edge out Iran, forge broader-based governance and spur economic growth can Russia hope to achieve lasting success in Syria.

    Dec 20, 2017

  • A flag of Islamic State militants is pictured above a destroyed house near the Clock Square in Raqqa, Syria, October 18, 2017

    Commentary

    ISIS Could Rise Again

    ISIS has a tried-and-true playbook for bringing itself back from near death. Just a few years ago, it managed to resurrect itself after apparent defeat. And the history of that resurrection should serve as a warning of what may be coming now.

    Dec 15, 2017

  • U.S. and United Arab Emirates forces training together during an exercise in Kuwait, September 28, 2016

    Report

    U.S. Strategic Interests in the Middle East and Implications for the Army

    The U.S. Army should be prepared for its involvement in the Middle East and North Africa to extend into the future. Having borne the brunt of previous interventions there, the Army is well positioned to help policymakers understand both the utility and the limitations of U.S. military power in the region.

    Dec 7, 2017

  • Journal Article

    The Implications of Iran's Expanding Shi'a Foreign Fighter Network

    Well-trained and resourced, Iranian-directed Shi'a foreign fighters pose a significant potential threat to U.S. interests. The more robust this network grows, the more opportunities it will have to expand abroad.

    Dec 7, 2017

  • Troops from the Malian Armed Forces and French soldiers conduct a joint patrol during the regional anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane in Inaloglog, Mali, October 17, 2017.

    Commentary

    Mali Is France's Afghanistan, but with a Difference

    At first glance the comparison between the French military operations in Mali and America’s involvement in Afghanistan is compelling, and in some important ways, accurate. It also presents some fundamental differences that give reason for optimism in France.

    Dec 1, 2017

  • Multimedia

    Recommendations for a Future National Defense Strategy

    Drawing from his expertise and war-game experience, David Ochmanek provides recommendations to inform a future national defense strategy. He explains that while U.S. forces are currently misaligned with challenges from the country's greatest adversaries, including China and Russia, gaps can be overcome with investments in existing technology to protect our forward bases; reach into contested areas; and identify, track, and engage enemy forces.

    Nov 30, 2017

  • U.S. soldiers approach their transport plane on Pope Army Airfield at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, September 13, 2017

    Testimony

    Recommendations for a Future National Defense Strategy

    War games and analysis suggest that U.S. forces could lose the next war they are called upon to fight. The nation must invest in new field systems and military capabilities to create a robust defensive posture vis-à-vis China, Russia, and other adversaries.

    Nov 30, 2017