Persian Gulf Region

The Persian Gulf region — which includes Iran, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iraq — contains an estimated 50 percent of the world's oil reserves and thus plays a strategic geopolitical role. RAND has a strong presence in and focus on the region, with an office in Doha, focusing primarily on domestic and regional issues such as education and development and on assisting U.S. and allied military forces in the region.

  • A convoy of U.S. vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, in Erbil, Iraq October 21, 2019, photo by Azad Lashkari/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Syrian Withdrawal: Where Things Stand

    Without an orderly process for its national security decisions, the Trump administration has defaulted to the worst option regarding Syria. The sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces has left an opening for Russia to exploit. It also left the Kurds, a U.S. partner, to fend off a Turkish assault.

    Oct 21, 2019

  • A convoy of U.S. vehicles after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq, October 21, 2019, photo by Ari Jalal/Reuters

    Commentary

    How the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Provides a Boost to ISIS

    President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria could provide the ISIS terrorist group with the time and space to regrow its organization and extend its networks throughout the Middle East. The longer-term strategic effects of the decision could reverberate in the region for years to come.

    Oct 21, 2019

  • A Turkish army howitzer is positioned near the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 17, 2019, photo by Murad Sezer/Reuters

    Commentary

    Indecision in Washington Compounded the Kurds' Dilemma

    Core qualities of statesmanship and statecraft have been notably lacking in charting the U.S. administration's Syria end game. This has compounded the unavoidable costs of withdrawal with charges of betrayal and a retreat under fire.

    Oct 18, 2019

  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017, photo by TIMA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iran, the Unitary State

    Current and future U.S. policy toward Iran must begin with the premise that the Islamic Republic is the sum of its parts and that to try to empower moderates or disempower hard-liners is naive. Rather, Washington should strive to deal with Iran as it is, not as Washington wishes it were.

    Oct 18, 2019

  • Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah wave Hezbollah and Lebanese flags at a rally marking the 10th anniversary of the end of Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel, in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon August 13, 2016, photo by AZIZ TAHER/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iran's Proxies Are More Powerful Than Ever

    The Trump administration has pursued a so-called maximum pressure strategy designed to alter the course of Iran's foreign and security policies, which relies heavily on sanctions to change Iranian behavior. Financial sanctions are an important part of any counterterrorism strategy. But they aren't enough.

    Oct 16, 2019

  • Journal Article

    Winning the Peace in Iraq: Don't Give Up on Baghdad's Fragile Democracy

    Following years of war, Iraq's parliamentary government is stable and concerned with governance rather than sectarianism. But the work is not yet complete, and the author stresses diligence and patience before a lasting peace can be achieved.

    Oct 11, 2019

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the ceremony of the National Army Day parade in Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2019, photo by West Asia News Agency via Reuters

    Report

    Why Iran's Domestic Debates Should Matter to the United States

    Iran's internal debates play a critical role in framing, molding, and selling foreign and security policies. Understanding areas of both consensus and division among Iranian elites is key to developing a realistic policy on Iran and ensuring successful engagement in any future negotiations.

    Oct 9, 2019

  • Iraqis watch as a truck burns on a roadside after an attack by suspected insurgents on a highway west of Baghdad February 15, 2006, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Realities of Civil War

    Civil war is not a pretty thing to see or be a part of. Those understandably engaged with the intense debate over whether or not the president should be impeached should not suggest that impeachment would result in civil war in our country. There are peaceful means available for us as Americans to follow in order to solve the problems at hand.

    Oct 9, 2019

  • World map in red pixels on a dark background, photo by Lidiia Moor/Getty Images

    Report

    Are States Using Cyber Operations to Coerce Others?

    Cyber operations have become another tool of statecraft. But have any cyber operations sponsored by Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea met the definition of cyber coercion? If so, how? And what should the United States do to respond?

    Sep 17, 2019

  • Commercial Book

    Leap of Faith: Hubris, Negligence, and America's Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy

    The dramatic insider account of why we invaded Iraq, the motivations that drove it, and the frustrations of those who tried and failed to stop it, leading to the most costly misadventure in US history.

    Sep 17, 2019

  • Loading cargo onto a container ship in Istanbul, Turkey, photo by Czgur/Getty Images

    Report

    Potential Benefits of Economic Integration in the Levant

    A comprehensive free trade agreement among six of the core Levant nations—Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey—could increase their average gross domestic product by 3 to 7 percent. It could also reduce regional unemployment rates by 8 to 18 percent.

    Sep 16, 2019

  • Tool

    The Levant Economic Integration Calculator

    This online tool allows policymakers and the public to examine how a comprehensive free trade agreement among the countries of the Levant could create significant new economic opportunities, substantially reducing regional unemployment.

    Sep 16, 2019

  • An Israeli soldier stands guard under an Israeli national flag in the Jordan Valley near the Jewish settlement of Maale Efrayim, January 2, 2014, photo by Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

    Commentary

    Israel’s War with Iran May Be Going Too Far

    Israel has a right to defend itself from Iranian threats to its country. American leaders should consider balancing support for Israel's efforts to counter Iran with firm redlines about activities negatively impacting American interests.

    Sep 16, 2019

  • 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

  • News Release

    Follow the Money: How the United States Can Counteract the Islamic State's Plans for a Comeback

    With the end of its territorial caliphate, the Islamic State will almost certainly attempt a comeback. Such efforts will require money. A new RAND report examines the group as an insurgency and a self-styled caliphate, with a focus on how the group managed its finances, drawing from the literature, the group's documents, and interviews with individuals who lived under the caliphate.

    Aug 8, 2019

  • Armed fighters over a background of Syrian, Iraqi, and U.S. currencies and gold ingots, photos by zabelin, Cimmerian, Vitoria Holdings LLC, and johan10/Getty Images

    Report

    U.S. Efforts Are Essential to Counter an Islamic State Comeback

    The Islamic State can no longer rely on local funding sources as it did when it controlled territory. But as an insurgency, its expenses are far lower. With revenue from criminal activities and the cash it hoarded, the group will survive as a clandestine terrorist movement. Counterfinance, intelligence, and possibly military action will be needed.

    Aug 8, 2019

  • Research Brief

    The Battle for Baghdad: Institutionalizing Army Lessons for Urban Combat

    This brief recounts the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, and offers lessons learned and recommendations to enable leaders and soldiers to be better prepared in future conflicts.

    Jul 3, 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