For decades, Iran has vexed the international community. It introduced Islam as a form of governance in 1979 and has supported militants abroad and defied international norms. In May 2018, the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement negotiated by six world powers and Iran. The administration argued that the deal did not adequately curb Tehran’s nuclear program or address its missile program, human rights abuses, and support for terror. Washington reimposed sanctions as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign to change Tehran’s behavior. Tensions between Iran and United States escalated over attacks on tankers in 2019 in the Gulf of Oman. 

USIP’s Work

The U.S. Institute of Peace aids policymakers’ thinking on Iran and provides a unique forum for virtual diplomacy in the absence of formal ties between Washington and Tehran. USIP convenes experts, briefs lawmakers, and presents comprehensive views of Iran’s internal politics and relationships with the rest of the world through unbiased, fact-based research and analysis. USIP’s recent work includes:

Educating Policymakers, Academics, and the Public

Reliable resources on Iran remain scarce, even as it increases as a global flashpoint. That dearth prompted USIP to convene 50 of the world’s top Iran scholars to contribute to the book, The Iran Primer: Power, Politics and U.S. Policy.

First published in 2010 and updated in 2015, the unprecedented project acts as a comprehensive guide to Iran’s politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and nuclear program. The book’s authors represent 20 think tanks, eight universities, and senior officials from six U.S. presidential administrations. The project has evolved, with new articles added consistently to the website IranPrimer.usip.org. In partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Iran Primer website provides articles, data, timelines, rundowns of U.S. government actions, and other resources. The material has been cited, quoted, and republished in congressional testimony, college syllabi, and a variety of print and online publications.

USIP staff contribute their expertise on Iran to conferences and events, both domestically and abroad. They also provide analysis to media outlets to build the Institute’s reputation as a resource on Iran.

Briefing Decision-makers

Through its focused research, USIP has become a leading source for timely Iran analysis. As a result, USIP experts periodically brief members of Congress, officials from the Pentagon and State Department, the intelligence community, and U.S. service academies.

Building Relationships

The Institute builds relationships with think thanks, foreign affairs analysts, economists, youth and women’s rights activists, humanitarian groups, U.S. government agencies, congressional offices, and foreign diplomats. This enables USIP to foster dialogue on the latest political, economic, and social trends.

Related Publications

Using Smart Power to Counter Iran in Iraq

Using Smart Power to Counter Iran in Iraq

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun; Molly Gallagher

Beginning with the early January killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, the first months of 2020 have seen a spike in long-simmering tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Those tensions have largely played out within the borders of Iran’s western neighbor, Iraq, just as they have for much of the last 17 years. Still bearing the battle scars from years of war, few in the region want to see an escalation to more overt conflict. And after nearly two decades, the American public has clearly demonstrated its own fatigue with endless wars. The question remains, then, how can the U.S. achieve its objectives in regard to Iran and Iraq without military action?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

What You Need to Know about Iran’s Coronavirus Crisis

What You Need to Know about Iran’s Coronavirus Crisis

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

By: Garrett Nada

Iran’s outbreak has been the worst in the Middle East by far and there are concerns that the pandemic’s spread is significantly worse than reported by Iranian authorities. The virus hit at a particularly bad time for Iran with the economy already suffering from the impact of U.S. sanctions. USIP’s Garrett Nada discusses the debate over the number of cases, Tehran’s decision to ease containment measures, and whether the coronavirus crisis could open the door to de-escalation with the United States.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Global Health

 Sarhang Hamasaeed on Iran and Iraq Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Sarhang Hamasaeed on Iran and Iraq Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Thursday, March 19, 2020

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads in both countries, USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed examines the obstacles facing Iraq’s newly appointed prime minister, as well as whether addressing the crisis might open the door for de-escalation between the U.S. and Iran, saying, “I do hope that these unfortunate challenges still come with some opportunity.”

Type: Podcast

Democracy & Governance; Global Policy

Iran’s Parliamentary Polls: Hardliners on the Rise, Reformists Ruled Out

Iran’s Parliamentary Polls: Hardliners on the Rise, Reformists Ruled Out

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

By: Garrett Nada

Iranians head to the polls on February 21 to elect their next parliament. Following the violent suppression of protests in November and the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January, many are deeply disillusioned with Iran’s political system. Most reformist candidates have been barred from competing in the election, leaving voters with virtually no alternative to hardliners. The elections come as U.S.-Iran tensions are simmering after the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and as the country’s economy is foundering. USIP’S Garrett Nada looks at what issues are on the top of voters’ minds and how foreign policy will factor into the vote.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

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