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. Recent developments—including the centrist Hassan Rouhani’s presidential victory and the 2015 nuclear deal—hold the potential for improved international relations and a boost to the economy. However, economic revitalization is slow, and the nation remains a complex and contentious factor in global politics.

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 by Western and Iranian writers. USIP’s recent work includes:

Educating Policymakers, Academics, and the Public. Even though Iran’s prominence in the Middle East has increased, reliable resources on the nation remain scarce. 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 present a range of views, prioritizing no single political perspective or agenda.

The Iran Primer also is available online through a website,, that offers analysis representing 20 think tanks, eight universities, and senior officials from six U.S. presidential administrations. Hosted by USIP in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the website provides articles, data, timelines, a rundown 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.

Convening Experts Through the Iran Forum. The Iran Forum is a series of discussions initiated by USIP in cooperation with seven think tanks. Top scholars, policymakers, thought leaders, and elected officials come together during events to analyze nuclear issues, Iran’s role in the Middle East, and the political tenor in Washington and Tehran. The Forum hosts two phases of each discussion: one for the public and a second with congressional staffers.

Forum events highlight a diversity of viewpoints and have included:

Briefing Decision Makers and Building Relationships. Through its focused research, USIP has become a leading source for timely Iran analysis. As a result, USIP experts periodically brief members of Congress and officials from the Pentagon and U.S. service academies.

The Institute also maintains relationships with Iranian think tanks, foreign affairs analysts, economists, women’s rights activists, and officials to stay up to date on the latest political, economic, and social trends.

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