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 escalated in 2019 after the two nations shot down each other’s drones over the Persian Gulf and Iran was linked to attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. In January 2020, Iran recalculated its strategy after a U.S. strike killed Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in 2020, Iran became an early epicenter as it struggled to cope with thousands of cases across 31 provinces, further crippling its economy, which was already in recession because of U.S. sanctions.  

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 flash point. 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 Iran Primer website, which provides original articles, data, timelines, rundowns of U.S. and Iranian government actions, and other resources on a website co-hosted with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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

Iran Nuclear Talks Open a Window for Broader Middle East Security

Iran Nuclear Talks Open a Window for Broader Middle East Security

Thursday, April 29, 2021

By: Ambassador Hesham Youssef

Since the end of World War II, there have been several attempts that ultimately failed to establish a regional security framework in the Middle East. These attempts have historically fallen short, undermined by distrust, power politics and conflict. Today, a new window of opportunity may be emerging to establish a stable, broadly accepted mechanism for deescalating conflicts, setting norms and building confidence and cooperation between states in the region. World powers should consider the ongoing Vienna talks — aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration withdrew from — the first step in this direction. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

A Year After Soleimani Strike, Iraq Bears the Brunt of U.S.-Iran Tensions

A Year After Soleimani Strike, Iraq Bears the Brunt of U.S.-Iran Tensions

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun; Sarhang Hamasaeed

The January 3, 2020 U.S. drone strike that killed powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani on Iraqi soil marked an escalation in already simmering U.S.-Iran tensions. For Iraqi leaders, the Soleimani strike exacerbated an already challenging balancing act in maintaining Baghdad’s relationships with the United States and Iran, with whom it shares a long border and religious and social ties. During the past tumultuous year for Iraq, U.S. forces and Iranian-allied armed groups engaged in tit-for-tat attacks in Iraq. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Sarhang Hamasaeed look at how U.S.-Iran tensions played out last year in Iraq and the region and if the incoming U.S. administration, and its desire to reengage in nuclear talks with Iran, could help allay the impact on Iraq.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran: What’s Ahead for the Biden Administration?

Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran: What’s Ahead for the Biden Administration?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

By: Robin Wright

Of all the pressing issues in the volatile Middle East—wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya, unstable Iraq, imploding Lebanon, and the 10,000 ISIS fighters and other al-Qaida franchises still on the loose—the most pressing for President-elect Joe Biden will be Iran’s controversial nuclear program. He has repeatedly promised to rejoin the nuclear deal, brokered by the world’s six major powers in 2015, which Donald Trump pulled out of in 2018.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

View All Publications