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

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

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