Iran has been a conundrum since its 1979 revolution. It stunned the world by introducing Islam as a form of modern governance, and rattled the region by exporting its zealous ideology. It supported militant allies and challenged international norms. For decades, dealing with the Islamic Republic was complicated by internal repression, menacing rhetoric, and defiance over its nuclear program. USIP conducts research and policy analysis on Iran, and Institute experts regularly brief Congressional staff and U.S. officials.
Iran Timeline: Since the 1979 Revolution
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.
Iran, proud and passionate, has been a conundrum since its 1979 revolution. For decades, a confluence of challenges—political and cultural repression, menacing rhetoric, and defiance over its nuclear program—complicated dealing with the Islamic Republic. Iran’s revolution has passed through at least five phases.
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.
In 2010, USIP and the Woodrow Wilson Center launched “The Iran Primer”—an original book and regularly updated website—to provide resources and education about Iran, which has been one of the thorniest foreign policy issues for the United States since 1979. The website continues to cover Iran’s domestic politics and foreign relations, the economy, the military, its nuclear and missile programs, and U.S. policy. The project’s goal is to help develop a better understanding of the challenges Iran poses and reduce the likelihood of violent conflict. Featuring book chapters and articles by more than 80 leading experts from 20 think tanks, eight universities, and six U.S. administrations, it has become the world’s most comprehensive source for data and analysis on the Islamic Republic of Iran.