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.
Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on The Current Situation in Iran. For a comprehensive website on Iran providing timely analysis by American and Iranian scholars, see The Iran Primer, hosted by USIP.
Iran Timeline: Since the 1979 Revolution
What You Need to Know About China’s Saudi-Iran Deal
Iran and Saudi Arabia announced last Friday a Chinese-brokered deal to restore relations. After decades of enmity and a formal cutting of ties in 2016, the rapprochement has been touted as a momentous development in the region. But how it ultimately impacts the Middle East remains a very open question, as the long adversarial powers are fighting a proxy war in Yemen and continue to support opposing sides across the region. Amid perceived U.S. retrenchment from the Middle East, the deal is a diplomatic win for China as it increasingly seeks to present an alternative vision to the U.S.-led global order.
Whither Iran on the Revolution’s Anniversary?
Iran marks the anniversary of the Islamic revolution in February amid increasingly existential challenges at home and in relations with the outside world. Four months of nationwide protests — triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022 — reflected deepening discontent among Iran’s Gen Z. Young women on streets and at schools abandoned the headscarves required by law, as shouts of “woman, life, freedom” and “death to the dictator” echoed across campus grounds. The protests were a brazen rejection of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and, more broadly, the theocracy’s basic belief that god’s law supersedes human laws. The scope of fury was reflected on October 8, when female students at Al Zahra University in Tehran shouted “Clerics, get lost” during a visit by President Ebrahim Raisi.
The Current Situation in Iran
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.
The Iran Primer
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.