Middle East

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As the center of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths; the world's main source of petroleum; and a religious, political, and ethnic tinderbox, the Middle East plays a considerable role in world affairs. RAND research on the region covers a wide range of cultural, economic, educational, military, and political topics, including in-depth examinations of Qatar, Palestine, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Israel.

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    Project

    The RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy

    Jun 17, 2016

    The RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy (CMEPP) brings together analytic excellence and regional expertise from across the RAND Corporation to address the most critical political, social, and economic challenges facing the Middle East today.

Explore Middle East

  • A Kurdish fighter from the People's Protection Units watches smoke rise after a coalition airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, June 16, 2017

    Commentary

    The Islamic State's Disposable Army

    To leaders of the Islamic State group, murder of its own and collective suicide are keys to its defense strategy. The group targets malcontents and the most suggestible, knowing they are desperate to belong to something and willing to die for it.

    Jun 20, 2017

  • Smoke rises from the al-Mishlab district in Raqqa's southeastern outskirts, Syria, June 7, 2017

    Commentary

    When the Caliphate Falls, What Then for U.S. Policy?

    The eventual fall of ISIS-controlled Raqqa will necessitate a review of U.S. policy in Syria. Policymakers can start thinking about the questions it will raise now.

    Jun 16, 2017

  • United Nations Mission in South Sudan peacekeepers from Japan assemble a drainage pipe at Tomping camp in Juba, January 7, 2014

    Commentary

    Japan's Mistaken South Sudan Withdrawal

    Being a proactive contributor to peace involves risk if a country is serious about gaining real-world experience. Pulling out of South Sudan deprives Japan's Self-Defense Force of crucial operational experience and sends a confusing message to the United States and the international community.

    Jun 8, 2017

  • Coalition Forces commanders and Combined Air Operations Center members attend a Bastille Day ceremony at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, July 14, 2015

    Commentary

    Time for Quiet Diplomacy, Not Taking Sides

    Disputes within the Gulf Cooperation Council are inevitable given differing threat perceptions and political interests, but there is no reason for the U.S. to pursue policies that aggravate the differences and risk fueling greater instability. Instead, Washington could assure both sides that it will support any agreement they reach.

    Jun 7, 2017

  • Vehicles drive near Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River, in the town of Tabqa, after Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured it from Islamic State militants, Syria May 12, 2017

    Commentary

    Developing a Comprehensive Strategy for Countering the Islamic State

    Despite substantial policy and military focus, U.S. attempts to stop the Islamic State group have met with only varying degrees of success. A patient, long-term U.S. investment in governance—including a renewed commitment to addressing the root causes of instability in the Middle East—is needed in Iraq and Syria.

    Jun 5, 2017

  • A soldier sets up voice intercept equipment during a cyber integration exercise on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, October 21, 2015

    Commentary

    What Happens After ISIS Goes Underground

    As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria suffers defeats on the battlefield, it is expanding its cyber presence to continue to encourage attacks abroad. The more the group relies on cyberspace, the more likely it will expose important segments of its organization to detection and disruption.

    May 30, 2017

  • Supporters of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani celebrate his victory in the election, in Tehran, Iran, May 20, 2017

    Commentary

    Why Trump's Pressures on Iran Won't Benefit America

    The Trump administration has demonstrated a renewed policy of pressure against Iran. In doing so, it risks losing the ability to leverage the greatest potential source of change in Iran: millions of Iranians who want a better country at peace with the world.

    May 25, 2017

  • Shi'ite worshippers attend Friday prayers in Kufa mosque near Najaf, south of Baghdad, March 31, 2017

    Report

    The Future of Sectarian Relations in the Middle East

    Sectarianism is shaping developments across the Middle East. But sectarianism is only one lens for understanding the region's conflicts, and some of its drivers are amenable to policy interventions.

    May 22, 2017

  • Anti-government protesters outside Sana'a University raise their fingers and fists in the air while chanting for a new Yemen, February 25, 2011

    Report

    Undermining Violent Extremism in Yemen

    In the past 50 years, Yemen has faced significant political instability, including multiple civil wars. Why might Yemenis reject political violence despite persistent conflict and unrest? And how can the United States and its partners undermine violent extremism?

    May 22, 2017

  • Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) shakes hands with U.S President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, May 16, 2017

    Commentary

    A Turning Point in U.S-Turkish Relations?

    While Turkish President Erdoğan and U.S. President Trump emphasized the positive aspects of bilateral relations after their meeting, there remain points of contention. The stakes at this meeting and its outcome are high for both Turkey and the United States, and could mark a major milestone in the relationship.

    May 21, 2017

  • A former Islamic State prison in the town of Tabqa, after Syrian Democratic Forces captured it from Islamic State militants, Syria, May 12, 2017.

    Commentary

    ISIS: Weakened but Still Potent

    ISIS is being defeated as an insurgency while preparing to transform into a clandestine terrorist group. But ISIS will continue to pose a serious threat to the countries where it operates and to the Western nations that it targets as it evolves.

    May 18, 2017

  • Ismail Haniyeh, newly elected head of Hamas' political office, arrives to visit a sit-in in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, Gaza City, May 8, 2017

    Commentary

    Hamas's Strategic Rebranding

    Hamas has unveiled a revised version of its charter that appears to soften the group's stance toward Israel. Does this represent a shift away from violence and toward a more lasting and peaceful political presence? Or is it a ploy to buy time to rearm?

    May 17, 2017

  • Displaced Iraqi people pass a torn Islamic State banner as the battle between the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service and Islamic State militants continues nearby, in western Mosul, Iraq, April 23, 2017

    Commentary

    Can the Islamic State Survive Financially?

    Significant gains have been made in attacking the Islamic State's cash and diminishing its ability to finance high-frequency attacks in Iraq and Syria. But the group may retain enough money to support sporadic attacks in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.

    May 15, 2017

  • Muslim woman carrying food on her head in a Nubian village

    Project

    Evaluation of the Sudan Free of Female Genital Cutting Programme

    RAND Europe is part of a consortium tasked with evaluating the programme 'Sudan Free of Female Genital Cutting' (SFFGC) for the UK Department for International Development.

    May 14, 2017

  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2017.

    Commentary

    Toward a Renewed Middle East Peace Process

    Momentum is building toward resumption of the dormant Middle East peace process. But there will need to be a clear, consistent plan that delivers quick, tangible results to both sides and helps restore trust between them in order for a peace plan to succeed.

    May 11, 2017

  • People pass a large picture of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the late leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khomeini during a ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, February 11, 2016

    Report

    Iranian Domestic Issues Could Challenge the Nuclear Deal

    The Iran nuclear agreement has proven successful so far, but challenges from within Iran may emerge. The deal could be affected by factional divisions in Iran, the death of the supreme leader, or heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran.

    May 10, 2017

  • U.S. Army Special Forces members train Iraqi fighters from Hashid Shaabi at Makhmur camp in Iraq, December 11, 2016

    Commentary

    SOF's Evolving Role: Warfare 'By, With, and Through' Local Forces

    U.S. special operations forces are not providing the muscle of the frontline combat troops fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Instead, they are providing meaningful support to the various indigenous forces. If they succeed, this model could become a standard option in the U.S. military playbook.

    May 9, 2017

  • In an interview with Russian state television on September 12, 2013, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said Damascus would send documents to the United Nations needed to join a convention that prohibits chemical weapons

    Commentary

    Regional Action Needed to Prevent Syrian Chemical Attacks

    Action must be taken to deter future use of chemical weapons. Regional leaders could call for the International Criminal Court to indict Assad for war crimes. Also, borders with Syria could be sealed to prevent any of the remaining stocks from leaving the country.

    May 8, 2017

  • Members of the Free Syrian Army distribute humanitarian aid to residents left in Harem town, Idlib Governorate, October 28, 2012, after Syrian jets bombarded Sunni Muslim regions across the country

    Report

    The U.S. Strategy to Defeat the Islamic State Needs an Overhaul

    A broader strategy to beat the Islamic State should address the conditions that allowed the group to emerge and thrive. A long-term commitment is required to establish legitimate governance in Iraq and Syria and reconcile the disenfranchised Sunni Arab populations with their governments.

    May 7, 2017

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a welcoming ceremony at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia, March 27, 2017

    Commentary

    Could Iran's Rouhani Lose?

    In this month's presidential election Rouhani is running against Ebrahim Raisi, a trusted member of the revolutionary establishment. The Iranian population continues to live under duress and may be open to new candidates. The Iran nuclear deal hasn't resulted in the great economic windfall Rouhani promised.

    May 3, 2017