U.S. Institute of Peace Press

Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy

Edited by Robin Wright

(click for larger cover)

USIP Press Books

300 pp. , 8 1/2" x 11"

"The Iran Primer presents 50 articles on topics including governing institutions, the opposition, the military, the nuclear controversy, international sanctions, and the economy. It covers the tortuous diplomacy of every U.S. presidency from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama (with the essay on each administration written by someone who served in it), as well as Iran's relations with its neighbors and with China, Russia, and the EU. Fifty short biographies sketch the Iranian political elite, including those in power, those in opposition, and significant figures no longer living (such as the ayatollahs Ruhollah Khomeini and Hossein Ali Montazeri). Concise (almost every contributor was held to around three pages), comprehensive (it includes unexpected entries, such as one on bazaars), and well organized (with six separate thematic timelines), this is a beautifully wrought handbook. It is also an ongoing project, with its own Web site (iranprimer.usip.org), where new material is added."
Foreign Affairs

Since Iran’s 1979 revolution, the West has struggled to understand what drives the Islamic Republic and how to deal with it. The challenge now looms even larger in the face of Iran’s controversial nuclear program, disputed 2009 election, growing human rights violations, and angry rhetoric. Difficult to engage yet impossible to ignore, Iran presents the world’s most complex foreign policy dilemma.

The Iran Primer offers a comprehensive but concise overview of Iran’s politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and nuclear program. It chronicles U.S.-Iran relations under six American presidents and probes five options for dealing with Iran. Organized thematically, this book provides top-level briefings by 50 top experts on Iran (both Iranian and Western authors) as well as a handful of rising talent. It provides hard factual information for ready reference, thoughtful analysis, and context. The Iran Primer is a practical and accessible “go-to” resource for practitioners, policymakers, academics, and students, as well as a fascinating wealth of information for anyone interested in understanding Iran’s pivotal role in world politics.

This volume is a joint product of the United States Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Robin Wright, editor of, "The Iran Primer: Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy" discusses the new volume and online resource, and presents a fascinating wealth of information for anyone interested in understanding Iran's pivotal role in world politics.


Author, journalist and foreign policy analyst Robin Wright has reported from 140 countries for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Sunday Times of London and CBS News. She has also written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, TIME, Foreign Affairs and others. Currently a joint fellow at USIP and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Wright has been a fellow at Yale, Duke, Stanford, Brookings Institution and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Ms. Wright is the 2012 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Cornelius Ryan Award for the best non-fiction book on international affairs: Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World.

Browse Inside the Book


  • The Challenge of Iran - Robin Wright
  • Section I - Iran's Politics
  • The Supreme Leader - Karim Sadjadjpour
  • The Six Presidents - Shaul Bakhash
  • The Parliament - Farideh Farhi
  • The Islamic Judiciary - Hadi Ghaemi
  • Politics and the Clergy - Mehdi Khalaji
  • Iran and Islam - Juan Cole
  • Iran and Democracy - Daniel Brumberg
  • Section II - The Opposition
  • The Green Movement - Abbas Milani
  • The Women's Movement - Haleh Esfandiari
  • The Youth - Omid Memarian and Tara Nesvaderani
  • The New Political Tools - Geneive Abdo
  • Section III - The Iranian Military
  • The Revolutionary Guards - Alireza Nader
  • The Basij Resistance Force - Ali Alfoneh
  • The Conventional Military - Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Iran's Military Doctrine - Michael Connell
  • Section IV - The Nuclear Controversy
  • Iran's Nuclear Program - David Albright and Andrea Sricker
  • The Politics of Iran's Nuclear Program - Shahram Chubin
  • Iran's Ballistic Missile Program - Michael Elleman
  • Iran and the IAEA - Michael Adler
  • Section V - Iran's Economy
  • The Revolutionary Economy - Suzanne Maloney
  • The Oil and Gas Industry - Fareed Mohamedi
  • The Subsidies Conundrum - Semira N. Nikou
  • The Bazaar - Kevan Harris
  • Section VI - Sanctions
  • U.S. Sanctions - Patrick Clawson
  • The U.N. Resolutions - Jason Starr
  • Financial Sanctions - Matthew Levitt
  • Section VII - U.S.–Iran
  • The Carter Administration - Gary Sick
  • The Reagan Administration - Geoffrey Kemp
  • The Bush I Administration - Richard N. Haass
  • The Clinton Administration - Bruce O. Riedel
  • The Bush II Administration - Stephen J. Hadley
  • The Obama Administration - John Limbert
  • Section VIII - Iran and the Region
  • Iran and Iraq - Michael Eisenstadt
  • Iran and Afghanistan - Mohsen Milani
  • Iran and the Gulf States - Afshin Molavi
  • Iran and Turkey - Henri J. Barkey
  • Iran and Israel - Steven Simon
  • Iran and the Palestinians - Rachel Brandenburg
  • Iran and Syria - Jubin Goodarzi
  • Iran and Lebanon - Emile Hokayem
  • Iran and China - John Park
  • Iran and Russia - Mark Katz
  • Iran and the European Union - Walter Posch
  • Iran's Alternative Allies - Steven Heydemann
  • Section IX - Policy Considerations
  • Reading Iran - Ellen Laipson
  • Engaging Iran - James Dobbins
  • Track II Diplomacy - Suzanne DiMaggio
  • Containing Iran - Kenneth M. Pollack
  • The Military Option - Dov S. Zakheim
  • Appendices - People, Places, and Key Events
  • Iran's Power Structure - Mehrzad Boroujerdi and Kourosh Rahimkhani
  • Iran's Political Elite - Mehrzad Boroujerdi and Kourosh Rahimkhani
  • Timeline of Iran's Political Events - Semira N. Nikou
  • Timeline of Iran's Foreign Relations - Semira N. Nikou
  • Timeline of Military and Security Events - Semira N. Nikou
  • Timeline of Iran's Nuclear Activities - Semira N. Nikou
  • Iran Nuclear Sites - Semira N. Nikou
  • Timeline of U.S. Sanctions - Jason Starr
  • Oil Price and Production Charts - Fareed Mohamedi
  • Websites for Additional Information - Semira N. Nikou
  • About the Authors

Related Titles

See our list of new and forthcoming titles.