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Media Mentions

"Win or lose, conservatives decided the battle lines would be drawn between true believers and the increasing amount of conservatives peeling away to join Rouhani’s moderate alliance that defines itself as 'anti-extremist'" (05/26/17).

—  Payam Mohseni, Director of the Belfer Center's Iran Project, in the Washington Post

Poverty rates in Iran increased during Rouhani’s first year in office because “growth was apparently not pro-poor” (04/17/17).

—  Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Prof. of Economics at Virginia Tech & Visiting Scholar at the Belfer Center's Iran Project, in Bloomberg Politics: "Talent War Shows Nuclear Deal Rewards for Skilled Iranians"

Recent News

Sanctions and Iran's economy

Iran held talks with Airbus to buy 48 helicopters for civilian use. (Reuters, 8/12)


Iranian domestic politics

Iranian parliament voted to increase funding for its military forces, including Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC)’s Quds force, and for its ballistic missile program. Guardian Council must now approve bill. (WSJ, 8/13) (AP, 8/13)

Former Iranian parliamentary speaker and opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi began hunger strike to demand that intelligence officers stationed inside his home be removed and that Iran’s judiciary set date for a public trial. Karroubi ended hunger strike one day later after authorities agreed to lift some restrictions and consider his demand for trial. Karroubi, who has heart condition, was hospitalized. (Washington Post, 8/17)

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said Iran is planning to unveil new indigenous vessels and a missile launching warship. (MEI, 8/15)

Iranian judiciary froze assets of 152 BBC Persian staff, former staff, and contributors in Iran. BBC called on Iran to reverse the new court order. (BBC, 8/15)


Israeli media reported that Iran is building facility in northwest Syria to manufacture long-range rockets. Media outlets showed satellite images it said were of the site. (AP, 8/17)

Israeli Air Force Chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said Israel struck Syrian and Hezbollah arms convoys nearly 100 times in five years. (Haaretz, 8/17)

US-Iran relations

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Iran’s nuclear program could be restarted in matter of “hours” if U.S. government imposed further sanctions on Iran. Rouhani also said reconstituted nuclear program would be “far more advanced.” U.S. Ambassador to United Nations Nikki Haley responded by saying: “Iran cannot be allowed to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage.” (New York Times, 8/15) (Usun.state.gov, 7/15Iran scholar Ariane Tabatabai said Rouhani’s comments were mistranslated. Check out her thread on Twitter.(Twitter, 8/15)

US-Iran relations

Iranian authorities denied appeal of Princeton University student, Xiyue Wang, who had been convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison. (Reuters, 8/17)

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran President Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran could go up to 20 percent enrichment of uranium to “surprise the Americans and their supporters.” (New York Times, 8/15)

Iranian Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani called for creation of special courts where individuals and government officials could file lawsuits against U.S. sanctions and “adventurous moves” in region. (MEI, 8/17)

Geopolitics and Iran

The Guardian reported that Iraq and Saudi Arabia are negotiating new alliance that would give Riyadh leading role in rebuilding Iraq’s towns and cities. Alliance could diminish Iranian influence in Iraq. (The Guardian, 8/18)

Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri made rare visit to Turkey for three days of talks focused mostly on Syria and Iraq. Bagheri met with Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This was first visit by Iranian chief of staff since Iran’s 1979 revolution. Both countries agreed to boost military cooperation after visit. It was reported that Erdogan “plans to visit Iran soon.” (Al-Monitor, 8/17) (Tasnim News, 8/15)

Iraqi media reported that Saudi Arabia has sought the help of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in mending relations between Riyadh and Tehran. (Al Jazeera, 8/13)

Kuwait said 12 men with links to terrorist group associated with Hezbollah and IRGC have been arrested. (AP, 8/12)

Iraqi governor of Basra, Majid al-Nasrawi, stepped down and fled to Iran after Iraq’s anti-corruption body began investigating graft allegations against him. (Reuters, 8/15)

Working Group

The Iran Working Group serves as a channel for internal discussions on fundamental issues of Iranian and regional affairs, including Iranian foreign policy, domestic politics, sectarianism and the Iran-Saudi rivalry, as well as the nuclear challenge. The project, which since its inception in summer 2013 has grown dramatically in size and scope, is co-chaired by Professor and Belfer Center Director Graham Allison and Belfer Center Iran Project Director and Fellow for Iran Studies Payam Mohseni. Working Group participants come from the Belfer Center, Harvard University, Brandeis University and MIT, and the group draws upon local expertise that spans Iranian state and society, negotiation strategy, nuclear physics and policy, economics, and Iranian politics.

Members of the Iran Working Group meet regularly to dissect the latest developments from the implementation of the nuclear deal, the economic impacts of international sanctions, and relevant regional trends. The Working Group regularly hosts private, off-the-record discussions on these topics with distinguished scholars and practitioners in the field from across the globe.

November 20, 2014 – Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, Baroness Ashton, amd Secretary Kerry before beginning second round of three-way nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria.

November 20, 2014 – Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, Baroness Ashton, amd Secretary Kerry before beginning second round of three-way nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria.

HKS Belfer Center's Iran Project Banner

The mission of the Iran Project is threefold:

  • To produce advanced, policy-relevant knowledge on salient issues of Iranian affairs
  • To serve as a hub in a network that synergizes scholarly collaborations and intellectual discussions among Iran experts and analysts across the world
  • To become a diplomatic bridge to advance dialogue between students and scholars in Iran and the United States, particularly for the Harvard University community, as well as to support the efforts of Iranian students and those involved in Iranian studies at Harvard University across disciplines


The Iran Project is dedicated to promoting the study of contemporary Iranian politics, particularly on issues that pertain to important challenges of international security, such as the Iranian nuclear program, US-Iran relations, and Iran’s role in the Middle East.

From its nuclear program and sponsorship of hostile state and non-state actors to its soft-power influence in the region, Iran has outsized abilities to shape events beyond its borders in a dramatic fashion. The Iran Project seeks to bring greater knowledge and analytic clarity to policy discussions on Iran as an important power in the Middle East region.

Dr. Payam Mohseni, the Director of the Iran Project, frequently travels to Iran to conduct research and is fluent in Persian. His work focuses on the internal policymaking process of the Iranian state, the dynamics of factional politics in post-revolutionary Iran, the political economy of development, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Mohseni also teaches Iranian and Middle East politics at Harvard’s Department of Government.

Research Focus Areas

  • The Iranian nuclear program, implementation challenges for the JCPOA, and its implications for regional order
  • Iranian domestic and foreign politics, elite factional dynamics, Iran’s role in the Middle East, sectarian conflict in the region, and Iranian soft power and ideology
  • The Iranian economy, Iran’s business environment, its economic policymaking process, sanctions, and the country’s energy sector