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Media Mentions

"Don't count him out. Ahmadinejad’s popularity with the masses should not be discounted, and he would be a genuine rival to President Rouhani if the Guardian Council allows his candidacy." (04/12/17)

—  Payam Mohseni, Director of the Belfer Center's Iran Project, in CNN Fareed's Global Briefing: "Does Ahmadinejad Have a Chance?"

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"

Featured Publications

Recent News

Diplomacy and nuclear issue

Joint Commission held its regular quarterly meeting on JCPOA in Vienna. It was first meeting since President Trump’s inauguration. One issue discussed was Iran’s request to purchase 950 tonnes of concentrated uranium, known as yellowcake. (PressTV, 4/25)

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi met with Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano. (PressTV, 4/24)

United Arab Emirates court sentenced Iranian businessman to 10 years in prison after being convicted of trying to bring electric motor and other devices there to further Iran’s nuclear program. (AP, 4/26)

Sanctions and Iran's economy

Saudi Arabia is losing market share to Iraq and Iran as result of OPEC’s agreement to increase oil prices. (Bloomberg, 4/26)

Petroleum Minister Deputy for International and Commercial Affairs Amir Hossein Zamani-Nia said Germany’s Linde is interested in direct investment in Iran’s petrochemical industry. (IRNA, 4/24)

US-Iran Relations

When asked whether U.S. would stay in JCPOA during AP interview, Trump said: “It’s possible that we won’t [...] I believe they have broken the spirit of the agreement.” (AP, 4/23) Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif responded on Twitter: “We’ll see if US prepared to live up to letter of #JCPOA let alone spirit. So far, it has defied both.”

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, USS Mahan, fired warning flare toward Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp vessel that came near it in Persian Gulf. Zarif tweeted: “Breaking: Our Navy operates in — yes, correct — the Persian Gulf, not the Gulf of Mexico. Question is what US Navy doing 7,500 miles from home.” (AP, 4/26)

Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said U.S. diplomats pressed Iranian counterparts to seek release of detained Americans on Vienna meeting sidelines. (AP, 4/27

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran head Ali Akbar Salehi said U.S. will be explicitly violating JCPOA if it refuses to extend suspension of nuclear-related sanctions. (PressTV, 4/25)

NYT reported that Department of Treasury sent administrative subpoena to China’s Huawei Technologies in December 2016. U.S. officials are reportedly widening investigation into whether company broke trade controls on Iran, Cuba, Sudan, and Syria. (NYT, 4/26)

Department of Justice announced that Singapore citizen, Lim Yong Nam, was sentenced to 40 months in prison for his role in conspiracy that caused thousands of radio frequency modules to be illegally exported from U.S. to Iran. Some modules were later found in unexploded improvised explosive devices in Iraq. (justice.gov, 4/27) (Reuters, 4/27)

WSJ reported that Trump told aides to toughen Department of State letter last week that declared Iran in compliance with JCPOA.  (WSJ, 4/25)

Iran Air will not take early delivery of Boeing 777-300ER jetliner like some reports suggested earlier this month. (Reuters, 4/27)

Iranian domestic politics

Iran held first of three live televised debates ahead of election. Each of three-hour debates will focus on social, economic, and political issues.  (AP, 4/28) (PressTV, 4/28)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei said all presidential candidates needed to “promise the people that in order for the country to progress, for economic growth and to untie the knots, their eyes won’t be set outside our borders but on the nation itself.” (Bloomberg, 4/25)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended international economic engagement: “We should avoid scaring away foreign and domestic investors ... we can attract 140 billion dollars of investment that can help to tackle unemployment.” (Reuters, 4/27)

Ten Iranian border guards were killed by Sunni militants from Jaish al Adl group in cross-border attack on Pakistani border. (Reuters, 4/26)

Geopolitics and Iran

Defense, interior, and foreign ministers of Gulf Cooperation Council countries met in Riyadh to discuss regional security and formulate unified voice against Iran. Post-meeting joint statement emphasized countries’ determination to prevent “external interference” in their internal affairs and “efforts to undermine national security and provoke sectarian strife.” (ABC News, 4/27)

During press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Iran of interfering in region. (PressTV, 4/26)

Last week, falcon hunting party consisting of Qatari royal family members was released by Kita’ib Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militia tied to Iran. Qataris paid millions for release. Release was tied to broader deal involving Syrian population swaps. (NYT, 4/21)


Israeli warplanes struck weapons supply hub operated by Hezbollah near Damascus International Airport. Strikes reportedly targeted arms sent from Iran in commercial and military cargo aircraft. Later, Israel said one of its Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries intercepted unmanned drone over Golan Heights. (Reuters, 4/27)

Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said Israel is seeking an “understanding” with Trump administration that Iran must not be allowed to establish permanent foothold in Syria. He also said he used meeting with White House officials and key lawmakers to press for further sanctions on Iran and Hezbollah. (Reuters, 4/26)

In highly unusual announcement, Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said Israel foiled a large cyberattack. Iran is believed to have directed the attack. (Haaretz, 4/26)

Khamenei blamed U.S. and Israel for spearheading hostilities toward Iran: “the creation of terrorist groups in the name of Islam and engendering divisions among Muslim countries…are among the conspiracies devised by the oppressive US and the evil Zionist regime to fight Islam.” (PressTV, 4/25)

Working Group

The Iran Working Group was created to serve as a channel for internal discussions on the fundamental issues of the Iranian nuclear challenge. The project, which since 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 nuclear physics and nuclear policy, negotiation strategy, economics, and Iranian politics.

Members of the Iran Working Group meet regularly to dissect the latest developments from the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West and the economic impacts of international sanctions. The Working Group regularly hosts private, off-the-record discussions on Iran with distinguished scholars and practitioners in the field.

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