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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

 Iranian and Chinese companies will sign first commercial contracts to redesign Arak heavy water reactor on Sunday. Reactor will be reconfigured so it cannot yield fissile plutonium usable in nuclear bomb. (Reuters, 4/20)

European Union signed first-ever $2.6 mil. project for nuclear safety cooperation with Iran to enhance capabilities of Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority. (New Europe Online, 4/18) (Tasnim News, 4/18)

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi criticized U.K. for its role in blocking Iran’s procurement of yellowcake. (PressTV, 4/17)

Sanctions and Iran's economy

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said most oil producers support extension of output cuts by OPEC and non-OPEC countries, and that Iran would back move. (Reuters, 4/15)

Kuwaiti Oil Minister Issam Almarzooq said Iran would probably be allowed to keep its oil production unchanged if cuts are extended. (Bloomberg, 4/19)

Iranian domestic politics

Iran announced approval of six candidates for presidential election on May 19. Candidates are Hassan Rouhani, Ebrahim Raisi, Eshaq Jahangiri, Mostafa Hashemitaba, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, Mostafa Mirsalim. (Washington Post, 4/20

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was disqualified from election. (Reuters, 4/20)

First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri is close confidant of Rouhani. Some analysts said he ran in case Rouhani was disqualified. (AFP, 4/15) (FT, 4/16)

Iranian Interior Ministry said there would be no live debates this election cycle. (AFP, 4/20)

Rouhani said Iran will ask “no one’s permission” to build up its missile capability. (Reuters, 4/15)

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan will visit Moscow next week. He will meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. (Reuters, 4/18)

Geopolitics and Iran

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari praised Iran for helping in battle against ISIL. (Tasnim News, 4/20

In interview with Al Arabiya, spokesman for Arab coalition fighting in support of Yemeni government, Gen. Ahmed Asiri claimed existence of an “Iranian plot to strike the security and stability of Saudi Arabia.” (Al Arabiya, 4/16)

The Guardian reported that 26 members of a Qatari royal hunting party held hostage for more than a year in Iraq by Kata’eb Hezbollah, one of IRGC’s main proxies in Iraq, were used to help negotiate population swap in Syria. Deal was finalized in recent days after nearly two years of negotiation between Ahrar al-Sham, a Syrian opposition group, and Iran. (The Guardian, 4/14)

US-Iran relations

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson certified that Iran is complying with JCPOA. However, President Trump ordered interagency review of whether to re-impose sanctions because of Iran’s continued support for terrorism. Trump accused Iran, “They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement, I can tell you that.” (AP, 4/20)

In letter to House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, Tillerson wrote that review will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions is vital to U.S. national security interests. (Bloomberg, 4/19) (State.gov, 4/18) State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of Iran’s compliance to JCPOA. This was first notification since Trump took office. (Reuters, 4/19)

Tillerson accused Iran of “alarming ongoing provocations” aimed at destabilizing Middle East and undermining American interests. (State.gov, 4/19) (Reuters, 4/20)

U.S. Ambassador to United Nations Nikki Haley told Security Council: “If we are speaking honestly about conflict in the Middle East, we need to start with the chief culprit, Iran, and its partner militia, Hezbollah.” (Bloomberg, 4/20)


Israeli Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren wrote op-ed inWSJ arguing Iran is bigger threat than Syria and North Korea combined. (WSJ, 4/14)

At annual military parade in Tehran marking country’s National Army Day, Iran displayed many banners with slogan “Death to Israel.” (Times of Israel and AFP, 4/18)

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