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Diplomacy and nuclear issue

In letter to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran challenged the need for it to ship excess heavy water abroad if its stock exceeds limit set by JCPOA. “Nothing in the (agreement) requires Iran to ship out the excess heavy water which is made available to the international market but has not yet found an actual buyer to which the heavy water needs to be delivered.” (Reuters, 3/17)

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said he asked U.S. for IAEA budget increase, saying agency needs 2.1% increase in 2018 of current budget of about $400 million. “Without an increase, the IAEA will not be able to implement the verification and monitoring activities in Iran.” (AP, 3/22)

President Trump’s NSC Director for WMD and Counterproliferation Christopher Ford said: “Until otherwise decided, the United States will adhere to the Iran nuclear deal.” (RFERL, 3/22)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that if U.S. continued reneging on its JCPOA commitments, Iran would resume its nuclear activities with “even greater” speed. (Tehran Times, 3/21)

Sanctions and Iran’s economy

Bipartisan group of more than a dozen U.S. senators introduced ‘‘Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017.” Legislation would expand sanctions for ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfers of conventional weapons to or from Iran, and human rights violations. (Reuters, 2/23) (Foreign.senate.gov, 2/23) (full bill) U.S. House introduced similar Iran sanctions bill. (Al-Monitor, 3/23) (full bill)

Trump administration imposed new sanctions on 30 foreign companies or individuals for transferring sensitive technology to Iran for its missile program or for violating export controls on Iran, North Korea, and Syria. (Reuters, 3/24) (State.gov, 3/24)

Iran asked Bank of England to set up special clearing accounts for its banks, but has so far been rebuffed. (Reuters, 3/20)

China’s ZTE Corp pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court in Texas. (Reuters, 3/22)

Iranian domestic politics

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei warned he would confront anyone trying to interfere in Iran’s presidential election in May. “I will confront anyone who wants to tamper with the results of the people’s vote. In previous years and previous elections..., it was the same. Some of it was in front of people’s eyes and they became aware of it. And some of it they were not aware of but I was informed about it.” (Reuters, 3/21)

In pre-recorded broadcast for holiday of Nowruz, Khamenei also criticized the government’s economic policies and called for new “resistance economy” to create jobs. By contrast, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani touted his economic achievements in his Nowruz message. (PressTV, 3/20) (Reuters, 3/20)

Rouhani will visit Moscow next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (PressTV, 3/24)

US-Iran relations

U.S. aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush confronted two sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats that approached U.S.-led, five-vessel flotilla as it entered Strait of Hormuz. (Reuters, 3/22)

Luxembourg judge denied request from Iran to annul claims by American families of victims of 9/11 attacks on $1.6 billion of Iranian assets. (Reuters, 3/22)

Family of Robert A. Levinson, part-time C.I.A consultant who vanished a decade ago in Iran, filed lawsuit against Iran. (NYT, 3/21)

 Trump issued greeting to Iranians celebrating Nowruz. (Reuters, 3/22)

Geopolitics and Iran

New report suggested Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisers to Houthi rebels in Yemen. It also says Iran has increased role in recent months. (Reuters, 3/22)


German media reported that Iran’s Quds Force paid Pakistani man, Syed Mustafa, to track French-Israeli Chamber of Commerce head David Rouach. There is speculation that surveillance took place to prepare for possible attacks. (Jerusalem Post, 3/21)

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.


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.


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

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