Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

Sarin

Author: Zachary Laub

Sarin, one of the world's most lethal chemical weapons, has long been stockpiled but is rarely used by states or terrorists. Allegations of attacks on civilians in Syria, if substantiated, would represent a departure from longstanding international practice, this Backgrounder explains.

See more in Weapons of Mass Destruction; Syria

Human Rights in Iran

Authors: Jayshree Bajoria and Robert McMahon

Global monitors say Iran's human rights situation is poor and unlikely to improve amid a climate of political uncertainty and growing external pressures. But activists urge continued international scrutiny of Iran's violations.

See more in Iran; Human Rights

Deterring Iran's nuclear weapons program is a foreign policy priority for the United States. Candidates for the 2012 presidential elections debate the best options, including a military strike.

See more in Iran; Elections