Syria, Iraq, and ISIS

Military conflict, political unrest, and all-out civil war have plagued both Iraq and Syria, contributing to the rise of the Islamic State. RAND experts work to better understand the forces behind the turmoil in these countries, provide recommendations for political reconciliation and economic development, and seek to understand—and address—the presence of ISIS in the region.

Our Work

  • Commentary

    The Islamic State's Disposable Army

    Jun 20, 2017


    To leaders of the Islamic State group, murder of its own and collective suicide are keys to its defense strategy. The group targets malcontents and the most suggestible, knowing they are desperate to belong to something and willing to die for it.

  • Commentary

    When the Caliphate Falls, What Then for U.S. Policy?

    Jun 16, 2017


    The eventual fall of ISIS-controlled Raqqa will necessitate a review of U.S. policy in Syria. Policymakers can start thinking about the questions it will raise now.

  • Commentary

    Why Aren't There More Terrorist Attacks Like the One in London?

    Jun 7, 2017


    The number of attacks like the one on London Bridge are low because jihadist ideologies have failed to gain traction in most Muslim countries, and it's difficult to recruit people remotely. Supporting violence and participating in it are two different things.

  • Commentary

    Developing a Comprehensive Strategy for Countering the Islamic State

    Jun 5, 2017

    Lander, et al.

    Despite substantial policy and military focus, U.S. attempts to stop the Islamic State group have met with only varying degrees of success. A patient, long-term U.S. investment in governance—including a renewed commitment to addressing the root causes of instability in the Middle East—is needed in Iraq and Syria.

  • Commentary

    What Happens After ISIS Goes Underground

    May 30, 2017

    Clarke , et al.

    As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria suffers defeats on the battlefield, it is expanding its cyber presence to continue to encourage attacks abroad. The more the group relies on cyberspace, the more likely it will expose important segments of its organization to detection and disruption.

  • Report

    The Future of Sectarian Relations in the Middle East

    May 22, 2017

    Martini, et al.

    Sectarianism is shaping developments across the Middle East. But sectarianism is only one lens for understanding the region's conflicts, and some of its drivers are amenable to policy interventions.

Expert Insights

Interested in learning more about RAND’s work on this topic? Many of our experts are available for interviews.

Meet Our Experts »