From the RAND Blog

RAND researchers often write commentaries for publications on a variety of topics. This page lists recent commentaries and op-eds about the Middle East. For a complete list of commentaries and op-eds by RAND staff, visit The RAND Blog.

  • Um Akram, a Syrian refugee, creates soap under Jasmine, a project which hires and trains Syrian refugee women to create handicrafts, in Amman, Jordan, July 11, 2016

    As Refugees, Syrian Women Find Liberation in Working

    Feb 19, 2019

    Syrian refugee women in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan want opportunities to work. But there are multiple barriers and challenges that limit them. Improving the chances of safe and dignified work opportunities for Syrian women in these countries could yield broad positive social benefits for both the refugee and host communities.

  • UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir O. Pedersen shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping as King Harald of Norway looks on during a visit to China, October 16, 2018, photo by NTB Scanpix/Heiko Junge via Reuters

    The U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Is an Opportunity for China

    Feb 15, 2019

    The U.S. withdrawal from Syria could allow Beijing to further assert its role as a key international partner in Syria and, by extension, further its interests in the Middle East. The extent of Sino-Syrian cooperation remains ambiguous but it has reportedly deepened, with China supplying intelligence personnel, strategic advisors, and special forces.

  • Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev addresses the first meeting of the Madrid Peace Conference in Madrid, Spain, October 30, 1991, photo by Jim Hollander/Reuters

    The Warsaw Summit Is No Madrid

    Feb 13, 2019

    The peace process begun in Madrid nearly 30 years ago showed promise, but ultimately stalled, and will need rethinking to adapt to today's Middle East. The world could use a worthy successor. The Warsaw summit probably isn't it.

  • Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria, November 4, 2018

    America's Absence Could Be Syria's New Nightmare

    Jan 10, 2019

    President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria reverses his administration's recent policy of retaining them as long as Iranian troops stay. U.S. withdrawal would give Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and Russia freer rein to subdue opposition forces. And Assad could feel emboldened to act with greater impunity and brutality.

  • A soldier stands guard near a poster of Syria's President Bashar al Assad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Rastan, Syria, June 6, 2018

    Confusion Over the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria

    Jan 9, 2019

    Washington's strategy in Syria has been to impose costs on the Syrian government by diplomatic ostracism and economic sanctions. This punitive approach is morally satisfying and politically expedient, but as a practical matter it just helps perpetuate the conflict and sustain Assad's dependency on Iran.

  • Popular Mobilisation Forces fighters ride in a tank near the Iraqi-Syrian border in al-Qaim, Iraq, November 26, 2018

    Withdrawing from Syria Leaves a Vacuum That Iran Will Fill

    Jan 8, 2019

    President Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from Syria may be unintentionally signaling that the United States is unwilling to compete in critical geopolitical hotspots. Such a message could embolden powerful states—including Iran—to expand their presence.

  • A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel rides on a truck with a mounted weapon at Manbij countryside, Syria, December 28, 2018

    The United States Can't Rely on Turkey to Defeat ISIS

    Jan 2, 2019

    Relying on Turkey to shoulder the burden of countering the Islamic State will provide the terrorist group with an opportunity to revive itself at a critical stage in the fight. Turkey's main focus is on the Kurds and Erdogan's opposition. Eradicating the Islamic State is a secondary priority that has often been ignored.

  • U.S. Soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018

    Trump's Syria Withdrawal: Right Idea, Wrong Way, Wrong Time

    Dec 26, 2018

    President Trump's desire to withdraw from Syria is consistent with his and his predecessor's national strategies, but the manner in which the decision has been taken is highly counterproductive. Unless modified it could have disastrous consequences, says James Dobbins.

  • Fadia Afashe showing her work at an art gallery in Damascus, Syria, April, 2009

    For One Syrian Refugee, the Research Strikes Close to Home

    Dec 22, 2018

    Fadia Afashe came to the United States to study public policy in 2011, with every intention of eventually going home to Syria. But when her fellowship ended a year later, the possibility of returning home had vanished. She became a refugee success story, but a path for others is needed.

  • U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, March 20, 2018

    Could America Use Its Leverage to Alter the Saudis' Behavior?

    Nov 15, 2018

    As the Saudis' chief political and military partner and the undisputed security guarantor in the Middle East, the United States has considerable influence it can wield over Saudi decisionmaking. The Trump administration could consider using its influence to encourage Saudi leadership to moderate its assertive and damaging policies abroad.