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November 2017

Center for Middle East Public Policy

Featured Research

A woman walks near a residential area in the city of Homs destroyed in the fighting between the rebels of the Syrian National Army

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Calculating the Economic Impacts of the Syrian Conflict

RAND has collaborated with The World Bank to develop an online tool that allows the user to calculate and forecast the costs of the Syrian war. The calculator estimates the economic impact of destruction and infrastructure spending in agriculture, education, energy, health, housing, transportation, and water and sanitation.

Using the tool, you can very key assumptions about the extent of destruction and intensity of infrastructure spending activity, and estimate the net economic impact on the GDP of six war-torn cities: Aleppo, Dar'a, Hama, Homs, Idlib, Latakia.

Use the calculator »


How to Help Syrians – Without Helping Assad

Children run along a damaged street as they celebrate the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha at a rebel-held area in Deraa, Syria, September 1, 2017, photo by Alaa al-Faqir/Reuters

The U.S. and others have a major interest in ending the Syrian civil war, helping the millions of displaced Syrians, and preventing the re-emergence of the Islamic State. But they are naturally reluctant to assist rebuilding a country run by Assad and supported by Russia and Iran. What are their options?

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Islamic State 2.0

Iraqis celebrate as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces victory over Islamic State in Mosul, in Baghdad, Iraq, July 10, 2017, photo by Wissm Al-Okili/Reuters

Seth Jones writes in The Wall Street Journal, "This war is far from over...The U.S. needs to shift its focus quickly from supporting military operations in cities such as Mosul to helping the Iraqi government better address political grievances. Failure risks sowing the seeds of ISIS's resurgence."

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King Salman and Putin Deals Leave the U.S. Out in the Cold

Saudi Arabia's King Salman (L) speaks with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin (R) during a welcoming ceremony upon his arrival in Moscow, Russia, October 4, 2017, photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Riyadh plans to invest in Russian energy assets and possibly arms. The deals will lead to the manufacture of arms in Saudi Arabia and likely the transfer of military technology. These agreements thwart the U.S.- and EU-led sanctions regime and send an important signal to Washington.

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Call with the Experts: Analyzing New U.S. Iran Policy

A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015, photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

In this Call with Experts, Dalia Dassa Kaye and Alireza Nader discuss the future of the Iran nuclear deal and reactions to new sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran. They analyze the ramifications of the Trump administration's decision to decertify the nuclear deal and the longer-term implications for the region and U.S. foreign policy.

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Researcher Spotlight

Q&A with Eric Robinson

Eric Robinson

Eric Robinson is a research programmer and analyst. He joined RAND in 2013, following his time at IBM's Advanced Analytics group. In 2014-2015, he worked with the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan as an analyst and advisor to the commander of U.S. and NATO special operations.

Much of Eric's research, including his latest report, uses satellite imagery and remote sensing data to understand economic activity in parts of the world where traditional economic data doesn't exist.

1. In what specific areas does your research focus?

I mainly conduct research on irregular warfare, post-conflict stabilization, and developing economies in the Middle East, the Levant, and Central/South Asia. I've also spent a great deal of time in the field traveling with special operations forces across Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to better understand conditions on the ground and assess the effectiveness of military counterinsurgency operations.

2. What are you currently working on?

Over the past two years, my research has focused on efforts to defeat the Islamic State, including assessments of the role of special operations forces, counter threat finance efforts, and airpower in defeating the group. Increasingly, as ISIS's territory has receded, my work has shifted towards helping stabilize and reconstruct liberated areas. This includes my most recent report, When the Islamic State Comes to Town, which used satellite imagery and remote sensing data to diagnose the economic impact of the Islamic State on market activity, industrial production, agriculture, and much more. Currently I'm using this same approach to help the U.S. government prepare to stabilize ISIS's last pocket of territory along the Euphrates River Valley in Syria.

3. Why is this work important?

It's easy to think about post-conflict stabilization as solely a humanitarian mission, but it is an absolutely critical part of conflict prevention as well. Even after the demise of the Islamic State's physical caliphate, there are major unresolved tensions in Iraq and Syria that will linger for years. This includes the future of Arab populations in Syria currently under Kurdish control, tensions between all three major ethnicities in Iraq, and the potential for a resurgence of the Islamic State as Daesh 2.0. These simmering issues make it even more important for us to help the international community and local governments build effective governance now, and not simply push it off into the future.

4. Can you talk more about the technology you use for your research?

The satellite imagery and remote sensing data I use in my work includes measuring electricity consumption using nighttime lighting, diagnosing agricultural productivity using the wavelengths of visible and near-infrared light, and crowdsourced analysis of satellite imagery to count tractor trailers on roads and assess market activity in urban areas across Iraq and Syria.

Read More About Eric »

The RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy brings together analytic excellence and regional expertise from across the RAND Corporation to address the most critical political, social, and economic challenges facing the Middle East today. Our goal is to inform policy in ways that help improve the security and well-being of people living in the region.

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