Syria

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Syria's civil war and the rise of the terrorist group known as the Islamic State has contributed to an unprecedented global refugee crisis, with millions of Syrians displaced internally or seeking refuge elsewhere. RAND's work has analyzed military options for the United States in Syria, strategies for defeating the Islamic State, and pathways to restoring peace.

  • Children hold up letters spelling the word 'peace' during a day of activities and prayers at the Zaitoune historic church in old Damascus, Syria, June 1, 2016, photo by Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

    Report

    Decentralization of Governance Could Help Syria

    Jun 7, 2016

    With the international community trying to bring peace to Syria, decentralization of governance could be part of the solution. Devolution of authority to localities could help lower the stakes of the conflict and provide security to Syrians who have lost trust in the state.

  • The sun sets over Aleppo, Syria as seen from the rebel-held part of the city, October 5, 2016, photo by Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

    Commentary

    Only the U.S. Can Save Syrians

    Oct 6, 2016

    Washington must act soon to raise the costs of Syrian and Russian killing in Aleppo. Otherwise, the quarter-million people who live there could be in danger, and the Kremlin might think that it can mount further challenges to the West.

Explore Syria

  • Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces dance after liberating Raqqa from Islamic State militants, Raqqa, Syria, October 18, 2017

    Commentary

    The Future of Counterterrorism Efforts in Syria

    It is time for the U.S.-led Coalition to figure out what its next counterterrorism steps should be, even as it continues to work toward stabilizing the country and navigating the path toward a political settlement with the other major powers involved.

    Nov 15, 2017

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a conference in Riyadh, October 24, 2017

    Commentary

    Saudi Arabia and Iran May Be Headed Toward War

    America should encourage Tehran and Riyadh to settle their differences, not facilitate aggressive Saudi action. Otherwise, the region will be plunged into an even bigger crisis—without an end in sight.

    Nov 13, 2017

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends the first working session of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017

    Testimony

    Russia's Approach to Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency

    The United States and Russia have both suffered at the hands of Islamic militants. But any attempts by Moscow to compare its campaign against jihadists with America's war on terrorism are inaccurate. Russia's brutal methods have often made things worse, so the United States shouldn't view Russia as a viable counterterrorism partner.

    Nov 7, 2017

  • 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

    Commentary

    How to Help Syrians — Without Helping Assad

    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?

    Nov 3, 2017

  • Syrian Democratic Forces fighters ride atop of military vehicle as they celebrate victory in Raqqa, Syria, October 17, 2017

    Commentary

    Why the Fall of the 'Caliphate' in Syria Will Not Ease Western Security Concerns

    A Syria and Iraq free of ISIS do not, unfortunately, free the West from the ISIS threat. Instead, ISIS is likely to either disperse, with its followers prepared to carry out a range of further attacks, or attempt to regroup in the fragile states of Africa.

    Nov 3, 2017

  • Iraqi security forces stand guard in an oil refinery, north of Baghdad, in Baiji, Iraq, October 16, 2015

    Commentary

    Oil, Extortion Still Paying Off for ISIS

    ISIS's oil revenues declined from a peak of $40 million per month in 2015 to $4 million per month as of early October 2017. Despite the massive reduction, it's still a substantial amount of money for a group whose expenditures decrease with the size of the population and territory it controls and decreased recruitment.

    Oct 27, 2017

  • Members of al Qaeda's Nusra Front move toward their positions near al-Zahra village, north of Aleppo city, November 25, 2014

    Commentary

    The Moderate Face of Al Qaeda

    Al Qaeda in Syria cut ties with its parent organization to portray itself as a legitimate, capable, and independent force in the Syrian civil war. The group appears dedicated to helping Syrians prevail, and now that ISIS has lost its capital in Raqqa, al Qaeda may be the only group viewed as militarily capable of challenging the Assad regime.

    Oct 24, 2017

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

    Tool

    Calculating the Economic Impacts of the Syrian Conflict: Operationalizing the World Bank's Damage and Needs Assessment

    RAND has collaborated with The World Bank to develop an online calculator that allows the user to calculate and forecast the costs of the Syrian war.

    Oct 18, 2017

  • Hezbollah members carry the coffin of Hezbollah commander Fadi Shahouri, near Nabatieh in southern Lebanon, August 4, 2017

    Commentary

    A Glass Half Empty? Taking Stock of Hezbollah's Losses in Syria

    Hezbollah has gained valuable combat experience in Syria, but the cost of that experience may not outweigh the losses in troops, the damage to its image and the need to cede some of its autonomy to Iran and the Assad regime. The longer the war drags on, the more apparent these losses will become.

    Oct 17, 2017

  • Police officers check the identity cards of a people as security forces keep watch in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017

    Commentary

    All That Could Go Wrong When Jihadists Return Home — to China

    About 300 of Western China's Uighurs, the Sunni Muslim indigenous ethnic minority, went to Syria to join ISIS. Now that the caliphate is collapsing, Beijing could soon find itself in the crosshairs of a religiously motivated, battle-hardened crop of returning terrorists.

    Sep 29, 2017

  • Iraqi security forces inspect the site of a bomb attack at a police checkpoint on a highway near the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya, Iraq, September 14, 2017

    Commentary

    How ISIS Is Transforming

    The campaign to counter ISIS has made significant progress, but predictions of the group's demise are premature. It is transitioning from an insurgent organization with a fixed headquarters to a clandestine terrorist network dispersed throughout the globe.

    Sep 25, 2017

  • Syrian refugee children walk to the school during rainy weather at the Al Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, December 18, 2016

    Journal Article

    Educating Syrian Refugees: Challenges Facing Host Countries

    Wealthy regional governments could share more of the responsibility of supporting refugee education with the current host countries so that an entire generation of Syrian children is not lost.

    Sep 15, 2017

  • News Release

    Satellite Imagery Analysis Reveals Economic Decay Within Islamic State

    The Islamic State contributed to a 23 percent reduction in the GDP of cities under its control, based on novel applications of satellite-derived data. Over the course of its peak territorial control and decline through mid-2016, the economy of the Islamic State showed clear signs of decay across multiple sectors.

    Sep 13, 2017

  • A color-coded image showing the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) measured around Raqqah, Syria, including the city's border

    Project

    When the Islamic State Comes to Town: Iraq and Syria from Space

    Using satellite imagery and a novel analytic approach, RAND experts developed a fine-grained, data-driven assessment of economic life inside ISIL's caliphate.

    Sep 12, 2017

  • A man and a boy ride a bicycle past a damaged mosque along a deserted street filled with debris in Deir al-Zor, Syria, March 5, 2014

    Report

    ISIL's Negative Economic Impacts on Iraq and Syria

    The Islamic State reduced the GDP of cities under its control by 23 percent. The group was able to maintain stable conditions in parts of Mosul and Raqqah, but conditions elsewhere deteriorated under poor governance and an inability to defend its territory from military opposition.

    Sep 12, 2017

  • A view of the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees were living in March 2017

    Q&A

    The Post-Arab Spring Experience: Q&A with Shelly Culbertson

    It's too early to say whether the Arab Spring will turn out to be a success or not. The Arab Spring was about people deciding what they did not want and rising up against it, but they hadn't worked out what they did want. Many of them still have hope.

    Aug 23, 2017

  • A woman affected by a gas attack breathes through an oxygen mask inside a field hospital in Kfar Zeita village, Hama, Syria, April 12, 2014

    Commentary

    Assad's Attacks Should Not Be Repeated, Forgotten, or Excused

    Despite signing the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty in October 2013, Assad has continued chemical attacks on the Syrian opposition. To counter Assad and others who might turn to the use of chemical weapons, the U.S. could collaborate with other major powers to bolster the international ban on them.

    Aug 15, 2017

  • Chinese structures in Subi Reef, a disputed part of the South China Sea, April 21, 2017

    Commentary

    Dealing with Global Hot Spots in Times of Domestic Upheaval

    The United States faces growing dangers of war in three parts of the globe: North Korea, Syria, and the South China Sea. How will it manage any—let alone all—of them, especially with political turmoil at the highest levels at home?

    Aug 14, 2017

  • Rebel fighters walk out from a cave that was used by Islamic State militants, after they captured the area from them, on the outskirts of the northern town of al-Bab, Syria, February 2, 2017

    Multimedia

    The Evolving Terrorist Threat

    As ISIS loses territory in Iraq and Syria, are terrorist attacks more likely or less? How is the group evolving? What about al-Qa'ida? To answer these questions, RAND convened a group of terrorism experts.

    Jul 12, 2017

  • Iraqi soldiers pose with the Islamic State flag in al-Shura, Iraq, which they recaptured on October 30, 2016

    Blog

    Vickers, Crocker, Bergen, and Mudd Headline RAND ISIS Conference

    Panelists at a RAND conference on ISIS agreed that efforts to protect the U.S. homeland and conduct campaigns to dismantle extremist groups have had success. But many long-term challenges to the broader world order remain that will require strategic patience.

    Jul 6, 2017