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.

  • Workers in a textile factory in Igdir, Turkey, May 20, 2017

    Research Brief

    Win-Win Solutions for Syrian Refugees—and Their Hosts

    Dec 13, 2018

    Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have generously received the majority of Syrian refugees. Many are working, but their sheer numbers have strained local labor markets, public services, and social harmony. Which policies might help create new economic opportunities for both the refugees and host-nation workers?

  • A convoy of U.S. vehicles after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq, October 21, 2019, photo by Ari Jalal/Reuters

    Commentary

    How the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Provides a Boost to ISIS

    Oct 21, 2019

    President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria could provide the ISIS terrorist group with the time and space to regrow its organization and extend its networks throughout the Middle East. The longer-term strategic effects of the decision could reverberate in the region for years to come.

Explore Syria

  • Boys help members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent unload parcels of medical and humanitarian aid in Damascus, Syria, July 23, 2015

    Report

    A Peace Plan for Syria

    The best chance for peace in Syria is for external parties to persuade stakeholders to accept a ceasefire, with further negotiations on a political settlement to follow later. The alternative is the indefinite continuation or even escalation of a devastating war.

    Dec 17, 2015

  • Multimedia

    A Peace Plan for Syria

    Experts discuss, “A Peace Plan for Syria," a new RAND paper suggesting that the best chance for peace in Syria is for external parties to persuade stakeholders to accept a ceasefire, with further negotiations on a political settlement to follow later.

    Dec 16, 2015

  • The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp passes the guided-missile destroyers USS Cole and USS James E. Williams on its way to the pier in New Orleans, Louisiana

    Commentary

    Climate Change Is a National Security Issue, but Not for the Reasons You Think

    All U.S. policy decisions can and should be guided by clear evidence. Climate change policy is no exception. The United States should focus on addressing the clearest vulnerabilities, such as securing coastal defense infrastructure.

    Dec 16, 2015

  • Soldiers from 7th Special Forces Group Airborne are suspended by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a training event Eglin Air Force Base, February 5, 2013

    Commentary

    ISIS vs Special Ops

    However critical to the fight against ISIS, using special operations forces for raids represents only half of the needed military adjustment. The other half is the effort to build indigenous forces capable of taking and holding territory in Iraq and Syria.

    Dec 8, 2015

  • Marines scan the area for insurgent activity during a general support flight over Helmand province, Afghanistan

    Commentary

    To Defeat ISIS, Focus on Its Real Sources of Strength

    The threat ISIS poses today is graver than ever for two reasons: its war chest and its ability to attract foreign recruits are both at their peak. Redoubling international efforts to cut off ISIS from these two pillars of its war machine is necessary to sap the group's strength.

    Dec 4, 2015

  • A Syrian refugee carries his son through a rainstorm at the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Idomeni, November 27, 2015

    Commentary

    To Undermine ISIS, We Should Welcome Syrian Refugees

    Demonstrating American goodwill to Syrian refugees is the best way to help defeat ISIS and rehabilitate America's image in the chaotic Middle East.

    Dec 3, 2015

  • Civilians walk past a damaged building in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria, October 28, 2015

    Commentary

    Will Syria's Civil War Turn Out Like Spain's Did?

    The similarities between the Syrian and Spanish civil wars, including foreign involvement and the level of brutality against civilians and captives, suggest that the Syrian war, like the Spanish one before it, could potentially foreshadow future conflicts.

    Dec 2, 2015

  • Syrian refugees at Al Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, November 1, 2015

    Report

    How the Syrian Refugee Crisis Can Improve Jordan's Outlook

    Syrian refugees might benefit the Jordanian economy by stimulating growth. Donors and lenders have increased their support to Jordan, in turn offering the government an opportunity to improve the lives of both refugees and Jordanian citizens.

    Nov 30, 2015

  • News Release

    Urgent Attention Is Needed to Improve Education for Refugee Children from Syria

    Only half of Syrian refugee children have access to education, with nearly 700,000 not attending any formal education in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Classes are overcrowded and teachers are inexperienced in handling classroom conditions that include traumatized students, some of whom have missed years of school.

    Nov 23, 2015

  • Syrian refugee children draw inside a makeshift school, supported by UNICEF and in cooperation with the Beyond Association, in Zahle, Lebanon, October 22, 2014

    Report

    Urgent Attention Is Needed to Improve Education for Syrian Refugee Children

    Only half of Syrian refugee children have access to education, with nearly 700,000 not receiving any formal instruction in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Classes are overcrowded and teachers are inexperienced in handling classroom conditions that include traumatized students, some of whom have missed years of school.

    Nov 23, 2015

  • A passerby pauses near a makeshift memorial with U.S. and French flags outside the French embassy in Washington, November 16, 2015

    Testimony

    What the Paris Attacks Mean for U.S. Strategy in Syria and Homeland Security

    Events in the Middle East and Europe have direct implications for U.S. homeland security. And the attacks in Paris have increased pressure to step up the fight in Syria and Iraq. But Americans should consider the threat in context, and adjustments to U.S. strategy in Syria should only be a matter of degrees.

    Nov 19, 2015

  • Migrants walk toward the Austrian border town of Spielfeld, in Sentilj, Slovenia, November 18, 2015

    Testimony

    The Syrian Refugee Crisis and U.S. National Security

    America has a long tradition of offering protection to refugees, and the threat from refugees has historically been relatively low. However, the government should continue to reassess its refugee program and ensure that it safeguards national security.

    Nov 19, 2015

  • Multimedia

    The Paris Terror Attacks and Confronting ISIS

    In this Call with the Experts, RAND terrorism expert Brian Michael Jenkins offers insights on ISIS's latest strategy and capabilities, how the West can fight it, and what the tragedy in Paris could mean for the Syrian refugee crisis.

    Nov 18, 2015

  • A tank of the Syrian National Army in the outskirts of Damascus on September 21, 2013

    Testimony

    The Dynamics of the Conflicts in Syria and Iraq and the Threat Posed by Homegrown Terrorists and Returning Western Fighters

    The fighting in Iraq and Syria is likely to continue. How will the dynamics of these conflicts shape the region and events beyond? And what threat do Westerners who've joined jihadists on these battlefields and homegrown terrorists pose to the U.S. homeland?

    Nov 18, 2015

  • Islamic State fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, Syria, June 30, 2014

    Commentary

    ISIS Will Become More Deadly Before It Dies

    The lesson with ISIS is straightforward. Western populations should be prepared for an upsurge in violence if ISIS continues to lose territory. There has already been a growth in attacks and plots across the West with operational or inspirational ties to ISIS.

    Nov 18, 2015

  • French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (L), French President Francois Hollande (C), French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (R), and students observe a moment of silence at the Sorbonne University, Paris, France, November 16, 2015

    Commentary

    Insights on the Paris Terror Attacks from RAND Experts

    RAND experts weigh in on what the wave of coordinated terror attacks across Paris means for France, the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, the global refugee crisis, and more.

    Nov 17, 2015

  • French police stand guard outside a commercial center in Nice, November 14, 2015, the day after a series of deadly attacks in Paris

    Commentary

    Why the Paris Terrorists Couldn't Be Stopped

    Terrorists almost always have the advantage. Theoretically, they can attack anything, anywhere, anytime. And governments cannot protect everything, everywhere, all the time.

    Nov 16, 2015

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R), and UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura address the media in Vienna, Austria, November 14, 2015

    Commentary

    Bosnia Was Hard, Syria Is Harder

    To find peace in Syria, cooperation among outside powers will be an essential first step. But before going forward, the great powers should soberly assess prospects for an enduring peace accord, as well as the resources required.

    Nov 16, 2015

  • The remains of a Russian airliner that crashed are found near Al-Arish, Egypt, October 31, 2015

    Commentary

    Could the Russian Jet Crash in Egypt Prompt a Change of Direction for Putin and Russia?

    If ISIS was responsible for the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268, a Russian passenger jet, this may alter the strategic equation for Moscow.

    Nov 9, 2015

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin at a session of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi, October 22, 2015

    Commentary

    The West Needs to Take a Tougher Line with Putin

    By responding more robustly to Russia's interventions, the West could reduce military asymmetries in Ukraine and Syria and improve prospects for negotiated outcomes.

    Nov 1, 2015