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

  • Syrian refugee metal shop trainees work at one of the vocational training centres near Al Azraq city, Jordan, June 27, 2016

    Commentary

    Jobs Can Improve the Lives of Syrian Refugees and Their Host Communities

    Host governments, international development agencies, and donor countries like the United States could take several steps to improve Syrian refugee employment. This would increase self-reliance among Syrian refugees and ease pressures on host communities.

    Mar 11, 2019

  • 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

    Commentary

    As Refugees, Syrian Women Find Liberation in Working

    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.

    Feb 19, 2019

  • 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

    Commentary

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

    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.

    Feb 15, 2019

  • Workers in a textile factory in Turkey

    Commentary

    Syrian Skills: A Missed Opportunity

    Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon are finding ways to get by. But many refugees are not able to fully use their skills, and that is a lost opportunity both for the Syrians and the host countries.

    Feb 14, 2019

  • Syrian residents watch as U.S. troops patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria, November 4, 2018

    Commentary

    Intelligence Losses Pose Large Risks as U.S. Troops Head Home

    Departing theaters such as Syria and Afghanistan carries a host of associated risks, challenges and potential benefits. Leaders would be well served to factor into the debate the importance of U.S. intelligence collection capabilities, its connection to U.S. presence overseas and its role in anticipating current and future threats.

    Jan 24, 2019

  • News Release

    Middle Eastern Communities Can Resist Sectarianism

    Middle Eastern communities are generally resilient to the worst sectarian impulses and even communities that experience sectarian strife can recover from it. Indeed, at least at the local level, communities can resist the slide toward sectarianism and promote resilience and cross-sectarian cooperation.

    Jan 14, 2019

  • Beirut Madinati candidates and activists after announcing their list of candidates for the municipality elections in Beirut, Lebanon, April 22, 2016

    Report

    Countering Sectarianism in the Middle East

    Scholars and policymakers have sought to understand what drives sectarianism in the Middle East and its relationship to multiple conflicts. Far less attention has been focused on how communities inoculate themselves from sectarianism or recover from it.

    Jan 14, 2019

  • Beirut Madinati candidates and delegates cheer

    Research Brief

    Middle Eastern Communities Can Resist Sectarianism

    Sectarian violence in the Middle East has been destructive, but it is still the exception rather than the norm. Communities are generally resilient to the worst sectarian impulses. Lessons from Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria, and Iraq show that there are a range of actions that can curb sectarianism.

    Jan 14, 2019

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

    Commentary

    America's Absence Could Be Syria's New Nightmare

    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.

    Jan 10, 2019

  • 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

    Commentary

    Confusion Over the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria

    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.

    Jan 9, 2019

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

    Commentary

    Withdrawing from Syria Leaves a Vacuum That Iran Will Fill

    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.

    Jan 8, 2019

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

    Commentary

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

    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.

    Jan 2, 2019

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

    Commentary

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

    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.

    Dec 26, 2018

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

    Commentary

    For One Syrian Refugee, the Research Strikes Close to Home

    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.

    Dec 22, 2018

  • News Release

    Syrian Refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon Can Add Value to Local Economies

    Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon could better contribute to local economies if they were trained for middle-skill jobs and were able to relocate to areas with manufacturing firms that need trained workers.

    Dec 13, 2018

  • Two workers in a factory in Jordan, October 2018

    Report

    Syrian Refugees Can Add Value to Middle Eastern Labor Markets

    Over 5 million Syrian refugees entered Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan due to the civil war. This has placed a severe strain on the host countries' labor markets, public services, and social cohesion. The future prosperity and stability of the region rests on creating mutually beneficial economic opportunities for Syrian refugees and host-country workers.

    Dec 13, 2018

  • Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and Vladimir Putin of Russia hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, April 4, 2018

    Commentary

    Is Major Realignment Taking Place in the Middle East?

    The shifting alignments in the Middle East have intensified since the murder of the Saudi journalist Khashoggi in Istanbul. Turkey has drifted away from NATO and toward Iran and Russia. Like Tehran and Moscow, Ankara is now more anti-Western than at any point in recent memory. What does this mean for the United States?

    Oct 31, 2018

  • Mourners carry the coffin of Amin Karimi, a member of Iranian Revolutionary Guards who was killed in Syria, during his funeral in Tehran, October 28, 2015

    Commentary

    America's Indefinite Endgame in Syria

    The Trump administration's position on the Syrian civil war has shifted from countering ISIS to containing Iran. America will remain in Syria as long as Iran does. But an unending timetable for the withdrawal of troops is far more problematic for Washington than it is for Tehran.

    Oct 16, 2018

  • A destroyed building with a wall painted with the black flag commonly used by Islamic State militants, is seen in the town of al-Alam, Iraq, March 10, 2015

    Commentary

    ISIS's New Plans to Get Rich and Wreak Havoc

    Although the Islamic State has lost nearly 98 percent of the territory it once controlled, it is ripe for a comeback in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq and Syria. The group has proven that it is capable of making money even without controlling large population centers.

    Oct 10, 2018