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

  • A member of the Nusra Front squats in Ariha, Syria, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area, May 29, 2015

    Commentary

    Al Nusra Is Stronger Than Ever

    While the West targets ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra, is quietly laying the groundwork for al Qaeda's resurgence.

    Nov 2, 2016

  • U.S. President Barack Obama (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013

    Commentary

    Righting Relations With Russia

    Russia's current anti-Western stridency coincides with rising internal repression. That may limit what the next U.S. president can do to improve relations.

    Oct 31, 2016

  • Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahri speaks from an unknown location in a still image taken from video uploaded to the web on June 8, 2011

    Commentary

    Al Qaeda's Ruthless Pragmatism Makes It More Dangerous Than the Islamic State

    Al Qaeda presents a graver long-term threat to the West than the Islamic State. It has proved more effective in exploiting U.S. policy in the Middle East to legitimize itself as an armed force and, increasingly, as a viable political player.

    Oct 27, 2016

  • World map concept with puzzle pieces

    Essay

    Election 2016: The International Issues

    America's next president will face challenges that test the fundamentals of world order. RAND experts have outlined key decisions, the dangers involved, and the least-bad options that now often pass for good ones.

    Oct 7, 2016

  • The sun sets over Aleppo, Syria as seen from the rebel-held part of the city, October 5, 2016

    Commentary

    Only the U.S. Can Save Syrians

    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.

    Oct 6, 2016

  • People stand near damaged aid supplies after an airstrike on September 20 on the rebel held Urem al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria, September 23, 2016

    Commentary

    Time to Bury Plans for Counterterrorism Cooperation with Russia in Syria

    As two recent botched airstrikes indicate, U.S. counterterrorism cooperation with Russia is just too risky and probably wasn't feasible in the first place. There is too little faith between the two countries for meaningful cooperation in this area.

    Sep 23, 2016

  • Research Brief

    Adapting to the New Normal: Educating Syrian Refugee Children in Jordan

    RAND's evaluation of Jordan's Emergency Education Response Programme for Syrian refugee children identified significant successes and longer-term challenges. Key recommendations related to developing medium-term thinking and targeting gendered needs.

    Sep 19, 2016

  • Students in Jordan

    Report

    Evaluation of the Emergency Education Response for Syrian Refugee Children and Host Communities in Jordan

    RAND's evaluation of Jordan's Emergency Education Response Programme for Syrian refugee children identified significant successes and longer-term challenges. Key recommendations related to developing medium-term thinking and targeting gendered needs.

    Sep 19, 2016

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands following their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, September 9, 2016

    Commentary

    Syria Cease-Fire Should Ban Chemical Weapons

    The United States and Russia negotiated an agreement to suspend fighting in Syria and get relief supplies to trapped civilians. They should not miss an opportunity to regularly and forcefully draw a red line on the use of toxic chemicals as weapons.

    Sep 15, 2016

  • Syrian refugees and Lebanese girls make decorative baskets

    Commentary

    The Precarious State of Syrian Refugee Women, Children in Lebanon

    The gendered impact of political conflict on women and children has been well documented in other conflicts. But much less is known about the effect of the Syrian civil war on displaced women and children.

    Sep 13, 2016

  • Women mourn the death of their relatives after an airstrike in the rebel held Bab al-Nairab neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, August 25, 2016

    Commentary

    Why Syria's War May Be About to Get Even Worse

    Whether or not the Nusra Front's new name means a genuine break from al Qaeda, the rebranding could prolong Syria's civil war. The worst-case scenario is that the group enjoys longevity like that of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    Aug 25, 2016

  • Syria Democratic Forces fighters inspect a center used by Islamic State religious police in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 16, 2016

    Commentary

    Demystifying the Islamic State

    To counter the threat posed by the Islamic State group, it is crucial to understand what the terrorist organization is and what it is not. Attributing all jihadist violence to a ruthless gang headquartered in Raqqa exaggerates the power of the group and plays into their propaganda and recruiting efforts.

    Aug 23, 2016

  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the FY2016 budget at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, February 2, 2015

    Commentary

    President Obama's Controversial Legacy as Counterterrorism-in-Chief

    There were no attacks like 9/11 during Obama's eight years in office. But there were plenty of terrorist adversaries. While he will be judged in part for his domestic achievements, Obama's counterterrorism choices are a major part of his legacy.

    Aug 22, 2016

  • Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters enter the back of a pick-up truck in Arsal, Lebanon, December 1, 2015

    Commentary

    What's in a Name? The Rebranding of the Nusra Front

    Jabhat al-Nusra, which recently announced that it was severing its affiliation with al Qaeda, is now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. This means less than meets the eye, but it does say something about the local atmosphere in Syria.

    Aug 8, 2016

  • Smoke rises after airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State militants in a village east of Mosul, Iraq, May 29, 2016

    Commentary

    Cutting the Islamic State's Money Supply

    Airstrikes have hit ISIL tanker trucks, oil fields, refineries, and banks, but it would be a mistake to view the group as a poor man's version of its old self. New steps are needed to counter its multi-million dollar taxation and extortion machine.

    Jul 21, 2016

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Golan Heights, near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, April 17, 2016

    Report

    What Are Israel's Interests and Options in Syria?

    Israel has few good options for intervening in the Syrian conflict. Why? Because there is no likely outcome that would be more favorable to Israel than Syria's violent status quo.

    Jul 18, 2016

  • Students hold a placard and candles during a vigil after a terror attack on Dhaka, Bangladesh, in Agartala, India, July 3, 2016

    Commentary

    Is the Surge in Terrorist Attacks Coincidence or Coordinated Campaign?

    Whatever the investigations of recent terrorist attacks reveal, the facts may be portrayed (or ignored) to fit narratives written even before the blood has dried.

    Jul 11, 2016

  • 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

    Report

    Decentralization of Governance Could Help Syria

    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.

    Jun 7, 2016

  • Danish police search an apartment block in Ishoej, Denmark, for people suspected of having been recruited by the Islamic State, April 7, 2016

    Commentary

    Striking Back at the Islamic State's Foreign Fighter Pipeline

    Islamic State training camps are the breeding grounds of tomorrow's Brussels or Paris attacks, and their consistent penchant for training foreigners suggests that military and security officials need to get serious about how to deal with returnees from Iraq and Syria.

    May 31, 2016

  • Children in Baghdad

    Brochure

    Cultural Oasis: For Arab Children, Collected Works Offer Roads to Tolerance, Critical Thinking

    Article from RAND Review that explores ways to cultivate a well-educated citizenry open to new ideas and capable of challenging the intolerant ideas of others in the Arab world.

    May 24, 2016