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

  • News Release

    Declassified Documents Provide Insight into Origins of the Islamic State and How to Defeat the Group

    Looking at more than 140 recently declassified documents from the predecessors of the Islamic State, it is evident that the group has been operating for years with remarkable continuity in its philosophy, methods, and goals, including the long-standing aspiration for creating a caliphate.

    May 19, 2016

  • Silhouettes of militants atop currency and a map of Iraq

    Report

    Foundations of the Islamic State

    A thorough examination of the Islamic State's history and practices is useful for designing a coordinated and effective campaign against it — and for understanding why the group might be able to survive such an effort and sustain itself in the future.

    May 18, 2016

  • Women cleaning a compound housing Syrian refugees in Sidon, Lebanon, February 3, 2016

    Commentary

    A Different Kind of Refugee Crisis

    In Jordan and Lebanon, middle-income countries with robust public sectors where a significant Syrian population may be present for years to come, solutions should be more about supporting the expansion of existing national public services, rather than creating new, internationally run parallel services.

    May 16, 2016

  • Iraqi security forces hold an ISIS flag that they pulled down at the University of Anbar, in Anbar province, July 26, 2015

    Commentary

    In the Event of the Islamic State's Untimely Demise...

    If they haven't already, the Islamic State's leaders will soon formulate a contingency strategy, a “Plan B” that the West will then be forced to contend with.

    May 11, 2016

  • Syrian refugees wait to receive treatment at a health center in Mafraq, Jordan, January 30, 2016

    Report

    Rethinking Coordination of Services to Refugees in Urban Areas

    The vast majority of Syrian refugees live in urban areas, not camps. What can be done to improve the coordination of international and national entities managing the refugee response in urban areas in Jordan and Lebanon?

    Apr 27, 2016

  • A Syrian refugee teacher distributes books to her refugee students in the Karapurcek district of Ankara, Turkey

    Commentary

    Solutions for Educating Young Syrian Refugees

    Approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees are school-age children. They face a slew of struggles, not the least of which is the lack of education that they need to move forward in life. What can be done to improve the access to and quality of refugee education?

    Apr 21, 2016

  • News Release

    Countering Islamic State Requires a Stronger U.S.-Coalition Strategy

    While the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has degraded the group by targeting its leadership and retaking a portion of territory, achieving lasting defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria will be elusive without local forces capable of holding territory.

    Apr 20, 2016

  • Peshmerga soldiers provide security during react-to-contact training near Irbil, Iraq, October 2015

    Report

    Countering ISIL Requires a Stronger U.S.-Coalition Strategy

    While the campaign against ISIL has degraded the group by targeting its leadership and retaking a portion of territory, achieving lasting defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria will require increased effort by the U.S. to help train local forces to hold territory. Also, political agreements must be forged to resolve key drivers of conflict among Iraqis and Syrians.

    Apr 19, 2016

  • People carry belongings they collected from their damaged houses as they walk near Syrian army soldiers in Palmyra, Syria, April 9, 2016

    Commentary

    Get Ready: Syria Will Need Peacekeepers

    For regional security and to deprive ISIS of what is still its most compelling and important sanctuary in the world today, the U.S. needs a new strategy for Syria that includes willingness to contribute to a substantial postwar military operation to stabilize the country.

    Apr 11, 2016

  • Syrian army soldiers inspect the site of a two bomb blasts in the government-controlled city of Homs, Syria, on February 21, 2016

    Commentary

    A New Kind of Battlefield Awaits the U.S. Military — Megacities

    Megacities are urban areas that seep into one another and have more than 10 million inhabitants. To counter violent non-state actors operating in megacities in the future, the U.S. military will have to be able to piece together a comprehensive and actionable intelligence picture, and under enormously challenging circumstances.

    Apr 6, 2016

  • The Moscow Kremlin, Russia

    Commentary

    Russia's Great Power Future

    A penchant for zero-sum statecraft and coercing neighbors lessens Russia's stature. By cooperating more in the international arena, Russia could become a greater power.

    Mar 21, 2016

  • Map showing Syria and surrounding region

    Commentary

    How Real Is the ISIS Threat?

    In less than two years, ISIS's black flag has flown in a dozen countries outside of Syria and Iraq. And terrorist attacks have been carried out in its name in the West, including in America. But how serious is the threat that ISIS's brand of jihad will spread on a global scale?

    Mar 18, 2016

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Kremlin in Moscow, March 14, 2016

    Commentary

    The West Should Accommodate Russia to Secure Peace with Assad in Syria

    Effective and enduring political settlements result from quid pro quos, not irrational pursuit of one-sided advantage. Recognizing that contending parties have legitimate interests in the complex Syria conflict could help bring an end to a destructive war in a volatile but vital region.

    Mar 18, 2016

  • An Islamic State flag is seen in this picture, taken February 18, 2016

    Commentary

    The Islamic State's Money Problems

    ISIS now faces considerable money problems. But despite the success of the coalition's counter-terrorist finance measures, it's too early to dismiss ISIS financially.

    Mar 5, 2016

  • Russian news agencies reported that President Putin said the ceasefire in Syria is a real step towards halting the bloodshed and may become an example of action against terrorism, February 22, 2016

    Commentary

    How to Bog Down Putin in Syria

    The lessons from the nearly 200 insurgencies that have taken place since World War II suggest that Russian aid probably will fail to turn the tide in Syria. The Assad regime still faces serious challenges, not the least of which is a lack of legitimacy among the Syrian people.

    Feb 25, 2016

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    Syrian Refugees: Humanitarian and Security Perspectives

    The U.S. and other Western countries have vowed to admit more Syrian refugees, but terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Paris, Cologne, and Jakarta are fueling community anxieties. In this RAND Policy Circle briefing, experts address what countries are doing to help abate the humanitarian crisis and ongoing efforts to counter the terrorist threat.

    Feb 24, 2016

  • A civil defence member works at a site after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, February 14, 2016

    Commentary

    Is a Syria Truce in Putin's Best Interest?

    Moscow remains ambivalent but the West and its Arab partners could improve cease-fire prospects in Syria. They will have to drive the peace process to maintain pressure for political accommodation and also do more to help the rebels they back avert a military imbalance.

    Feb 18, 2016

  • Refugees in Keleti train station, Budapest, Hungary

    Commentary

    Why Now Is the Time for a Unified Response to Europe's Migrant Crisis

    Some EU member states are re-instating temporary internal border controls in an attempt to control the flow of migrants. If the EU is to develop a coordinated plan to manage the crisis, it needs to achieve a more balanced redistribution of migrants and establish more efficient processing of asylum applications.

    Feb 17, 2016

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast

    Multimedia

    Lessening the Risk of Refugee Radicalization

    In this February 2016 congressional briefing, senior political scientist Barbara H. Sude discusses historical examples of radicalization among refugee groups, factors that can increase the risk of radicalization, measures to reduce the risk, and considerations for policymakers and legislators.

    Feb 16, 2016

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin greets spectators at the World Judo Championships in Chelyabinsk

    Commentary

    The Tide Is Going Out on Putin

    Russia is losing ground in domestic politics, economics, and foreign policy. It could take steps to strengthen its position, such as withdrawing from Ukraine, privatizing inefficient state enterprises, and improving the investment climate.

    Jan 25, 2016