Alternative Futures for #Syria

Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States

In December 2013, RAND convened a workshop to explore a set of alternative futures for the Syrian conflict. This perspective draws extensively on that workshop and compares its findings and discussion with analysis of how events have developed since then. The Syrian conflict has shifted more than we and the other workshop participants anticipated. The successful push of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)1 into northern and western Iraq and its territorial gains in eastern Syria (amid its continued vicious assault on other Syrian rebels) exceeded our expectations.

The Assad regime’s steady (albeit costly) progress against opposition elements in northern and western Syria (as well as the continued intense fighting among opposition elements) warrant a reexamination of our assumptions and our futures. The original workshop
was meant largely for the benefit of the participants, but the unanticipated significant developments since then argue for documenting both our previous discussions and the ensuing changes on the ground. This paper is intended to provide such documentation. We
believe that the four scenarios discussed continue to offer a solid conceptual framework to assess the trajectory of the Syrian war and its implications for U.S. and Western interests.
Participants in the workshop included experts from the U.S.intelligence and policy communities, Washington think tanks, and RAND.

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