Unraveling the Syria Mess: A Crisis Simulation of Spillover from the Syrian Civil War

mid east syria cover imageThe Saban Center for Middle East Policy joined with the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War in June 2012 to host a one-day crisis simulation that explored the implications of spillover from the ongoing violence in Syria. The simulation examined how the United States and its allies might address worsening instability in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, and elsewhere in the Middle East as a result of the internecine conflict in Syria.

The Saban Center’s Middle East Memo, “Unraveling the Syria Mess: A Crisis Simulation of Spillover from the Syrian Civil War,” authored by simulation conveners Kenneth M. Pollack, Frederick W. Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, and Marisa C. Sullivan, presents key lessons and observations from the exercise.

Among the key findings:

  • A humanitarian crisis alone is unlikely to spur the international community to take action in Syria.
  • Turkey is a linchpin in any effort to end the fighting in Syria, but Washington and Ankara may not see eye-to-eye on what the end game should be. 
  • U.S. history in Iraq and Lebanon make intervention there unlikely, even if spillover causes a renewal of large-scale violence.

The simulation suggested a tension between U.S. political antipathy toward greater involvement in Syria and the potential strategic desirability of early action.