The Scenarios Initiative at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs is pleased to share its most recent report, Syria 2018.

Syria 2018 elaborates three distinct scenarios for the future of Syria’s civil war and discusses their implications for U.S. foreign policy. Findings are based on a workshop held at New York University in February 2013 that convened experts representing a wide range of academic, commercial, and diplomatic expertise. Read more about the Scenario process…

SYRIA 2018

The outcome from this workshop, SYRIA 2018, was published in August 2013 and focuses on the following three alternate scenarios:

Scenario One: Regionalized Conflict

As regional powers contend for influence within Syria through imperfectly controlled proxies, escalated fighting fragments the country along sectarian and ethnic lines, putting to rest any hope for a negotiated settlement. The conflict bleeds across borders, effectively overturning the post-World War I regional order in the Middle East, and invites competitive intervention by Great Powers.

Scenario Two: Contained Civil War

As a result of conclusions among great powers and regional actors that unrestrained support to favored factions within Syria has produced diminishing returns, the risk of regional spillover is limited. These restraints do not, however, permit a resolution to the conflict. Instead, the civil war remains tenuously contained within Syria, settling into a protracted, multi-sided sectarian conflict with aspects of proxy war among regional rivals.

Scenario Three:  Negotiated Settlement

A subtle and potentially transitory shift in the power balance within Syria creates sufficient incentive for most parties to negotiate and enables outside actors to exert pressure toward a settlement. As century-old political boundaries dissolve and sectarian enclaves emerge, a North-South partition and cease- fire holds, with potential for a formalized political settlement on the horizon.

A copy of the report can be downloaded here.


The following experts participated in the Syria event:

  • Samir Aita – Economist, A Concept/Mafhoum
  • Amr Al-Azm  – Middle East History, Shawnee State University
  • Gregory Gause – Political Science, University of Vermont
  • Bassam Haddad – Middle East Studies, George Mason University
  • Steven Heydemann – Middle East Initiatives, United States Institute of Peace
  • Josh Landis – Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oklahoma
  • Robert Malley – Middle East and North Africa, International Crisis Group
  • George Saghir – Economist, Saghir Advisory Services Co.
  • David Schenker – Arab Politics, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Steven Simon – Executive Director IISS-US and Corresponding Director IISS-ME
  • Joshua Walker – Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow