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VOL. IX, Issue 1

When Terrorists and Target Governments Cooperate: The Case of Syria

In the course of the Syrian Civil War, the Syrian government has had an unusual relationship with the numerous groups seeking to overthrow it; at times, the government of Bashar al-Assad has deliberately avoided engaging the more radical elements of the opposition, including the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State, and has also purchased oil from them, effectively bankrolling some of ISIS’ operations. This case thus represents an unusual - but not totally unique - instance of indirect cooperation between a militant group and the government being targeted by it. Taking the Syrian case as a point of departure, the Research Note investigates the circumstances under which target governments and militant groups each benefit from having the other as a foil. The findings of the Syrian case indicate that such tacit cooperation is more likely in circumstances where opposition forces are ideologically fragmented, where intervention by external states is likely, and where governments are faced with existential threats.

About ICCT

The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) is a think-and-do tank based in The Hague, Netherlands. We provide research, policy advice, training and other solutions to support better counter-terrorism policies and practices worldwide. We also contribute to the scientific and publi.…