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Swarthmore Expert on Syria's Bashar al-Assad, ISIS, and the Devil’s Gambit

Released: 27-Aug-2014 8:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Swarthmore College
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Dominic Tierney, Swarthmore College Associate Professor of Political Science and correspondent for The Atlantic, is available for comment on the rise ISIS and the role Syria's Bashar al-Assad played in its growth.

In a July article for The Atlantic, Tierney argued that the Assad regime in Syria deliberately cultivated the rise of ISIS to make itself appear as the lesser evil in domestic and international eyes— a scenario he calls “the devil’s gambit.”

“For Assad, ISIS is priceless. The Sunni extremist boogeyman holds the key to his political survival,” says Tierney. “As ISIS continues its assault in Iraq, employing tactics that include beheadings, crucifixions, and systematic torture, Assad has cemented his alliance with Baghdad, as well as with Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia.”

Tierney believes the United States will continue airstrikes against ISIS, but expects that its overall strategy to be one of containment.

“ISIS is well organized with thousands of fighters that can move freely between Syria and Iraq. Directly defeating the group would take years and thousands of U.S. troops,” says Tierney. “Instead, the long term goal should be to drive a wedge between ISIS and the broader Sunni community—much like the Awakening movement in Iraq during the Surge. This will require more inclusive leadership in Baghdad.”

Tierney, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, has published three books, including Failing to Win: Perceptions of Victory and Defeat in International Politics (Harvard University Press, 2006), with Dominic Johnson, which won the International Studies Association award for the best book published in 2006, and was nominated for the best book of the decade (Read full bio).

To speak with Tierney, please contact Mark Anskis (manskis1@swarthmore.edu) in the Swarthmore College communications office.

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