Objective

An international organisation commissioned Ridgeway to undertake a detailed research report to uncover specific security risks in Syria. Our client was keen to draw in open-source analysis to complement other material in their possession to reach a considered overall risk assessment.

Critical insights and analysis

Our research, analysis and linguistic capabilities proved critical to uncovering and exposing evidence that activities of interest and concern were underway in Syria despite the ongoing civil war.

We selected a team of researchers with subject-matter expertise, deep open-source skills and analysts able to provide specific linguistic and cultural insights. Our team were able to locate and verify difficult-to-find and disparate sources in Arabic, Russian and English. By contextualising the information within and between these sources, we were able to guide the client to critical information and support them in making a confident, informed overall assessment.

Challenges and solutions

Syria’s charged and contentious political and paramilitary environment, populated
by many disparate groups, made verification of open sources especially challenging. To overcome this, we enabled the swift sharing of material between analysts working on the same issue across different angles and languages.

The transient nature of the open-source material available was a further challenge. Given the rapidly changing political situation, selected open sources were only available for a short time before being deleted, edited or otherwise becoming inaccessible. As access to original sources was a critical requirement of the client brief, we carefully recorded and stored all material to be archived for future use.

Another key consideration in our interrogation of open sources was how to identify and derive value from ‘bad’ sources – those that were unreliable or partial. Through nuanced analysis and considered appraisal, we were able to discern and extract information and insights of value to our client from these sources, enhancing the overall assessment.

Our team were aware that our work was part of a wider assessment that also drew
on client-supplied, privileged information. This situation affected the level of detail
the client was able to provide in the initial brief.

Key outcomes

Our team were able to provide our client with:

  • In-depth analysis that highlighted one of the Syrian groups was engaging in threatening activities out of international public view;
  • Geospatial and security analysis of specific locations and the military control of these territories;
  • Evidence of the specific posture and activities of a Syrian individual/actor at key points in the ongoing civil war.
Our thorough, fully transparent analysis presented previously unknown information to our client, and enabled them to make a well-informed assessment around a specific set of security risks in Syria.