Date of Award

Summer 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology/Criminal Justice

Committee Director

Dawn Rothe (Director)

Committee Member

Randy Gainey

Committee Member

Randy Myers


The purpose of this study is to examine U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and Syria and the rise of violent extremist groups such as ISIS. By utilizing the integrated theory of violations of international criminal laws and the realpolitik theoretical frame, this qualitative case study analysis will explore how the U.S. foreign policy, driven by realpolitik and neo-liberalism in Iraq and Syria, resulted in the rise of violent extremist groups such as ISIS. It was concluded that if the United States were to remove the Assad regime and dismantle the Alawite ruling class as it did with the Hussein regime and the Ba'ath party in Iraq, it would leave Syria with an immediate power vacuum that could easily be filled by Sunni backed extremist groups, including ISIS.