Dictators playing the devil’s gambit can further this process of radicalization by targeting moderate groups for destruction, or provoking them into acts of terror. Assad casts himself as the nation’s guardian against Sunni jihadists, but he has deliberately encouraged the rise of extremism. The Syrian president’s forces have allowed ISIS to consolidate a rump caliphate in northeastern Syria as a visible warning about what the alternative to his rule looks like. Indeed, Assad’s troops rarely battle ISIS, saving their fire for more moderate enemies. The regime has even reportedly released jihadists from jail to foment extremism within the opposition, and bought oil from ISIS, effectively bolstering its influence.