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This edited volume addresses the role of non-state actors (NSAs) in international relations. From their emergence in the

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Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations
 3030914623, 9783030914622

Table of contents :
List of Tables
About the Authors
Chapter 1: Conceptualising Non-State Actors in International Relations
The Agency of NSAs: Towards a Definition
NSAs as Entities in their Own Right
Conceptual Clarification
The Role of NSAs in IR: A Critique
Chapter 2: The Power and Impact of Institutions on International Relations: From Intergovernmental to Non-governmental Organisations
Debating International Institutions
From the Intergovernmental to the Non-governmental World
The Roles of Institutions in the Global Humanitarian System
Chapter 3: Irregular Militaries and Militias in International Relations: The Case of Iraqi Shiite Militias
Historical Context of Militias in the Arab World
Wala’iya (ولاءية)
Marja’iya (مرجعية)
Sadrists (صدرية)
Chapter 4: Dilemmas of Fundamentalist Non-state Actors in International Relations
Conceptual Properties and Definitional Limits
A More Robust Account of Strategic Rationales
Case Study 1: The Provisional IRA: A Forty-Year Road from Fundamentalism to Compromise
Case Study 2: The Bosnian Serb Army and the Strategic Consequences of Fundamentalism
Chapter 5: The Impact of Ethnic Groups on International Relations
Taking Groups for Granted
Ethnic Identity
Theorizing Ethnicity in IR
Primordial Hatreds
The Rationalist Approach
Ethnic Conflict
The Internationalization of Conflicts
Chapter 6: States-to-be as Foreign Policy Actors
The Case of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)
The Case of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)
Chapter 7: Conclusions: Understanding the Role of Non-state Actors in a Mutable Global System

Citation preview

Non-State Actors in International Relations 1

Marianna Charountaki Daniela Irrera Editors

Mapping NonState Actors in International Relations

Non-State Actors in International Relations Series Editors Marianna Charountaki, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK Daniela Irrera, Department of Political & Social Sciences, University of Catania, Catania, Italy

The series addresses the role of non-state actors (NSAs) in International Relations in various policy fields and through different theoretical perspectives. From its inception, the Westphalian State was the dominant political arrangement and most important actor within the international system. At the beginning of the 20th century, new and different actors have emerged, imposing their requirements in the international arena and demanding to be involved. With increasing globalization, the erosion of borders, and weakening of traditional political norms and powers, the role of NSAs continues to grow and so does the need to conceptualize and study them. This series offers a broad outlet to scholars interested in a variety of different non-­ state actors and policy fields for publishing their monographs and edited books. Please contact the series editors directly to discuss book ideas. More information about this series at

Marianna Charountaki  •  Daniela Irrera Editors

Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations

Editors Marianna Charountaki University of Lincoln Lincoln, UK

Daniela Irrera University of Catania Catania, Italy

ISSN 2730-9924     ISSN 2730-9932 (electronic) Non-State Actors in International Relations ISBN 978-3-030-91462-2    ISBN 978-3-030-91463-9 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

This book is dedicated to special people, that is all those around us: to the memory of Aisa Ahmad Al Habib, to Manu.


‘Non-state actors’ (NSAs) is a term used frequently in both International Relations Scholarship and public discourse, yet the term encompasses a dizzying array of types of non-state actors, from private companies such as Microsoft or Shell Oil Company, to regional organisations such as the European Union or the African Union, from NGOs such as Amnesty International to militia or fundamentalist groups such as the Taliban. There is a lively debate on what kind of influence NSAs might have on states and international relations. How do NSAs interact with other states and NSAs, and how do they affect processes and outcomes in international politics? Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations helps students and scholars to cut through the throng of NSAs, by providing a typology of NSAs and an overview of the role that they can play in International Relations. It does by taking a holistic view and looking at the interaction between state and non-state actors, and between different categories of non-state actors. The typology and overview then provide the backdrop for chapters on empirical cases within specific regions of the world. The book thus shows us more about how international relations actually unfold in different regions, which then has implications for our understanding of how our theories of International Relations can be revisited, revised, and enhanced. The case studies focus on particular types of NSAs: intergovernmental and non-­ governmental organisations; the irregular militaries and militia groups; fundamentalist groups; ethnic groups; and ‘states-to-be’ (those movements or groups aiming to form a state). The cases in this volume should thus be of interest not only to IR scholars in general as well as Foreign Policy Analysts, but also to those working on regional studies. Karen E. Smith London School of Economics, UK



This edited volume develops existing work on NSAs, at both conceptual and empirical levels, carried out by the editors. It could not have been completed without the participation and support of the colleagues who contributed to this volume with their expertise and rigorous research. For the addition of further examples to the table in Chap. 1, the editors wish to thank Nikola Strachová (Anna Lindh Foundation, Prague). The substantial suggestions of Professor Liam Anderson (Wight University, USA) to data visualisation (in Chap. 1) are greatly appreciated. The editors would also like to express their appreciation for the opportunity afforded by Springer to launch with this first book the new series on the Non-State Actors in International Relations. The editors are thankful to the feedback that the book received through participation to various events organised by ECPR, ISA, UACES, BISA, and SISP. In specific, the editors would like to thank Prof. Madeleine Hosli and Jaroslaw Kantorowicz (Leiden University) for inviting a pre-launch webinar hosted by the Diplomacy and Global Affairs Research Seminar Series. Finally, the editors are particularly grateful to Prof Karen Smith (LSE) who wrote the preface of this book. The Westphalian nation-state had been the dominant political arrangement over the centuries. Globalisation processes contributed to the rise of new entities where different actors were evolving, imposing thus their requirements in the international arena, and demanding to be considered. The state continues to remain as the most solid actor, yet it appears to be necessary to go beyond traditional state-centric approaches and start to also consider non-state actors as part of the International Relations’ ontology. Even though entities of non-state status have played a role on their own right in international relations; yet only recently they have drawn scholarly attention to the extent that their necessity in the analysis of contemporary politics stands out. Scholarly work has mainly approached them through the scope of legitimacy and international law, or it has over-emphasised those of economic orient and mostly engaged with institutions (NGOs, international organisations, economic corporations) operating in the policymaking.




This is an edited volume that aims to address the role of non-state actors in international relations. This book introduces a typology of non-state actors in an attempt to create linkages with the International Relations discipline bringing in different case studies that bear significant impact on its ontology. The book’s theoretical contribution lies in its fresh approach enhanced by in-depth first-hand investigation of a subject that, while extremely topical, remains poorly researched, and so the book will fill a gap that currently exists in the literature.


1 Conceptualising Non-State Actors in International Relations������������    1 Marianna Charountaki 2 The Power and Impact of Institutions on International Relations: From Intergovernmental to Non-­governmental Organisations��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   17 Daniela Irrera 3 Irregular Militaries and Militias in International Relations: The Case of Iraqi Shiite Militias������������������������������������������������������������   35 Sterling Jensen and Waleed Al-Rawi 4 Dilemmas of Fundamentalist Non-state Actors in International Relations������������������������������������������������������������������������   53 Patrick Finnegan and Vladimir Rauta 5 The Impact of Ethnic Groups on International Relations ������������������   73 Maria do Céu Pinto Arena 6 States-to-be as Foreign Policy Actors ����������������������������������������������������   95 Marianna Charountaki and Radka Havlová 7 Conclusions: Understanding the Role of Non-state Actors in a Mutable Global System��������������������������������������������������������������������  111 Daniela Irrera Index������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  123


List of Tables

Table 1.1 NSA’s Modus Operandi����������������������������������������������������������������������  7


About the Authors

Waleed Rawi  is an Iraqi researcher and author of several books and articles about Islamic militant groups and Iraq. His latest book, Iranian Oppositional Forces to Wilayat al-Faqih (in Arabic), was published in 2021 by Amina House Publishing in Amman, Jordan. He is a retired brigadier general in the Iraqi Army. From 2001 to 2003 he was director of Research and Development at the Ministry of Defense and from 2001 he was the principal secretary of the Ministry of Defense. He has been an active member of the Arab Historian Union since 2005. Marianna  Charountaki  is Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Lincoln (UK). Her research lies at the intersection of International Relations theories, foreign policy analysis, and area studies. She has been researching the Middle Eastern region in an International Relations context both through academic research, but also through interviewing leading political figures to get an ‘on the ground’ viewpoint. She is convenor of BISA Foreign Policy Working Group and a BRISMES Trustee. She is the author of the books The Kurds and US Foreign Policy: International Relations in the Middle East since 1945 (Routledge, 2011) and Iran and Turkey: International and Regional Engagement in the Middle East (I.B.  Tauris, 2018). She has published articles in Harvard International Review, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Third World Quarterly, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, and others. Maria do Céu Pinto Arena  is Associate Prof. with ‘Habilitation’ in the Department of Political Science. She is Vice-Dean of the School of Economics and Management, University of Minho, Portugal. She holds a PhD from the University of Durham, Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (Faculty of Social Sciences). She teaches International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies in Graduate and Post-­ Graduate Programmes. She is an expert in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and in International Organizations, with a focus on the UN and peacekeeping activities in general.



About the Authors

She is also author of several dozen articles published in national and international scientific journals indexed, book chapters, and institutional reports. She is the author and coordinator of 11 books. Her work has been published in the journals: Mediterranean Politics, Terrorism and Political Violence, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, International Peacekeeping, and Revista Brasileira de Relações Internacionais. She held visiting positions at the Robert Schumann Centre, European University Institute (EUI), Florence and at University degli Studi di Napoli ‘Federico II’. She was coordinator and scientific responsible of research projects financed by FCT, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Luso-American Foundation for Development, Centro Militare di Studi Strategici (CeMISS), European Union, and NATO. She is currently a member of the Horizon 2020 project of the EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation, entitled PARTICIPATION-Analyzing and Preventing Extremism Via Participation. She is the Portuguese expert within the international group, Providing for Peacekeeping Project, a project of the International Peace Institute (IPI) in collaboration with the Universities George Washington and Griffith. She is also a commentator on Middle Eastern issues in various media outlets. Patrick Finnegan  is an Associate Lecturer in Strategic Studies in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews. His work focuses on the intersection between terrorism, strategic studies, and military sociology. Patrick completed a PhD in Security, Conflict, and Justice at the University of Exeter on the military sociology of non-state actors within the Northern Ireland Troubles. He has published in academic journals such as Armed Forces and Society and Small Wars and Insurgencies. He is currently completing a book based on his PhD research for Liverpool University Press. Radka Havlová  is associate professor at CEVRO Institute and researcher at the Prague Centre for Middle East Relations at the CEVRO Institute, Prague, Czech Republic. Her research focuses on the Middle East, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ethnic conflicts, and China and Middle East. Radka Havlová is the corresponding author for this article. Daniela Irrera  (PhD in International Relations, University of Catania) is Associate Professor of International Relations at the Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Catania, where she has served as Deputy Director for Research and vice-coordinator of the PhD programme in Political Sciences. She also teaches Political Violence and Terrorism at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek. She has served as Secretary General of the Italian Political Science Association (SISP), member of the ISA Governing Council, Chair of the ECPR Standing Group on International Relations, and currently serves as President of the European Peace Research Association (EuPRA), member of the ECPR Executive Commitee and coeditor of the Journal of Contemporary European Studies. Daniela has been visiting scholar at several Universities and Research Centres in Europe, the USA, and Asia. She has been awarded with a DAAD Fellowship at the

About the Authors


Peace Research Institute Frankfurt and with a research grant at the European Union Center of Excellence, University of Alberta, Canada. She has been Associate Faculty at IBEI, Barcelona, teaching within the MUNDUS MAPP Erasmus Mundus program and Marie Curie Fellow at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil. She has extensively published in the areas of International Relations and EU politics, dealing with global terrorism, transnational organised crime, civil society, and humanitarian affairs. Sterling Jensen  is an associate professor at the UAE’s National Defense College (NDC) in Abu Dhabi where he has been teaching and coordinating courses in international relations, regional security, economic statecraft, and leadership since 2014. Prior to teaching at NDC, he was a research associate at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (NESA) at the National Defense University in Washington DC where he supported NESA programmes in the Middle East. His doctoral dissertation at King’s College London was on Iraq and many of his publications are on security-related topics in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the UAE. Vladimir  Rauta  is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations with the School of Politics, Economics, and International Relations at the University of Reading. Vladimir holds a PhD in international relations from the University of Nottingham, and his research sits at the intersection of conflict research and the study of international security. It uses proxy wars as a vehicle to explore the delegation of war from states to armed non-state actors in the contemporary security environment. This is a significant problem spanning global politics. As recently witnessed with the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, or the Russian indirect war in the East of Ukraine, analysing the effects of proxy wars in a broader security and strategic context is at the forefront of international relations. To this end, Vladimir’s research asks relevant questions about proxy wars that speak directly to key dilemmas facing policymakers today.



Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army Association of Southeast Asian Nations Civil Society Organisations (Arabic acronym for al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham) Economic and Social Council European Union Gulf Cooperation Council Local Governments for Sustainability Internally Displaced Persons International Financial Institution Intergovernmental Organisations International Monetary Fund International non-governmental organisations International Relations Islamic State Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Kurdistan Democratic Party, Partiya Demokrat a Kurdistanê - ‫پارتی‬ ‫دیموکراتی کوردستان‬ Kurdistan Regional Government Kurdistan Region of Iraq Muslim Brotherhood-jihadists Multinational corporations Multinational enterprises Médecins Sans Frontières North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Non-governmental organisations Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs Provisional Irish Republican Army Kurdistan Workers’ Party Palestinian Liberation Organisation Popular Mobilisation Units





The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Yekîtiya Nîştimanî ya Kurdistanê ‫یەکێتیی نیشتامنیی کوردستان‬ Trans-border Ethnic Kin Tigray People’s Liberation Front United Arab Emirates United Cities and Local Governments Ulster Defence Association United Kingdom United Nations General Assembly United Nations United States Ulster Volunteer Force World Trade Organization

Chapter 1

Conceptualising Non-State Actors in International Relations Marianna Charountaki

Abstract  This introductory chapter attempts to make a theoretical contribution and frame the role of Non-State Actors (NSAs) in International Relations (IR) discipline as an under-examined subject-matter. The study situates its argument within the current debate of the increasing power of NSAs in international relations (ir) and what this means for the theory. Building on previous work, it offers a conceptualisation of the non-state entities and provides the ground for the book’s rationale. In specific, the chapter offers a definition as to what non-state actors are based on a systematic and coherent analysis and creates a typology (of the nature) of NSAs. A table on NSAs’ modus operandi illustrates why this is important but not a criterion of distinction among them. Considering the continuum of NSAs, the mainstream literature has mainly separated them according to cases in point. Even though different types of NSAs have been analysed separately, a frame that brings them together is lacking. Therefore, the chapter’s primary objective is to classify them as actors on their own right and justify their existence as intrinsic part of the IR’s ontology. Keywords  Non-state actors (NSAs) · Typology · Ontology · Theory-building · Institutions · Irregular militaries and militia groups · Fundamentalist groups · Ethnic groups · “States-to-be”

Introduction This comprehensive study, which has evolved from my previous writings, is intended to provide a foundation for future analyses by responding to current debates around framing the role of Non-State Actors (NSAs) within the International

M. Charountaki (*) University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022 M. Charountaki, D. Irrera (eds.), Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations, Non-State Actors in International Relations,



M. Charountaki

Relations (IR)1 discipline and addressing their broader status. The study presents a range of methodological and epistemological approaches to NSAs by considering them as an integral part of the ontology of IR, along with the material and ideational structures (Gofas & Hay, 2008: 36).2 Even though the debate (Summers & Gough, 20183; Heffes et al., 20194) on NSAs has been well-informed (Weenink, 2001), a broad and consistent framework is lacking. This is because various NSAs have occasionally been analysed in IR as separate and individual actors in their own right. Given scholarly claims that “there seems to be no uniform definition of what constitutes a NSA nor an agreed upon methodology on how to identify or classify them” (Heffes et  al., 2019), the formation of a broad typology is therefore clearly needed. To date, scholarly work has explained the rise of NSAs mainly through examples (Saban & Yesiltas, 2018: 27),5 and by aligning NSAs with a specific type, as will be further explained. To varying degrees, the discussion usually involves intergovernmental organisations (IGOs); international non-governmental organisations (e.g. INGOs or NGOs); multinational corporations (MNCs) and enterprises (MNEs, e.g. Facebook, GlaxoSmithKline, Exxon Mobil), cities, diasporas, think-tanks, digital communities, quasi-states, social media platforms, liberation and social (Borońska-­ Hryniewiecka, 2011: 74) movements, pressure groups, private security firms and mercenary armies, the new diplomats (Kelley, 2010: 302), civil society organisations (CSOs), rebels, IS (Islamic State), WikiLeaks, Hezbollah (Thomas, 2017; Arasli, 2011),6 financial market actors, armed groups (e.g. para-military organisations, non-state armies and militias), and many others. Given their infinite variety, NSAs are usually understood through an approach that is characterised by example-based divisions: this not only limits theory-­building but also risks either omitting existing kinds of NSAs or failing to include emerging categories. A four-fold rationale explains the importance of the conceptualisation of NSAs within IR.  First and foremost, practical needs call for simplification in  Capitalised IR implies the discipline, whereas lower-case ir denotes the practice.  A consistent approach to the relationship between the ideational and the material that fails to privilege one or other moment and is capable of recognising the causally constitutive role of ideas remains frustratingly elusive. 3   The relationship between non-state actors and treaties is examined in a contemporary perspective. 4  “How non-state actors contribute to the development of international law… in order to ensure a better framework for the protection of those affected”. Both works show further promising developments in the broader literature. 5  The rise of NSAA is not only the result of “opportunities provided by the new regional environment” but also for instance note due to wrong policies. The authors identify four causal mechanisms that explain the rise of NSAA: “(1) privatisation in areas such as defence and security; (2) capital mobilisation and private foreign investment flows; (3) trade liberalisation and its employment consequences; (4) the expanding horizon of multilateral institutions; and (5) the unleashing of civil society”. 6  The Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah has emerged as a first non-state actor processing ‘strategic missile forces’. 1 2

1  Conceptualising Non-State Actors in International Relations


approaching them, on account of their multi-faceted complications. Second, their ability to influence the behaviour of state entities (Charountaki, 2011: 9) in a different way requires clarification as to their identity and their involvement in both state and non-state interactions. Third, NSAs are traditionally perceived through the lens of state interests or identified with institutions (mainly those of an economic orientation). There are scholars who “believe deeply in the importance of such actors as representatives of the state’s interests” (Higgott et al., 2000: 5). However, any form of inter-dependence7 is very much related to both state and non-state entities. Thus, the criterion of dependency for deciding upon their classification appears precarious in a globalised international relations system. Finally, NSAs constitute one component of the evolution of the international system that continues to inform the nature of IR. Even though the literature represents them mostly as a challenge (Valbjørn & Bank, 2012: 17),8 especially in relation to the primacy of the state (Kelley, 2010: 286),9 they are approached in the present work as part of IR whose role, as agents of power and change, can vary from case to case. For these reasons, I argue that they are not new actors, and that is why it is necessary to consider their changing roles, although their prominence has been understood and accounted for only recently. Therefore, the complexities and perceptions of NSAs together necessitate a more comprehensive approach to their categorisation. Scholarly efforts towards a broader understanding of NSAs “on a longer-term basis, considering a wide range of nonstate actor activities” (Smits & Wright, 2012: 20), and the fact that there have already been attempts to reach a more solid conceptualisation of specific types—for instance, armed non-state actors (Saban & Yesiltas, 2018) in hybrid warfare (Rauta, 2020: 881–882)10—demonstrate why a broader conceptualisation is required. The contribution of this introductory chapter lies in its novel approach to the ontology of non-state entities in setting out a comprehensive typology of currently existing NSAs. Classification of NSAs offered in this work privileges their nature (by implying a set of specific characteristics)—although their modus operandi is of considerable importance it can be shared—and consists of (a) institutions; (b) irregular militaries and militia groups; (c) fundamentalist groups; (d) ethnic groups; and (e) “states-to-be” (Charountaki, 2020). These categories though are not entirely mutually exclusive. Taking into account the Kurds as an example to illustrate the difference between the categories: when considered as “the Kurds”, this is an ethnic group, the “peshmerga” is an irregular military, and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is the “state-to-be”. 7  Thus, states can be funded by other institutions and states. In this case the criterion of the NSA’s separation according to whether or not they receive governmental funding questions the very distinction of these actors into specific kinds. Cultural/ideological international governmental organisations and transnational ethnic groups. See Taylor Ibid., p. 258. 8  Non state actors are now representing the radical challenge and the rivalry is thus not any longer an interstate competition but a cold war between regimes and non-state actors. 9  The continued rise of the non-state actor in twenty-first century international politics issues a potent challenge to state in the area of diplomacy. 10  That is proxy, auxiliary, surrogate, and affiliated forces.


M. Charountaki

Given the diversity within each of these five categories, further analysis is required; therefore, each chapter that follows engages, in turn, with each type. This is suggested as a way of remedying the a priori approaching of NSAs through examples alone. On this basis, this edited volume, which brings together a range of perspectives, combines both theoretical and empirical analysis, with each chapter also shedding light on representative examples found within each of the categories but without the examples being the starting point of the analysis. Institutions, as structured entities, can vary in orientation, regardless of how their mechanisms and order keep them structured. Irregular militaries and militia groups, for instance, can include all those fighting forces and armed groups (along with the companies that can provide them) in a hybrid form in which there is a range of state and non-state involvement. Fundamentalist groups may differ in their priorities, but they are identified by radical extremism in their discourse and operation. Ethnic groups are normally those with a nationalist agenda; they pursue political objectives, such as national (liberation) movements which are dominant in this category. Finally, “states-to-be”, often a more consolidated iteration of ethnic groups, and whose status does not necessarily lead to a position of independence, are the fifth category: they aspire to a role equal to that of state entities in the international realm and, as such, appear, after the states, to be the most important NSAs for the ontology of IR. The present chapter therefore begins with a broader interrogation of NSAs and discusses further the implications that NSAs bring to bear upon IR. The typology, set out in this chapter, constitutes the book’s main structure, with the following chapters divided among different types of NSAs, each supported by representative examples.

The Agency of NSAs: Towards a Definition NSAs as Entities in their Own Right Despite the growing “power” of NSAs (Buzan et al., 1998: 387)11 as part of the ontology of International Relations, they remain relatively under-examined. Here the term “power” (Walker & Ludwig, 2017) connotes a concoction of attributes related to both its kind, i.e., an alternative to the impact, dynamism, and influence, as distinct from authority (Saeed, 2018)12 and also its agency. NSAs are thus agents

 According to Buzan, (structural) power can also connote “the way in which the system shapes the behaviour of units” including “the capabilities of units to do things, their relative strengths, their interests [and] the way they define them”. 12  Specifications are related to the example of the typo we refer to. E.g. there is an essential difference between power and authority; power is the ability that is coming from within, whilst authority is some form of ability that is delegated by others. 11

1  Conceptualising Non-State Actors in International Relations


of power and this power can be multi-dimensional (Buzan et al., 1998: 388).13 As far as the agents of power are concerned —whether state or non-state (Buzan & Gonzalez-­Pelaez, 2009: 19)—this multiplicity extends beyond any kind of soft (economic, cultural/ethnic), smart, sharp, or hard power. Beyond the notion of power as a state monopoly, or its “capabilities [and] resources” (Wohlforth, 1993: 4), this introductory chapter invokes the role of power in the competition between state and non-­state entities, as well as that between non-state entities. Here the focus is on moving from a singular understanding of NSAs (through the above-mentioned approach of identifying examples before employing a generic scope of analysis) towards a multi-dimensional consideration and analysis both of the role of NSAs on equal terms with states and of their position as essential constituents of the IR ontology. The power of NSAs is also evident through international and regional developments that have led to the increasing attention that non-state entities—rather than individuals—have attracted. This is an opportunity to explain briefly why this typology excludes individuals and units (for instance, leaders) from an understanding of the NSA. The unit level has already been explored within Foreign-Policy Analysis (FPA) and/or neo-classical realism in a broader sense. In the international realm, representation normally occurs through collectives that claim to wield their power. International law has, only recently, attempted to find ways to satisfy demands for an expansion of its approach to include the protection of collectives—beyond its traditional focus on individuals. Incidents linked primarily to such urgent calls are expressed by the broader populations and include war crimes committed by the Islamic State (IS). Moreover, the agency of the NSAs is also related to their ability to exert influence on states’ foreign policies, and to be influenced by state actors or structures (Charountaki, 2018a, 2018b, 2018c: 2, 3, 10). They can also act as agents of foreign-­ policy making (Charountaki, 2019) and thus as decision-makers, depending on their status. This is particularly the case with the “states-to-be”, whose interactions are directly linked to FPA and its various levels of analysis encompassing the unit, the state and the international. “States-to-be” are able to design and/or exert foreign policy, and here foreign policy is perceived “as the end product [of a process] ... [that] constitutes response(s) to the activities of other actors in the international relations system [and these actions] ... may stem from states or non-state entities” (Charountaki, 2011: 74; Charountaki, 2018a, 2018b, 2018c: 10). In this sense, the type of a “state-to-be” is a case of a non-state actor that can inform the state level of FPA since, as Chapter Six demonstrates further, this can also be expanded to include the non-state level. NSAs can also act as facilitators of foreign policy (Charountaki, 2018a, 2018b, 2018c) as it is the case with the type of irregular armies and militias. As already noted, the literature that highlights NSAs offers various definitions directly related to the range of existing perceptions. Amongst these, common ground can be identified: understanding is based primarily on examples (German & Karagiannis, 2016: 1). Such examples include Walter, who focuses on transnational


 On the contrary state power is but one dimension of power.


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corporations with lobbying roles; Dalacoura, Madeley, and Haynes (2011: 63–64, 70) who look at Islamist movements as transnational non-state actors; whilst Taylor brings in the role of transnational ethnic groups (Charountaki, 2011: 10). Similarly, Halliday recognises five types of non-state actors that include NGOs such as Amnesty International, business groups, and religious entities, as well as political and criminal organisations (Halliday, 2001: 21, 26). On the other hand, Wagner classifies NSAs into two broad categories: “one being international organizations or formations of states as well as sub-state actors” (Wagner, 2009).14 Hawks, for instance, discusses the functions of non-state actors (Hawks, 2018: 4) whilst according to Pearlman and Cunningham (2011: 3) an NSA is “an organized political actor not directly connected to the state but pursing aims that affect vital state interest”. Scholarly work has commonly focused on NGOs and transnational organisations, and violence (Hawks, 2018: 1, 4, 10). Prominent also is the role of militant groups associated with political Islam. Thus, there are different kinds, such as Sufi-­jihadists, Shiite jihadists, MB (Muslim Brotherhood)-jihadists, and others. It is not uncommon to see references to “violent non-state groups [with an] emphasis on Salafi-jihadist groups [seen through] the lenses of strategic culture” (Last, 2020), as well as armed NSAs (Heffes et al., 2019) or “private actors”, in relation to their interactions with the state (Coleman, 2001: 94). Scholarly focus on the role of violent NSAs (Williams, 2008) stands out in the literature, but the division of NSAs based on the criterion of violence poses limitations. This is the case because the term encompasses a variety of expressions and actors as potential agents of violence, be they states or individuals. This raises the question as to why violence constitutes a distinct measure according to which the categorisation of NSAs occurs. In the same context, Berge argues that violence “refers to a behaviour that is subjective; it depends on the observer whether an action is qualified as such, or not” (Berge, 2016: 17). The group’s subsequent division into economic (e.g. private security companies, para-military units, organised crime, warlords) and political imperatives (e.g. secessionist/de facto states, political parties, guerrillas, terrorists) (Ezrow, 2017) is also puzzling, since both categories can and do have a mixture of objectives. NSAs are variously defined as “those organizations or groups that are not affiliated with national governments including social movements, international or regional non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations” (Stienstra, 1994: 1). Halliday (2001: 36) defines as non-state actors, entities that are “non-­ state” and partly independent from the states, but which nevertheless influence them. Reinalda’s contribution—in the form of one of the very few core textbooks on non-state actors—recognises dominant institutions, in addition to the role that religiously-­oriented fundamentalist groups play in international politics (Reinalda, 2011: 3, 4). A typology of armed non-state actors in hybrid warfare (namely proxy, auxiliary, surrogate, and affiliated forces) responds to the clarification of the role of non-state violent actors in civil war in general, and in hybrid warfare in particular (Rauta, 2020: 870). Thus far the literature has focused mainly on a typology of non-­ state armed actors in the evolution of a conflict through a “demarcation … between  Non-state actors can be “individuals as well as international organizations, corporations, nongovernmental organizations, de facto regimes, trade associations, transnational corporations, terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations”.


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those actors acting on behalf of a state and those acting in conjunction with a state’s armed forces” (German & Karagiannis, 2016: 1). In another scholarly framework, armed non-state actors are analysed and compared according to the criteria of autonomy, representation, and influence (Berge, 2016: 18). Baumann and Stengel in fact adopt a typology based upon territorial scope and legal status (Berge, 2016: 15). However, variables of such types seem to fall under the same critique that follows the sub-trans connotations or the domestic/external. Even so, the chapter argues that NSAs are not so much a matter of space as of performance. Based on my own understanding of the term, and building on previous work, I offer a revised formulation encompassing collectives which: (a) are not organised into a state; (and/or) (b) [can be] characterised by the display of state attributes; (and/or) (c) consist of a group of individuals with common goals who are able to interact in the international realm. Therefore, their identity can vary: they can (i) belong to a state (or a group of states), with an understanding of state institutions; (ii) they can be independent; (iii) they might be non-governmental organisations, or (iv) branches of groups under a leading group; or else (d) are identified by a degree of international recognition. They can be economic, religious, or socio-political actors, all exerting political influence (Charountaki, 2011: 8, 9). NSAs are thus collectives that are identified by a non-state status, a specific nature (that can often combine more characteristics), and shared objectives whilst their mode of operation can vary as the table below demonstrates. Table 1.1  NSA’s Modus Operandi Goals of NSA

Defend/ preserve status quo

Mode of operation Mode A: violence (fundamentalists) (religious/ethnic groups) Ulster volunteer force (UVF) Ulster Defence association (UDA)

Gradual change

PIRA (late)

Radical change

ISIS PIRA (early) Sri Lankan liberation tigers of Tamil Eelam (Sri Lanka) Palestinian Islamic Jihad Irish republican Army Al-Qaeda

Mode B: (conventional and asymmetric) power (irregular militaries and militias) (ethnic groups) (institutions) Peshmerga Marjaiya (Iraq) NATO

Fatah Sadriya (Iraq)

PKK Hashd al-Shaabi Wala’iya (Iraq) BSA Arakan Rohingya salvation Army (ARSA), Myanmar

Mode C: diplomacy (religious/economic/ political/cultural)/[FP] decision making involved (“states-to-be”) (institutions) KRG PLO UN World Bank EuroCities EU C40 cities ICLEI UCLG IMF Global covenant of mayors Taliban (Afghanistan) Tigray People’s liberation front (TPLF) (Ethiopia) Oxfam


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Conceptual Clarification Fundamental to the analysis of NSAs is the distinctions between the prefixes “non-” and “trans-” (Charountaki, 2011:11,15 ; Layton, 2015: 191); and “sub-” and “supra-” (German & Karagiannis, 2016: 2) that have been imported (Dunne et al., 2013a, 2013b: 419)16 from social sciences (Charountaki, 2011: 10).17 Even though the assertion that NSAs “have been largely overlooked” is generally agreed, differentiating them into “sub-state and non-state”, including the prefixes “trans-” (Brenner, 2017: 127)18 or “supra-” (based on domestic or international operation/s) appears precarious, given the destabilisation of national, economic, and other boundaries resulting from the impact of globalisation (Salem, 2018: 12).19 Within this context, and despite its regional location, an entity can develop multi-dimensional activities beyond geographical boundaries. Thus, the kinds of operation(s) undertaken by these entities will matter more than their location. The former also reflects the nature of their established and evolving interests. Prefixes such as “trans-” and “supra-” (state) seem problematic, given that they often connote a cross-border activity that transcends the geographical boundaries; on the other hand, “sub-” (state) simply indicates those that appear active in the domestic sphere. “Sub-” is used also to connote the subjection of NSAs to the state, sublimating notions of autonomy or a sense of self-determination. However, prefixes that are generally used to describe NSAs seem confusing, given modern forms of governance as well as the evolving definition of “state” or “sovereignty”. Instead, the levels of operation and the expansion of the activities of NSAs can vary, regardless of their location, given that non-state entities (Valbjørn & Bank, 2012: 17)20 can operate at an international level, or at least beyond the level of the (nation) state and vice versa. Similarly, a conceptual understanding of NSAs in a holistic manner, in accordance with and framed by states’ boundaries, is challenging since it perpetuates limited interpretations of

 E.g. According to Philip Taylor’s typology, the non-state actors can be transnational.  IR’s disadvantage: imported theories from other fields natural sciences (statistics), humanities (philosophy), social sciences (law). 17  Taylor still poses conditions: non-state actors can be either transnational sub-state individuals or groups, such as NGOs (non-governmental organisations), residing in two or more states, or formally organised ones like International Governmental Organisations. 18  Students of globalisation also show how increasing transnational flows have empowered nonstate actors. 19  There are some NSAs that only work domestically, whilst others work internationally. The latter includes two types: the first are NSAs that act internationally to lobby for a certain state’s agenda or lobby for a certain region’s interests, whilst the second type are those that work on international or transnational agendas. The first includes those working internationally, such as those working on the issue of Palestine and the WANA Institute, which works internationally on West Asian and North African issues. 20  Non state actors are now representing the radical challenge and the rivalry is thus not any longer an interstate competition but a cold war between regimes and non-state actors holding considerable popular support. 15 16

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non-­state entities. Understanding NSAs solely through the lens of the state rather than as an ontological reality in co-existence with the states is challenging. NSAs are thus understood as the “other” actor—one that shares the nature and characteristics of collectivity—rather than the state actors which, along with the structures, constitute the ontology of IR.  In this sense, scholarly claims about including the individual in the category of NSAs fail to meet the criterion of collectivity (i.e. presenting the individual as the main point of reference) which is required for fruitful academic analysis (German & Karagiannis, 2016:1).21 In addition, the unit level of analysis (within FPA) already identifies the role of the individual (Heffes et al., 2019) and suggests how it can be studied; the same can be argued about the neo-classical realism’s school of thought. Therefore, there is a distinction between individuals and the NSAs (regardless of the context of their operation) (Madeley & Haynes, 2011: 63–64),22 since those group(s) of units that differ in nature are even able to compete, mutatis mutandis, with state actors, as is the case with “states-to-be”.

The Role of NSAs in IR: A Critique According to Mearsheimer and Walt, “given how little we know, and how little we know about how to learn more, overinvesting in any particular (IR) approach seems unwise” (Mearsheimer & Walt, 2013: 449). This premise acquires greater importance when considering the role of NSAs in IR vis-à-vis the infrequent attention paid by the mainstream literature to such an actor. As part of the ontology of international relations, NSAs are becoming increasingly important, along with their ability to affect and interact with state entities (Charountaki, 2011: 253). They have been somewhat overlooked by the literature, either because of an over-emphasis on traditional state-centric or structural approaches within the discipline (and the consequent failure in the analysis to accommodate other actors as an integral part), or because of other methodological matters. Broadly speaking, whilst various epistemological approaches include the role of NSAs within their ambit, this often occurs in a sporadic and fragmented manner. Overall, IR theories have been overtaken by realities on the ground. NSAs have thus evolved into a matter of contestation that begins with definition (whether one is referring to the human, the state, or the non-state), and extends to their limited consideration within the parameters of the IR schools. Whilst existing schools of thought refer to the role of institutions23 (Dunne et al., 2013a, 2013b: 135) (such as  For instance, they can be individuals or organisations with economic, political, social, or sometimes military power that are able to influence the state, sub-state, and sometimes regional and international levels. 22  Transnational actors can be individuals and groups in international community. 23  One might also argue that influential international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) are members in so far as they give advice to institutions such as the UN and on occasions participate 21


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variants of liberalism), mainstream theories (or their developments) are primarily state-centric and structural (either material or ideational). Even though exceptional cases, such as the English school, appear to shed light on non-state entities, the analysis does not seem to go far enough in covering NSAs adequately. The argument in favour of a social ontology, where international society is the primary object of analysis, complicates an understanding of the non-state even further. Thus, “international society is the realm of the governmental and the official” that can also include “the dimension of non-state actors” (Clark, 2007: 8). “The centrality of the state is undisputable” (Halliday, 2009: 8) in most assumptions made within the discipline, including those of the English school. As Buzan and Gonzalez-Pelaez suggest, even when there is an understanding of “the relationship between the interstate and non-state domains”, this is framed as “interstate” and it is not specific (Buzan & Gonzalez-Pelaez, 2009:30). The English school is mentioned separately and specifically as an example of one whose generic references to the dividing of the world society into non-state organisations has not been sufficiently elucidated or developed. The reference to “world society”, as one that includes the global population, individuals, and non-­ state organisations, “remains seriously underspecified” (Buzan, 2001: 477). Thus, the attempt of the English school to encapsulate almost everything in this proposition of world society—i.e., the perception of the global political system as encompassing “states and also regions, institutions, NGOs, transnational and subnational groups, individuals and the wider community of human kind” (Dunne et al., 2013a, 2013b: 135)—seems quite problematic when the distinct role of NSAs is considered. Further, it appears too broad and simultaneously contradictory to include both “organisations” and individuals. Such expansive approaches, evident also in terms such as “the international society”, divide the international relations system into strata that betray a structural approach. At the same time, the attempt to divide relations according to structures (states to states; between non-state collective actors; and among individual human beings) does not allow for a holistic approach, but instead leads to the English school’s structural classification of the world (Jackson et al., 2006: 163)24 that would enable examination of interactions (at least between the first two). However, there is a lack of empirical evidence and examples—especially at the regional level—to test theses in practice, in addition to perceptions of the ideational structures as (primarily) shared (Jackson et  al., 2006: 116).25 Such inter-subjective premises complicate even further the understanding of how and why IR’s ontology differs, and the problem of the non-state actor remains. Buzan argues that “the English school has not given any consideration to the regional level, there are precedents neither for how to define what would constitute a regional international society nor for how to relate to it to international society at global level” in the drafting of significant multilateral treaties. 24  However, in terms of Social Constructivism, a potential “structuration” is believed to lead “to a less rigid and more dynamic view of the relationship between structure and actors”. 25  Jackson argues that “Ideas must be widely shared to matter; nonetheless they can be held by different groups, such as organizations, policymakers, social groups or society)”.

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(Buzan & Gonzalez-Pelaez, 2009: 43). He also notes “…a serious shortage of guidance on what primary institutions look like in the non-state domains and how these might look in relation to those in the interstate domains” (ibid). Yet what is lacking here is an examination that compares how these two concepts may enhance empirical enquiries into international relations outside the international society of states (Pella, 2013: 69). This might be traced back to the origins of the school—the fact that world society had not been established or analysed to the same extent as the international system or society—and that “rather than ‘operationalizing’ concepts and formulating ‘testable’ hypotheses, the emphasis [was placed] upon contending concepts” (Dunne et al., 2013a, 2013b: 138). Thus, the English school has concentrated mostly on “primary institutions in [this] interstate domain” as it perceives this interaction (Buzan & Gonzalez-Pelaez, 2009: 25, 26, 32).26 But again, and based on the existing critical approaches, in referring to a “society” within which NSAs operate “it is not clear that there is any sort of society in this domain” (Buzan & Gonzalez-Pelaez, 2009: 235). On the other hand, “there is [also] a serious shortage of guidance on what primary institutions look like in the non-state domains and how these might relate to those in the interstate domains” (Buzan & Gonzalez-Pelaez, 2009: 43). “[H]ow international society relates to world society” (Dunne et al., 2013a, 2013b: 138) also appears somewhat puzzling for the IR discipline, whereas the use of the term “society” in the sense of the community is too broad. Thus, the structural approach of the English school—focusing as it does on the triptych state-society— can neither encompass nor adequately explain the range of NSAs identified and categorised here. Similarly, for Marxism or any other meta-theory, “NSAs are tools of the [state] employed to promote hegemony” (Buzan & Gonzalez-Pelaez, 2009: 17). Furthermore, constructivism’s over-emphasis on ideational structures—like the English school—privileges the role of agents, and thus we end up with either structure- or agent-oriented theories that do not account for the approach pursued in this chapter—that is, an attempt to ascribe to NSAs a role as agents of action in their own right. The attention of constructivists towards the role of “norms, values, institutions, ideas, identities, and cultural contexts” in a “social analysis” is indicative of the scope of a study that offers a sociological perspective of IR (Baldwin, 2016: 153). World society can be perceived as both groups/individuals together and transnational and interhuman societies. The division into societies – i.e. “states in ‘interstate society’, non-state collective actors in ‘transnational society’, and individuals in ‘interhuman society” (Pella, 2013: 68)—implies a perception of NSAs that is not about collectives operating at different levels, as is argued for in the present work. As Pella suggests, “whilst scholars sometimes attribute agency to states as a form of shorthand, they believe that the real agents in international society are the diplomats and leaders who think and act on behalf of the state and its institutions” (in Dunne  Because the English school has not given any consideration to the regional level there are precedents neither for how to define what would constitute a regional international society nor for how to relate to it to international society at global level.



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et al., 2013a, 2013b: 137). The role of the foreign-policy maker, though, has been accounted for at the unit level of analysis or, broadly speaking, by the neo-classical realist theory. Such actors are presented by the English school as part of systemic, social, and international structures on the basis that “these three types provide clarity with respect to the sources of agency”, which hampers interpretations of actors that do not fit within such a framework. Attempts to clarify the concept of the non-­ state as the realm “of the individual … the non-official group or movement and the translational network of non-governmental agents” (Clark, 2007: 7–8) is inherently problematic. The “non-state” is perceived de facto through the role of states given, for instance, that “international society legitimacy principles come to be reformulated to take account of the norms emanating from world society” and that “world society… is inclusive of international society [that is, the non-state social world]” (Clark, 2007: 11–22). The fact that the concept of world society “can address questions such as what ideologies are in competition in the non-state world? What is it that leads to the triumph of one ideology over others?” (Dunne et al., 2013a, 2013b: 135) implies that there is an emphasis on the (ideational) structures within its scope. So, a focal point could be “how various non-state actors have introduced normative principles that were then implemented by the states of international society” (Pella, 2013:66).27 If theory “constitutes guidance and a set of principles on which any independent analysis should be based” it should consider both the material and ideational structures that constitute IR, and state and non-state interactions. Such an approach “allows the scholar to reach various conclusions for phenomena—i.e., the constituents of specific case studies – through the adoption of the necessary methodological tools according to the space and period under scrutiny” (Charountaki, 2011: 246). This approach also justifies scholarly claims for the need to broaden the empirical spectrum so that it (Buzan, 2001: 485)28 unravels elements that can be used towards the establishment of a grand theory. The lack of theorisation pertaining to NSAs and the absence of empirical references that address their role in IR’s ontology further reinforce the importance of this volume for introducing more holistic approaches to the IR discipline. “Holistic” implies a multi-dimensional inter-relationship not only between agent and structure but also between theory and practice, which includes an empirical understanding of the concept of NSAs. It also implies the need for the focus on the role—both direct and indirect—of non-state actors in IR, without an a priori favouring of either actor (Charountaki, 2011: 254). Thus, even though the English school, which can be traced back in the 1950s and 1960s (and is known in the US context as rationalism),  In consequence, an alternative possibility has been forwarded which conceptualises world society in accordance with the contested ideologies in the non-state world that lead individuals to form social relationships in the hopes of influencing the states of international society, ultimately in accordance with their ideology. Such a conception should be a useful tool for English School scholars looking to think outside the international society. 28  There is also much room left for more country studies, looking at how particular states and peoples encounter and adapt to international society. 27

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overemphasised the international society of states, it refers to the non-state as a realm rather than an entity in its own right. Therefore, “scholars within the English school seem to be in broad agreement that investigation into world society requires a ‘deeper’ perspective”, seen as a pending matter requiring further analysis (Pella, 2013: 74). This realm can include many other actors, and in this sense the understanding of the non-state actors is viewed through a structuration of the agent.

Conclusion The status of NSAs, as another actor beyond state entities, within international relations is not a new phenomenon, but one that has been given prominence in recent decades. Understanding NSAs as powerful players on the international stage constitutes the first step towards a review of their status. Such re-consideration leads to several inter-related conclusions. Although the literature emphasises the fact that “state and non-statist orders operat[e] alongside and through each other” (Valbjørn & Bank, 2012: 24), this work acts as a reminder of the importance of NSAs as part of the ontology of IR. Such a perspective also satisfies scholarly demands that “the engagement with non-state actors needs to be conceived more broadly and on a longer-term basis, taking into account a wide range of NSA activities” (Smits & Wright, 2012: 20). Meanwhile, this introductory chapter classifies a range of NSAs into a typology and perceives them as agents in their own right, whilst also recalibrating them as an intrinsic part of International Relations’ ontology. This initiative was stimulated by the high levels of interaction, both between state- and non-state actors as well as within categories of NSAs, that still require further nuanced theoretical understandings of their role within international relations. The aim was to create a framework that would bring them together, starting from the general and shifting to the specific given the plethora of existing examples of non-state entities. The deficiency of the current literature in covering NSAs in a holistic manner is evident. On this basis the following chapters set out further clarifications of each type, followed by a range of regional examples through an empirical approach to complement the holistic approach pursued here. The arguments that follow also inform the debate regarding why area studies and IR are two sides of the same coin rather than two unrelated fields. It is therefore appropriate to use regional contexts and examples to improve existing theories. The example of the Middle East “as a text case … to improve the tuning of English school theory for looking at the regional level and to sharpen up its focus to take in all three domains rather than just the interstate one”, is indicative of a case that can inform the theory through its examples (Buzan & Gonzalez-Pelaez, 2009: 226). Thus, this edited volume is divided -beyond this first theoretical chapter- into chapters that each focus on the explanation of a single type of NSA, based on the typology set out above and intended to illustrate the variety in their forms, goals, and importance of their nature. Beyond any theorisation (undertaken mainly in this


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chapter) the analysis is followed by case studies representative of each category of the suggested typology and is aimed at remedying the current deficiency in this area. These examples include an overview of the role of institutions with an emphasis on the functions of both inter-governmental organisations and non-governmental organisations linked to the structures and processes in the operation of international relations. The role of irregular militaries and militia groups in the formulation of politics is also explored, with an emphasis on the Middle Eastern region and, in particular, the example of the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) or Al-Hashd alShaabi (‫)الحشد الشعبي‬, part of the Iraqi armed forces. Within this type, three examples of Shiite militias in the case of Iraq are discussed: wala’iya (‫( )والءية‬loyalists-to Qum); marja’iya (‫( )مرجعية‬scholarly-to Najaf); and Sadria (‫( )صدرية‬Sadrists – local/political). All three of these types of militia operate under the same umbrella, and outside the control of both the Commander in Chief and the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, with the most hard-line being the wala’iya and some of the Sadria militias. The third category explores fundamentalist groups whose orientation varies. Within this category, emphasis is placed on the power that insurgency—and, by extension, insurgents—can exercise on the international relations system ir. Ethnic groups are the fourth category presented here, through a consideration of their involvement and operation(s) in international politics and conflicts. Finally, the role of “states-tobe” is examined through the two examples of the KRI (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation), both of which represent a direct challenge to state entities in the sense that they compete for power and the same status, whilst their role on the international stage is recognised. The fact that they can act as independent entities on a large scale has institutionalised their relations with state actors, interact with other non-state entities, and also act as agents of foreign policy, justify their status as equal, given their standing, to state entities—and thus also demonstrates why NSAs constitute an intrinsic component of IR.

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Madeley, J. T. S., & Haynes, J. (2011). Transnational religious actors. In B. Reinalda (Ed.), The Ashgate research companion to non-state actors (pp. 63–74). Ashgate. Mearsheimer, J. J., & Walt, S. M. (2013). Leaving theory behind: Why simplistic hypothesis testing is bad for international relations. European Journal of International Relations., 19(3), 427–457. Pearlman, W., & Cunningham, K.  G. (2011). Nonstate actors, fragmentation, and conflict processes. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 56(1), 3–15. Pella, J.  A. (2013). Thinking outside international society: A discussion of the possibilities for English school conceptions of world society. Millennium, 42(1), 65–77. Rauta, V. (2020). Towards a typology of non-state actors in ‘hybrid warfare’: Proxy, auxiliary, surrogate and affiliated forces. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 33(6), 868–887. Reinalda, B. (Ed.). (2011). The Ashgate research companion to non-state actors. Routledge. Saban, K., & Yesiltas, K. (2018). Non-state armed actors in the Middle East; geopolitics, ideology and strategy. Palgrave Macmillan. Saeed, S. (2018). In Syria, the Kurdish project is redefining the concepts of Independence and sovereignty. The region. Retrieved April 2021, from article/13434-­in-­syria-­kurdish-­project-­is-­redefining-­concepts-­of-­independence-­sovereignty. Salem, W. (2018) NSAs and the possibility of translational politics. In Banu Baybars Hawks (ed) Non-state actors in conflicts: Conspiracies, myths, and practices. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 10–24 Smits, R., & Wright, D.. (2012). Engagement with non-state actors in fragile states: Narrowing definitions, broadening scope. CRU Report. (The Hague). Retrieved April 2021, from https:// Stienstra, D. (1994). Women’s movements and international organizations. Palgrave Macmillan. Summers, J., & Gough, A. (Eds.). (2018). Non-state actors and international obligations: Creation, evolution and enforcement. Brill Nijhoff. Thomas, J. (2017). The new era of non-state actors: Warfare and entropy. Small Wars Journal. Retrieved April 2021, from the-­new-­era-­of-­non-­state-­actors-­warfare-­and-­entropy. Valbjørn, M., & Bank, A. (2012). The new Arab cold war: Rediscovering the Arab dimension of Middle East regional politics. Review of International Studies, 38, 3–24. van den Berge, W. (2016). Analyzing Middle Eastern Armed Non-State Actors’ foreign policy. Global Security Studies, 7(3). Wagner, M. (2009). Non-state actors. In R. Wolfrum (Ed.), Max Planck encyclopedia of public international law (pp. 1–9). Oxford University Press. Walker, C., & Ludwig, J. (2017). The meaning of sharp power: How authoritarian states. Project influence. Foreign Affairs. Retreived china/2017-­11-­16/meaning-­sharp-­power from July 2021. Weenink, A. W. (2001). The relevance of being important or the importance of being relevant? State and non-state actors in international relations theory. In B.  Arts, M.  Noortmann, & B. Reinalda (Eds.), Non-state actors in international relations (pp. 79–92). Ashgate. Williams, P. (2008). Violent Non-State Actors and National and International Security. International Relations and Security Network. ISN Zurich 2008. Wohlforth, W. C. (1993). The elusive balance: Power and perceptions during the cold war. Cornell University Press.

Chapter 2

The Power and Impact of Institutions on International Relations: From Intergovernmental to Non-­governmental Organisations Daniela Irrera

Abstract  The chapter aims at discussing the impact of institutions on international relations, by shedding new light on the relationship between IGOs and NGOs and their effect on security and conflict management. Given the power of NGOs on the transformation of the structure and processes of IR, the work attempts to understand both the international roles of the NGOs and the transformation they have brought into several sensitive policy fields. It is divided into three parts. Firstly, institutions are theoretically investigated, focusing on relations with states and their influence on the global political agenda. Secondly, intergovernmental organisations and non-­ governmental organisations are separately studied as the most prominent examples of institutions provided with those functions and abilities for influencing global policies. Finally, their potential is particularly deepened in the global humanitarian system as an extremely sensitive field, in which policies, practices, and norms are the result of the match and the collision between the governmental and the non-­ governmental dimensions. Keywords  Institutions · Non-governmental organisations · State · Security · Legitimisation · Change The powerful role of international institutions has been placed at the core of scholarly debates in the International Relations (IR) discipline. Over the past years, various forms of institutions, from intergovernmental to non-governmental ones, have been empirically observed, evaluated, and investigated. Efforts to define and describe such phenomena are not always easy nor smooth (Duffield, 2007), as their existence and developments have been mainly associated with the most sensitive D. Irrera (*) University of Catania, Catania, Italy e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022 M. Charountaki, D. Irrera (eds.), Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations, Non-State Actors in International Relations,



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features of state sovereignty and the major changes in the global political system. IR scholars have analysed how the globalisation process may push the nation-state to retreat in the face of other actors, reducing the impact of its sovereignty (Strange, 1996). Relations with non-state actors (NSAs) may produce different outcomes. NSAs dialogue with national institutions and at the same time, they challenge legal systems and rules (Rosenau, 1990; Taylor, 2019). Moreover, the agency of the NSAs is also related to their ability to exert influence on states’ foreign policies and thus act as either as decision-makers or facilitators of foreign policy, depending on their status (Charountaki, 2018). Congruently with the aim of this book, this chapter presents the roles and impact of institutions in international relations. Thus institutions, following the book’s structure, are divided based on their orientation (which can be economic, political, religious, cultural, security-focused) while their modus operandi will also be stressed. As stated in Chap. 1, institutions are structured entities that may vary, depending on the relations their members put in place, the agendas and political goals that need to be achieved and the power balances they tend to reflect. Major international relations schools have analysed institutions in different ways. They can be perceived as agents of power, reflection of existing balances and the status quo, but also as agents of change, beyond state and governmental power, as a compound of forms, norms, actors and practices, a place of socialisation, legitimation and persuasion. This chapter analyses institutions through the lenses of a wide variety of actors, from the most institutionalised organisations to the most flexible civil society actors. It is divided into three parts. Firstly, a theoretical overview on the ways in which institutions have been investigated and perceived, in IR theories, is used to emphasise the contested relations with states, the suitability of cooperation, and the influence on the global political agenda. Secondly, intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations are separately studied as the most prominent examples of institutions provided with those functions and abilities for influencing global policies. Thirdly, their potential is particularly deepened in the global humanitarian system as an extremely sensitive field, in which policies, practices, and norms are the result of the match and the collision between the governmental and the non-governmental dimensions.

Debating International Institutions The nature of institutions, their impact on the structure of the global political system and their influence on policy-making have produced massive debates in the International Relations community, involving major schools and prominent scholars (Bianchi, 2017; Caporaso, 2000; Weenink, 2001). The first struggle has been about the identification of a definition, as an essential prerequisite for developing a comprehensive theoretical framework. If international institutions deal with a wide variety of actors, behaviours, practices and sets of

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norms, any definition which does not include the most important institutional forms and all relevant aspects and controversial nuances would be insufficient. As Keohane points out, a meaningful definition of institution should refer only to those complexes of rules and norms, identifiable in time and space. (Keohane, 1988: 383). Therefore, in the global political system, institutions are a general pattern or categorisation of activity or a particular human-constructed arrangement, which may be formally or informally organised (Keohane, Keohane, 1988). The first and most important element is the aim for which an institution is created and developed, followed by the physical and temporal boundaries, but the actors involved in their constitution also play an important role. Duffield (2007) offers a more structured definition, stressing not only the ‘relatively stable sets of related constitutive, regulative, and procedural norms and rules that pertain to the international system’, but also ‘the actors in the system (including states as well as non-state entities), and their activities’. Understanding why international institutions are created and, most importantly, the purposes they serve in the global political system is a complex theoretical and empirical operation. Three aspects can be considered as the basis of any definition: firstly, an institution should demonstrate a certain level of formal and functional relationship, showing connections among institutional elements and clarifying the mandate and scope; secondly, and as a consequence, such a structure is expected to bring some determination and stability, and to assure resilience in the face of changing conditions; thirdly and finally, institutions are the result of the actors who create them, develop their structure and contribute to their successive activities. Institutions are traditionally associated with states and perceived as an outcome of state power. However, several institutions have also developed the involvement of other transnational entities. On this last aspect, major IR schools have contributed and offered a rich debate. Although a part of the realist school of thought continues to be unreceptive, the majority of it admits the relevance of institutions. In their view, institutions reflect major powers which instrumentalised them, not only for manifesting their strength but also for establishing a set of relations which are functional to the protection of their self-interests. The interdependent relations between rules and roles can serve a better understanding of the realist contribution to the debate. On the one hand, institutions are relevant for establishing rules. In various policy fields and with different expectations, institutions are those patterns in which norms, behaviours and practices are produced, diffused and applied. At the same time, rules can only work if the circumstances allow, and only if, within institutions, they are strengthened and legitimised. In other words, the primary function of institutions is not only to produce rules, but also to defend them from possible changes in the global system or in the power relations, and to adapt the rules to such changes (Onuf, 2002). Roles are a crucial element in such a process. If states participate in institutions to preserve their power and allow rules which guarantee that power, then they establish primary or secondary roles—obviously connected to a series of entitlements and powers—which depend on the rules and, in a circular way, also perpetuate them. In a community of sovereign and independent states, institutions are rationally functional patterns—as


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previously defined—driven by the need to identify common rules which may fulfil individual requirements (Galston, 2010). In so doing, institutions tend to reflect and reproduce global power inequalities. In most cases, negotiations within international institutions are highly competitive and replicate global and regional alliances. Following the previous attempts to cover all institutional forms in one definition, Ruggie labels institutions as persistent and connected sets of rules, formal and informal, that prescribe behavioural roles, constrain activity, and shape expectations (Ruggie, 2002). The three main institutional domains of interstate relations that he mentions, international orders, international regimes, and international organisations, are qualified by their dimension. For an institution, being bilateral or multilateral is not merely a question of percentage or numbers of members and the majority required for voting procedures, but rather a more meaningful ‘qualitative dimension’ that distinguishes it from all other ones. In this view, most institutions are created to be multilateral, as only a broader, comprehensive pattern can allow hegemonic plans to build alliances and ground long-term stability (Pedersen, 2002; Puchala, 2005). Rules and roles continue to be crucial in this process and are at the core of the investigations based on hegemony. According to Cox, international institutions are compatible with a hegemonic order. They can contribute to strengthening such an order because of several factors. Not only do institutions replicate power relations and, consequently, the hegemonic balances, but they also facilitate the expansion and strengthening of such balances by personifying the rules on which they are grounded. The implementation of rules and the continuity in their application favour their legitimacy and contribute to the stability of the world order by absorbing counter-­hegemonic tendencies (Cox, 2000). The fact that institutions are themselves the product of the hegemonic world order may also contribute to conflictual relations and contestations. Within international institutions, the political élites from countries located at the periphery of the system find the ideal arena for representing and defending their needs and preferences, as happened at the United Nations after the decolonisation process. This can expand democratisation and representation but also aggravate political and economic cleavages. In a neo-Gramscian perspective, in fact, hegemony is essentially the cultural, moral, and ideological leadership of a group over allied and subaltern groups (Gramsci, 1971; Cox, 1983). Therefore, institutions are used by states and ruling capitalist class to maintain power in capitalist societies. Marxist approaches focused on those tools which may allow such leadership. They attempted to demonstrate how international institutions are employed by major powers to diffuse and implement neoliberalism and how, at the same time, neoliberal policies need institutions to work better and get consensus. As Harvey points out, all international institutions function in this way and must adapt to the patterns of liberalised markets, even those that are concerned with functions which are far from trade and economic policies (Harvey, 2005). This aspect continues to be relevant in the IR debate, also with the sociological contributions which have emphasised how international institutions can be used for reproducing and

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transforming global social inequalities, particularly by supporting the unequal distributions of socially valued goods. In an international society dominated by states, international institutions may become a realm of struggle over global social issues (Babb & Kentikelenis, 2018; Fehl & Freistein, 2020). State sovereignty, global hegemony and dominant economic neoliberalism are different manifestations of power and balance of power. Through these lenses, international institutions are read as a rationalistic tool for building alliances, determining public policies and grounding stability beyond the state, but in a perspective which is not hostile to the state. Alternatively, institutions have been interpreted as a tool for cooperation, socialisation and democratisation. Scholars from the English School, from Bull to Buzan, have considered primary international institutions at the core idea of their analyses, focusing on commonalities more than on power. According to Bull, institutions are set[s] of habits and practices shaped towards the realization of common goals (Bull, 1977: 74). States decide to cooperate to reach universal objectives, to which everyone in the global system tends. The focus is on those primary institutions which can gather a wider consensus, those ultimate practices, rules, and constraints that are usually embedded in their structure (Buzan, 2004: 165; Spandler, 2015). The difference between primary and secondary institutions is relevant and explains the growth and diversification of organisations and various entities at the end of Second World War. It also explains why some institutions are unalterable over time, whereas many other are changeable in strength and efficiency. A group of scholars often defined as the ‘new institutionalists’ have argued that the English School has hardly defined such variations and have tried to build tighter definitions (Schouenborg, 2014; Wilson, 2012). Institutions are the context within which the games of international politics are played (Holsti, 2004). On the one hand, the English School has mainly tried to look at the most important principles which drive international society and create conditions for institutional cooperation. On the other, different historical periods also require more contingent and flexible forms of interactions. Buzan (2004: 165, 169) argues that the English School has been mainly focused on primary institutions and that a shift in attention towards secondary ones is necessary. Primary institutions are durable and recognized patterns of shared practices (Buzan, 2004: 181). Rather than being designed by states, they are relevant for implementing and grounding legitimate activity in relations among all members of international society. Therefore, they are constitutive of both states and international society (Buzan, 2004: 166). Secondary institutions are those to which realists and regime theorists refer and are typically created by states to regulate their relations and policy-making. Recalling Keohane’s definition, Buzan defines secondary institutions as formal bodies and organisations created by states for reaching a specific function and provided with functional capacities (Buzan, 2004). Therefore, rules and roles do not necessarily reflect power relations but can also be dominated by the function, or alternatively by ideas.


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Constructivists focus on the role of ideas, norms, knowledge, culture, and argument in politics Finnemore and Sikkink (2001). International institutions are mainly intersubjective realm, in which members of collectivity firstly share ideas, second socialise them, and thirdly contribute to build and legitimise norms (Wendt, 1999). As already analysed, institutions can hardly be entirely ideational in nature, given that they are mainly composed of sovereign states and are created for maintaining power balances or for expanding cooperation. Constructivists, however, have efficaciously demonstrated how many of them have developed an intersubjective dimension and the  (Wiener, 2006; Haas & Haas, 2009). If it is true that norms can look more reliable only when they are formalised, as happened with diplomacy or the declaration of human rights, it is also clear that legitimation processes are not strictly guaranteed by formality. A written rule may gradually lose moral force and political appeal over time, while unwritten institutions may arise and strengthen because states recognise their function and value their relevance. Political élites legitimise such institutions simply by sharing their existence and performing accordingly (Wendt, 1999; Kratochwil and Ruggie 1986). If realists emphasise the need to negotiate the creation of institutions, constructivists argue that many of them can naturally develop as a result of a process of socialisation and can—but do not necessarily—turn into codified or written statements. Socialisation and negotiation are different phases that may involve all states. Principles and practices like sustainable development, the principle of responsibility to protect or humanitarian interventions are only partially formalised and developed in a very gradual way, which Finnemore and Sikkink describe as the ‘life cycle’ norm (Finnemore & Sikkink, 1998). Norms can be created as the result of shared consensus and are therefore not an expression of power. Rather than being imposed by hegemonic forces, they spread in international society via a process of socialisation and, more importantly, of persuasion (Checkel, 2007; Murdoch et al., 2019). The intersubjective character of institutions has been their most sensitive role, like the promotion of peaceful conflict management among states. IR scholars who have focused on international democracy have argued that international institutions are useful to reduce the effects of power competitions and therefore dominate security dilemmas. This mainly happens since they promote cooperation in different policy fields and disincentivise unilateral initiatives and strategies (Hasenclever & Weiffen, 2006). Various studies have empirically supported the idea that democracies are more likely to join intergovernmental institutions than nondemocratic regimes, and that they invest time and resources to create, maintain, and legitimise international institutions (Kahl, 1998; De Mesquita et al., 1999). This is mainly explained not only by the fact that democracies share common principles and prefer cooperation (Hegre et al., 2020; Fjelde et al., 2021), but also by their propensity to connect with additional transnational non-state actors like interest groups, the media and ultimately non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The IR literature has widely investigated the role of institutions in the global system and the way they have contributed to regulating and forging relations among states, but further reflections on how a powerful category of NSAs like institutions

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can influence power relations and policy-making at global level are needed. As already mentioned, this depends on the nature of institutions, intergovernmental or non-governmental, and their different abilities in negotiating and exerting influence. Both actors are extremely active in the global system, facilitating agenda setting and the monitoring of international duties and supporting policy information that can be used for effective problem-solving at the international level.

From the Intergovernmental to the Non-governmental World Mainstream literature refers to international governmental organisations (IGOs) as formal entities, constituted by states and rigidly provided with aims and rules. Particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, scholars tended to use the term ‘international institution’ to refer only to formal international organisations (Duffield, 2007). As already described, the need to understand different entities like international economic regimes, more flexible alliances in the field of security, or less structured regional organisations has pushed towards more differentiated analyses. Once again, definitional efforts have been dominant and contributed to enlightening the most important aspects of IGOs and their roles in global policy-making. Although the formal character associates IGOs with a physical environment, headquarters, statutes, specialised staff and administrative personnel and written rules, scholars have pointed out the relevance of their behaviour and how this is connected to aims and functions. Young (1989) describes international institutions as social entities governing the activities of the members of international society. International organisations are mainly affected by their arrangements, by norms and rules which prevail within their internal bodies and, most importantly, by historical contingencies. Not all organisations are designed to favour cooperation. Military alliances like NATO have functioned to influence the military, whereas regional organisations like ASEAN have been created to limit the impact of political divergencies and freeze pending conflicts. The sources and natures of organisations and the way they are created are relevant for understanding their performance. However, the conditions under which institutional change takes place can explain more the extent to which organisations produce more or less cooperation (Keohane, Keohane, 1988). Therefore, scholars also focused on the non-state nature of IGOs and its implications. Empirical analyses suggest that organisations do not merely reflect the preferences and power relations of their own components, that is to say, states. Although states create organisations to encourage cooperation or dispute or affirm hegemony, in the end they tend to delegate to organisations and their internal bodies. In mediating among the interests of competing states, they can provide political opportunities to other non-state actors which are usually too weak to exert influence. Organisations thus allow further resources to be used in the transnational dimension (Tarrow, 2001). International organisations possess the typical qualities of institutions described in the previous paragraph, the agents which constitute them and the others that


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interact with them. As Tarrow (2001) observed, other than states, collective intergovernmental bodies, such as the Security Council and General Assembly of the UN, the Council of Ministers of the European Union (EU), and the Boards of Governors of the IMF and other executive bodies and agencies contribute to the aims and functions of organisations and have adapted to historical changes and political developments (Lenz & Viola, 2017; Debre & Dijkstra, 2020). Agents may assume different forms and roles. Judicial and legislative bodies like the International Court of Justice or the European Parliament, for example, are composed of elected or appointed individuals. Rules and norms provided by statutes and conventions assign specific roles and rights to individuals, as happens to the UN Secretary General, the Director-General of the WTO and their officers and diplomatic envoys (Simmons & Martin, 2002; Archer, 2014; Rittberger et al., 2019). According to this view, international organisations are not unitary actors, but rather a broad collective intergovernmental arena where member states interact and deliberate, and authorisation or legitimisation of actions involve a variety of actors (Claude, 1966). On the one hand, this may be inconvenient. From a practical point of view, it is not always easy to distinguish among organisational actors and the norms and rules that constitute them, regulate their behaviour toward other actors and determine their internal processes. In some cases, like in the EU, scholars have observed an expansion of organisational bureaucracies, whose actions and decisions may impact overall performance and reduce the space for political negotiation. On the other hand, such variety expands organisations’ capacity to influence and shape primary institutions at a global and regional level and, ultimately, the international system (Knudsen, 2019). An increase in international organisations in a specific policy field will result in more resources, opportunities, and incentives offered to transnational actors and will contribute to expanding the transnational dimension of politics although it may also bring more contestation (Risse, 2001; Tarrow, 2001). The activism of transnational actors within international institutions has been extensively studied by IR scholars. Many of them have contributed to draft treaties and norms, legitimise practices, implement programmes and, more often, as part of contestation and mobilisation. A wide and diversified IR literature has theoretically and empirically investigated the role of NGOs, multinational corporations, churches, religious groups, media as agents of change for social, political and economic structures, most importantly within international organisations. Among them, NGOs are one of the most powerful examples of NSA, capable of interacting with states and IGOs, influencing any policy field including the most sensitive ones, and shaping governmental and intergovernmental agendas and strategies. NGOs are the most organised and purpose-based part of the broad category of civil society organisations (CSOs), which are slowly becoming relevant non-state players of emergency policy-making and implementation. The United Nations defines civil society as the ‘third sector’ along with business and government, whereas the World Bank more specifically includes the wide array of NGOs and not-for-profit organisations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations.

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As for intergovernmental organisations, even for NGOs definitions are relevant and controversial. According to Tarrow (2001:12), NGOs are those entities that operate independently of governments, are composed of members from two or more countries, and are organised to advance their members’ international goals and provide services to citizens of other states through routine transactions with states, private actors and international institutions. This definition not only allows the inclusion of various types of NGOs active in various issues but also distinguishes them from other relevant CSOs like social movements. Other definitions connect NGOs with international institutions. As Willetts (2001) remarks, most active NGOs need to meet some basic features: furtherance of the aims of the UN as universally recognised principles; members, headquarters and officers; being a non-profit organisation; clear separation from violence; constant interference in the internal affairs of states; and the provision of an intergovernmental treaty. These conditions usually allow NGOs to exert an increasing maintain in world affairs and interact with IGOs in traditional and non-traditional policy fields, like security and crisis management. Galtung (1987) has described the ‘power’ of NGOs in negative and positive terms. In the former, NGOs power is noneconomic, nonmilitary and nonviolent. In the latter, NGOs power is primarily cultural (ability to engage public opinion); political (autonomy in programme management; contacts with national and international centres of power); moral (adherence to values, and the principles of international law); and ideational (forwarding original and captivating projects and campaigns). This power base helps NGOs to represent a distinguished class of civil society organisations. The rise of civil society organisations does not imply state decline. On the contrary, CSOs tend to flourish more easily and powerfully in conditions of strong, stable and effective government. In addition, NGOs play significant roles unaccomplished by the state and IGOs and, in many policy fields, as recently seen during the pandemic outbreak, can fill their gaps (Irrera, 2020a, 2020b). Despite this, NGOs and IGOs are inextricably connected. The United Nations has been the privileged and, to some extent, natural context in which NGOs developed as influential non-state actors. The task of creating and administering a special procedure of accreditation and provision of consultative status to NGOs, exerted by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), has been essential for institutionalising their role within the UN system. Accredited NGOs have been allowed to take part in UN conferences, including other meetings and dialogue practices with all UN bodies, including the Security Council. The accreditation clause stated in Article 71 of the UN Charter was celebrated at the end of the Second World War, when the UN was created, as an innovative opportunity for civil society. However, it soon started to limit the expansion of functions. Participation was restricted to advising and consultation and reserved to those organisations which met predefined requirements. ECOSOC began to implement the provisions of the Charter by issuing two resolutions (288B/1950 and 1968/1296) that created the mechanism of accreditation and recognition. Once registered, NGOs are given the right to be consulted. The high number of organisations which immediately decided to apply for consultative status forced ECOSOC to work on an immense number of demands under immense


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pressure. At the same time, smaller NGOs, located in the Global South and with limited financial support, could not access the UN registration and participate in global fora. Achieving consultative status is the first step in allowing NGOs to open a series of informal practices and behaviours that enable them to strengthen their presence in the UN system, and gradually build a dialogue with other important bodies. Consultative status allows NGOs to be part of special working groups and promotes a series of parallel activities, including written and oral statements to ECOSOC hearings and seminars. Given their limited powers, however, NGOs’ action has been developing through an informal process, aimed at expanding their impact in agenda setting as well as in the implementation and execution phase. In the earliest years of the Cold War, NGOs preferred a bottom-up approach and started searching for partners acting at their own level. Over time, the creation of alliances among NGOs has become a permanent practice. Alliances are created for working on specific and general issues and pursuing permanent and temporary objectives (Martens, 2006; Ruhlman, 2014). The main function of networks is to harmonise common needs and resources to strengthen the NGOs’ position in presenting issues to the competent bodies. The alliance practice is mostly used at the general conferences promoted by the UN, mainly through its specialised agencies. Over the years, NGOs have enlarged their areas of participation and number of interlocutors. This change required a gradual approach to other UN bodies, especially those dealing with high-level politics. Since 1993, NGOs’ participation in the General Assembly Commissions has become a common and extremely useful practice, whereas dialogue with the Security Council has remained essentially informal. After 1989, a mechanism of consultation with NGOs on the issues of peace and international security called the ‘Arria Formula’ was implemented and gave birth to the ‘Working Group of NGOs on the Security Council’, allowing delegations, the Permanent Representatives and the President of the Council, to meet and discuss. By strengthening their dialogue with the main UN bodies, NGOs have been gaining a sort of gatekeeper position between national governments and societies, on the one side, and international organisations, on the other. Although interactions with the UN have not been always easy, more problematic and challenging was the attempt to develop a role within international financial institutions (IFIs) like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank. The peculiar service-oriented nature, focused on the provision of funds, did not facilitate the dialogue with noneconomic non-state actors (Tussie & Casaburi, 2000; Irrera, 2020a, 2020b). Since the establishment of such institutions and until today, NGOs have been very active in several policy fields connected to neoliberal agendas, particularly development, aid policy and humanitarian action. Although they are mainly the recipients of funds and programmes, NGOs have tried to build their role of programme implementers, not always to promote more humane use of donors’ funds, but also to shape governmental and intergovernmental agendas. Within the NGO community, this reflects a challenging interplay between the service-oriented function (which is traditionally associated with all CSOs) and the need to be more politically influential. Such an interplay can be observed in any policy field in which NGOs are particularly active and in shaping global agenda and

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reorienting policies. Relations with the EU, for example, have been productive but always contested. As happened within the UN, and favoured by the lack of any official registration procedure, NGOs have developed and consolidated several formal and informal consultations with EU institutions, maintaining relations with member states. This double channel has worked efficiently in many policy fields, and has helped NGOs to be influential in most sensitive ones, like external relations and foreign policy. The EU humanitarian aid policy offers a meaningful example (Irrera, 2017). Here NGOs have been able to develop and strengthen the role of implementing actor, in respect to both EU institutions and member states. This role has been interpreted in different ways and connected to different faces NGOs may assume. They can follow their donors’ preferences, even sacrificing moral responsibilities (Rubenstein 2015), provide their humanitarian services with a more entrepreneurial attitude towards their recipients (Bob, 2005), or adhere more to their duties by selecting only those funds, private and public, which guarantee the humanitarian nature of their mission (Petiteville, 2001). The peculiar character of the EU system, balanced between EU institutional priorities and member states’ prerogatives, has favoured this double channel and allowed NGOs to use their role of implementing actor to shape and influence the EU humanitarian aid policy agenda. Relations among NGOs and IGOs are therefore complicated. The nature and functions of organisations are clearly determinant, but NGOs have also additional problems, like the need to guarantee the transparency and accountability of their actions (Lawrence & Nezhad, 2009; Burger & Owens, 2010). Several problems concern the selection of organisations to take part in IGO actions, the procedures governing their participation and the legitimacy and the reliability of their participation (Collingwood, 2006; Steffek & Hahn, 2010; Keating & Thrandardottir, 2017). The IR literature has investigated the performance of international institutions in the security and crisis management area. As demonstrated in the case of the UN and EU, relations among intergovernmental and non-governmental actors have been difficult when state sovereignty, defence and national preferences are involved. At the same time, this combination has complemented states in developing an effective capacity to favour stability and cooperation and to adapt current crisis management tools to a rapidly changing reality. The way IGOs and NGOs interact within the global humanitarian system offers, in particular, a meaningful example.

The Roles of Institutions in the Global Humanitarian System The management and strengthening of security are a task traditionally associated with the state, the notion of defence of national interest and the military mobilisation of force. The impact of NSAs was initially underestimated and started to be investigated in respect to the changing nature of contemporary civil conflicts and the increasing number of weak and failed states, as is demonstrated in other chapters of this book. Empirical analyses of the shift from interstate to intrastate war have enlightened the active, and sometimes conditioning, presence of NSAs in the


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emergence, escalation and de-escalation of conflicts (Krahmann, 2005; Cunningham et  al., 2013; Ezrow, 2017; Böhmelt et  al., 2019). The increasing participation of NGOs in crisis management and humanitarian assistance has been investigated in respect to changes in global security and the tools developed within the global system to deal with them. In this gradual and diversified process, international institutions, governmental and non-governmental, have been crucial. Interactions among them, in parallel to states, have produced policies and practices which have contributed to managing conflicts, assisting people and providing humanitarian aid in different regions of the world. A variety of competences and tasks have flourished in this field, as a consequence of two major important humanitarian trends: on the one hand, changes in the nature of crises and conflicts; and on the other, changes in traditional peacekeeping and humanitarian interventions. As to the first, the IR literature has demonstrated that civil wars are fought by a wide range of political and social groups that have different identities and alliance relations. Conflicting parties are inclined to change alliance alignment easily (Holsti, 1996; Kaldor, 1999). In many cases, states are not the aggressor and have no role in the causes and development of conflict. The clear distinction between civilians and combatants dramatically fades, with subversive non-state actors able to establish alliances by filling grey zones that arise dramatically in deprived conditions, increasing instability. This kind of civil conflict affects different levels of security, which cannot be reduced only to the military dimension and, consequently, require a more adequate global strategy. Traditional principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality have characterised the global humanitarian system, especially since the end of the Cold War, through a process of redefinition and management of tools, responses and practices. The management of civil conflicts and new kinds of crises requires not only actions and resources, both military and civilian, but also long-term interventions able to produce and facilitate new forms of political and social organisations after the crisis ends (Chenoweth & Lawrence, 2010; Aliyev, 2017; Carment & Belo, 2020). Military missions and interventions have always been considered as relevant components of the humanitarian system, as empirical investigations of interventions during and after the Cold War have demonstrated. The diversified nature of crises has brought significant changes in traditional peacekeeping operations. The mandate expanded to include political, civil, administrative, and police tasks and functions, in parallel to the military. Additional tasks have been added, requiring more and new personnel (Attinà, 2013; Diehl & Regan, 2015). Traditional peacekeeping missions supported and funded by states, within the UN system, and later in other IGOs, turned into more complex tools, integrating peace operations that necessarily required further civilian competencies. The presence of humanitarian NGOs in conflict areas started even before the Cold War. They were active mainly in relief assistance and in protection of human rights and minorities. Organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Oxfam and Care International, among many others, played important roles in the process which brought about the formation of the new culture of humanitarian intervention. Indeed, a broad array of intervention actions was started by such organisations and continues to be shaped. The number of NGOs

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deployed in conflict zones has been increasing over time. Their action priorities are human and civil rights, peace promotion, peacebuilding activities and social issues. However, the diversification of security levels is producing a wider range of new tasks and roles. Humanitarian NGOs can have a variety of approaches towards conflict management, which can include more moderate attitudes, coordination with states and IGOs, support of their humanitarian intervention and more radical campaigning positions, which may be focused on root causes and rejection of cooperation and interventionism throughout the world (McDermott, 1998; Duffield, 1997; Irrera, 2013; Warren, 2017). Although theoretical and empirical contributions have largely demonstrated the role played by NGOs, their performance in the global humanitarian system continues to be affected by ambiguity. As Rubenstein points out (2015), NGOs are modern Samaritans, facing ethical and legal predicaments and struggling with donors and state constraints. Humanitarian organisations have very different approaches to crisis management, and this does not always match the rigidly top-down structure of the system (Roth, 2019; Davies, 2019). As described in the previous paragraph, working with IGOs has been a hectic process, subject to states’ preferences and the nature and functions of the organisations themselves. Informal roles and practices have been developed and have allowed cooperation, which has been productive and useful in several policy fields. Crisis management and security is a paradigmatic example of how states and NSAs are inextricably connected and how international institutions have acquired roles that will never be reduced. On the one hand, IGOs are the result of what states allow them to produce, but on the other, the socialisation and persuasion process inside them has facilitated the creation and implementation of norms and rules of the game. The increasing complexity of conflicts and crises inevitably requires capacities and expertise that only intergovernmental cooperation, together with the help of NGOs, can provide. The governmental and non-governmental dimensions are therefore destined to work in parallel.

Conclusion Investigating the roles and impact of institutions on the international political system is a fascinating and challenging mission. IR schools have stressed the reasons why they are created by states and the way they reflect relations of power, balances and conflict. Institutions may be used to maintain the status quo and preserve hegemonic stability (UN), to legitimise military alliances (NATO), or to crystallise regional objectives (EU or ASEAN). At the same time, institutions may become spaces for socialisation, in which cooperation is grounded on common needs and persuasion is developed around shared principles. Finally, they are places for contestation, in which transnational and non-governmental entities represent different interests and shape and readdress governmental agenda. Therefore, in focusing on


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institutions’ modus operandi and nature, this chapter analysed these actors not only as agents of power in respect to state and governmental power, but also as agents of change. Intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations are the most prominent examples. IGOs have been at the core of IR debates for decades, and attention to NGOs has gradually but intensely developed. Most sensitive policy fields, like crisis management and security, have demonstrated that both dimensions need to be observed in parallel. NGOs have gradually built their roles within international organisations by interacting with bodies and states, contesting states’ ideological pillars but also trying to interact with them through formal procedures. In so doing, they have developed innovative roles: intermediation between states and IGOs bodies and local communities, main recipients of aid programmes; implementation of projects in the field. All these roles have contributed to creating a sophisticated institutional structure in which NGOs have maintained a link with states but have also operated within international organisations’ bodies and agencies, as can be observed in the UN and EU. Although the IR literature has largely debated the nature and functions of institutions, a deeper understanding of their roles within the broad notion of NSAs would expand the current theoretical debates. High levels of interaction, both between state and NSAs and within categories of NSAs, as discussed in Chap. 1, were already visible at the end of the Cold War and are even more urgent in the current global system. In different regions of the world, unstable or democratic, and in different policy fields, agents of power and agents of change match and clash, investing in resilience, failing to tackle global problems or develop crisis responses and capacities. Further analysis is needed to expand the existing debate on such political innovations.

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Chapter 3

Irregular Militaries and Militias in International Relations: The Case of Iraqi Shiite Militias Sterling Jensen and Waleed Al-Rawi

Abstract Irregular militaries and militias are armed non-state actors playing increasingly significant roles in international conflicts, yet they are not studied in International Relations (IR) theories as independent from states. This chapter provides an overview and illustrates how irregular militaries and militias work independently of states, with a focus on the three main cases of Iraqi Shiite militias: Wala’iya, Marja’iya, and Sadrist. It argues that the main IR theories have insufficient tools to adequately explain the existence and influence of irregular militaries and militias in the international environment because of the state being the main unit of analysis. Many irregular militaries and militias have more coercive capabilities than states and engage in strategic conflicts in the international environment, yet there is no established epistemology to study them. This is a gap in IR theories that needs to be filled. Keywords  Irregular military · Militia · Iraq · Iran · Middle East · Hybrid warfare · Gray-zone conflict · Proxy Warfare · Islamism · Wala’iya · Marja’iya · Sadrist · Wilayat al-Faqih · Hashid al-Shaabi · Popular Mobilization Forces There is growing debate in literature about the role of irregular militaries and militias in theories of International Relations (IR) (Grygiel, 2018; Carey & Mitchell, 2017; Dodge, 2020; Davis, 2010). How do IR theories account for armed non-state

The views expressed in this chapter are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the UAE National Defense College or any UAE government entity. S. Jensen (*) UAE National Defense College, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates e-mail: [email protected] W. Al-Rawi Boca Raton, FL, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022 M. Charountaki, D. Irrera (eds.), Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations, Non-State Actors in International Relations,



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actors such as Hezbollah, the Houthi, Ethiopian Tigray guerrilla forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Iraqi Hashid al-Shaabi, the Wagner Group or Blackwater? How are these irregular militaries and militias best analyzed if they are not fully controlled by a state? As with other non-state actors, IR theories largely assume the state to be the principal actor in international relations with irregular militaries and militias viewed as a function of or an appendage to state power (Bapat, 2012; Davis, 2003; Hughes, 2016). The IR debate revolves around to what extent, how, and why these armed groups influence a state’s policies and power (Davis, 2003). However, armed non-state actors are playing more prominent roles in global conflicts and require distinct analytical tools to better explain their behavior, independent of states as Chap. 1 points out. Armed non-state actors have distinct characteristics, organizational structures, and objectives, but many possess coercive capabilities outside the full control of a sovereign state. This chapter explains irregular militaries and militias as another type of non-state actor, with a particular emphasis on militias as armed non-state actors. Both irregular militaries and militias perform security functions for a variety of purposes which range from cooperation with states to defend the status quo, to working against the state as agents of radical change. An irregular military is more professional and institutionalized than a militia and can be identified with capabilities performed also by states. For example, the Kurdish Peshmerga are the official armed forces of the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). While the Peshmerga are recognized by the Iraqi Constitution as the security guards of the KRI (see Chap. 6) and by extension under the sovereignty of the Iraqi government, they are in fact an armed force independent of the Iraqi government (Smith, 2018), organized in brigades and units with professional soldiers. On the other hand, a militia is a non-professional armed group of local citizens who serve for a shorter period of time and tend to be smaller and less institutionalized than an irregular military. Examples of militias include American minutemen during the American Revolutionary War or Sahwa militias in Iraq from 2006 to 2009 (Jensen, 2014). There can be blurred lines between what is an irregular military or militia, such as Lebanese Hezbollah which evolved from a local militia to a well-organized and professional irregular military. Literature often uses indistinguishable terms for irregular militaries and militias, such as un-conventional forces, levies, auxiliaries, or paramilitaries. However, for the sake of analysis, irregular militaries are professional and longer-term armed non-state actors, whereas militias are non-professional, local and shorter-term armed non-state actors. Often these armed groups are considered proxies of states, influenced by them or act as paramilitaries or vigilantes. However, states do not take full accountability for their actions and in many cases, they operate outside of state control. Irregular militaries and militias are established when formal political avenues and nonviolent means do not help a group of people or a state achieve their goals (Acosta, 2014). This could be due to the disintegration of coalitions formed for a revolution (Rabinovich & Parea, 2019), the dynamics of a civil war (Hughes, 2016), collapse of state institutions (Reno, 2003) or groups contesting the legitimacy of a state (Davis, 2003). They affect international relations in different ways, as

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internationally recognized states often confront non-state actors threatening their security (Rauta, 2020). Or states align their efforts with irregular militaries or militias to fight opposing militants or decrease the short-term costs and risks of war (Hughes, 2016). Confronting irregular forces can be difficult for status quo states because militants often undermine international laws and norms to achieve their objectives and challenge conventional methods of warfare (Johnson, 2018). They also influence how states behave with other states. Examples include the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) impacting the drug trade in the USA (shaping US foreign policy with Colombia and its neighbors), Lebanese Hezbollah waging war with Israel in 2006 (foreign proxy vs a state), Russian private security companies, such as the Wagner Group, fighting anti-government forces in Syria and Ukraine or US company Blackwater providing security in Iraq after 2003, the mobilization of US-supported tribal militias in Iraq to stop the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq from 2006 to 2009, or the guerrilla Tigray Defense Forces prompting Sudanese and Eritrean forces to be involved operationally in Ethiopia’s civil war from 2020 to 2022. In many cases irregular militaries and militias become stronger than a state’s armed forces. As mentioned previously, irregular militaries and militias have many similarities. Both can have coercive capabilities outside the full control of a state. Like irregular militaries, militias have a range of relations with an internationally recognized state (Schneckner, 2017; Akins, 2021; Staniland, 2015; Krasner, 1999). They can be supplementary forces supporting a traditional military, fill in gaps of local security not provided by the state or challenge state authority and legitimacy. Scholars have created different typologies for militias and their links to states and societies (Carey & Mitchell, 2017; Thurber, 2014). However, these typologies do not categorize militias as independent actors in international relations as explained in the typology introduced in Chap. 1. Irregular militaries and militias are also distinct from fundamentalist (militant) groups such as Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, or the Klu Klux Klan in that a fundamentalist group is defined by its strict dedication to certain beliefs whether religious, political, or ethnic (see Chap. 4) and can adopt discursive and operational extremism to achieve their aims. While fundamentalists can use irregular militaries and militias to achieve their aims, not all irregular militaries and militias adopt fundamentalism and do not use extremist violence and discourse to gain and maintain power. This chapter focuses on semi-official government militias and foreign proxies as types of militias and interprets them through the lens of the three main IR theories (realism, liberalism, and constructivism) illustrated with the case of Iraqi Shiite militias. The main question this chapter seeks to answer is how militias themselves, independent from states, fit in international relations. The chapter uses Iraqi Shiite militias because they fall into a spectrum of militias that range from pro to antigovernment, as well as having different capabilities and objectives, which vary from defending the status quo to bringing radical change. The chapter uses the main assumptions in IR theories related to irregular militaries and militias to analyze the behavior of three types of Iraqi Shiite militias, Wala’iya (‫)والءية‬, Marja’iya,(‫)مرجعية‬


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and Sadriya (‫)صدرية‬, and highlight how IR theories lack sufficient tools to interpret this type of non-state actor (Dodge, 2020; Mansour & Jabar, 2017). There are other types of militias in Iraq, such as warlords and tribal militias. However, Iraqi Shiite militias are unique in that they have common socio-religious roots, but different political strategies, aims, and foreign ties. With a spectrum of militias, it is a challenge for one IR theory to explain all the militias because each prioritizes and conceptualizes power and sovereignty in different ways. Additionally, each militia has a range of external influence and can shape international relations to varying degrees. For example, literature has covered extensively how Iran uses foreign proxies as an integral part of its foreign policy (Cigar, 2015; Samaan, 2020; Jones, 2020; Isakhan, 2020). Since the 1980s Iran has influenced and trained Iraqi militias to carry out operations supporting Iranian policies, such as attacking US forces as a form of deterrence, rather than the militias following orders from the official Iraqi government (Cigar, 2015; Dodge, 2020). Iran’s use of proxy militias constrains the Iraqi government’s relations with its neighbors as well as with hegemonic powers such as the USA, while other militias with ties to Iran operate with more autonomy and do not undermine Iraqi sovereignty to the same degree as the proxies. An example of an Iraqi militia shaping international relations as a result of being an Iranian proxy was the January 2020 assassination of the mastermind of Iran’s proxy warfare policies, Qassim Suleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and deputy chief of the Hashid al-­ Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Forces (an umbrella organization of Iraqi militias). The USA assassinated Suleimani and al-Muhandis due to an extensive history of Suleimani enabling and directing proxy militias to attack US forces in Iraq, with Iran denying any responsibility for the attacks (Jones, 2020; Dodge, 2020). This high-profile assassination heightened geo-political tensions in the region and shaped Iranian and US policy options toward each other and their allies. It also impacted Iraq and Iran’s relations with other states, such as states within the European Union, the UK, and Arab Gulf states (Young, 2020). This example highlights how foreign proxy and semi-official government militia behavior impacts international relations. Realism, liberalism, and constructivism interpret the coercive capabilities of militias in different ways. For realists, militias are a function of state power and largely should be dealt with similar coercive military instruments. On the other hand, for liberals, militias arise due to institutional failure and other political factors. They assume militias can become subservient to a state using political, economic, and diplomatic tools rather than relying on coercive military tools. This implies that Iraq’s Shiite militias arise due to socio-economic factors and can be dealt with politically. Lastly, for constructivists, militias are a function of identities and narratives rather than states or institutions and will change their behavior when their identities, values, or narratives change about a given root cause of the conflict. Each theory interprets militias based on their differing assumptions of power and sovereignty, with each type of theory assuming different causal variables attached to the concepts. A central assumption of state sovereignty is the state’s ability to have a monopoly on the use of violence within its borders. This Weberian assumption pervades IR

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theories and is challenged by the rise of armed non-state actors (Davis, 2003; Dodge, 2020). Irregular militaries and militias challenge state sovereignty and power when they use violence or undermine another state’s sovereignty without the full consent of the state wherein the armed group resides, such as the rise of the Houthi militia in 2014 and its role in the subsequent civil war in Yemen, which in turn impacted international relations (Jensen, 2018; Juneau, 2016). For realists, irregular militaries and militias can be instruments of state power. Revisionist states known to prominently use militias for foreign policy purposes, such as Russia or Iran, gain asymmetric power when they patronize or influence local militias in countries such as in Ukraine, Georgia, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Yemen (Nasr, 2018). Foreign militias become an instrument in political warfare, and they can be used to fight an opponent without officially declaring war (Jones, 2020). This is discussed in literature as hybrid warfare or gray-zone conflicts because state support for armed non-state actors is often non-attributable (Morris et al., 2019; Johnson, 2018; Caliskan, 2019; Rauta, 2020). Hybrid warfare happens when states with internationally recognized sovereignty and diplomatic privileges undermine the sovereignty of other states by proxy to avoid accountability; they adopt conventional and un-conventional warfare methods that leverage international norms of sovereignty to gain asymmetric power against a more conventionally powerful opponent. Proxy warfare can be a form of deterrence used by an opponent with less conventional military power. Realism would assume that without state support, militias that act as foreign proxies lose coercive power, meaning militias need state support to survive. Additionally, supporting foreign militias can add to the complex security dilemma issues that realists assume occur as competing states seek to maximize power. Iranian support for Iraqi Shiite militias after 2003 arguably prompted Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States to turn a blind eye to wealthy Gulf citizens supporting Sunni militant groups in Iraq (Katzman, 2006). The result was a type of security dilemma where Gulf States, in particular Saudi Arabia, noticed a change in the regional balance of power after the US invasion of Iraq, and as Shiite militias gained significant political power in Baghdad, Gulf States felt more insecure (Dodge, 2020, p.  6). This insecurity drove them to reluctantly allow support for Sunni militant groups to challenge Shiite militias and US troops in Iraq, which enabled the Shiite militias to gain more power. The result was a vicious cycle of violence and instability, rather than balance of power. For realists, balance of power is essential for security. In turn, Iran viewed the US security footprint and an inflated Saudi role as a threat to the Islamic Republic’s natural role in the region (Nasr, 2018). Therefore, to gain a balance of power, Iran supported Islamist militias for more relative power against the US-Saudi nexus. On the other hand, liberalism assumes the power and influence of militias highlight that state power is eroding and armed groups are just as relevant as, and in some cases even more relevant in international relations than states. For example, some view the Lebanese Hezbollah as more influential to Lebanon’s foreign policy than official government (DeVore & Stähli, 2014), or the Tigrayan guerrilla forces in Ethiopia as having more military power than the national army (Walsh, 2021).


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Liberalism would view militias through the lens of unique political arrangements within each state, their bureaucracies and social contracts. For liberals, domestic governments, institutions, and individuals determine outcomes and they are not always motivated by power, but power is a tool for achieving the state’s or individual’s purpose. A liberal would assume that with certain institutional conditions and a lack of trust, militias will thrive and sustain themselves with or without state support. However, liberalism’s underestimation of military power and the utility of illiberal approaches to security is what challenges its assumptions concerning irregular militaries and militias. Irregular forces challenge states because they do not have to “play by the rules” as much as states do, which gives them deterrence capabilities that are not easily explained by liberals. Differing from the state-centric approach of realism and liberalism, constructivism would view militias through the lens of ideology, culture, and identity. It contends that states are not always rational, self-interested actors. Militias guided by a religious, ethnic, or political ideology might have non-negotiable objectives and therefore cannot be easily deterred, such as with fundamentalist armed groups. Constructivism would assume that a militia’s beliefs, identity, or values must change in order for it to change its behavior, and that could require ideological tools that are not easily available in the realist or liberal’s toolkit. A constructivist, then, would assume that with the right ideology and narrative, militias can thrive and re-invent themselves despite any state-led coercion or incentives to change their behavior. Constructivism would assume state support for foreign militias is the result of a dynamic relationship of inter-subjective states. In the Middle East, that would mean the dynamic relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran could influence the role of militias in Iraq or Yemen in one way, whereas there might be a different dynamic for the role of militias in Lebanon or the Gaza Strip. Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Palestine’s unique identities, cultures, and concepts of reality are all distinctive factors that shape the behavior of militant groups within their borders that Iran or Saudis might patronize. Therefore, it is each state’s actions that influence the dynamic, rather than a system of inter-state relations. This is challenging for generalizing an IR theory of militia behavior, suggesting IR theories commit a “drunkard’s search” fallacy in explaining militias because of not having sufficient insight into the inter-subjectiveness of a militia’s experience or perspective. The challenge of constructivist assumptions is they fail to adequately explain how change occurs in militant behavior or how to implement change. Constructivists might be able to correctly diagnose militant behavior and how individual militias shape international relations in a specific conflict, however they are weak at prescribing practical policies that help change behavior or identities. Each militia might be found on a spectrum of armed non-state actors at a given time, however how that militias changes from one side of the spectrum to another is more difficult to predict. More tools are needed to analyze how this uniqueness follows patterns of militias in international relations. What causes a militia to change its identity and culture to the point that it ceases to act as a militia? Realism and liberalism provide more answers to this type of question than constructivism, despite the fact that the answers

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might be limited and insufficient due to underlying assumptions that states are the main unit of analysis. In summary, the three different types of IR theories view the role of militias in different ways. Realists see militias as tools of state power, therefore foreign proxies are a tool for projecting and gaining relative power. Liberals see militias through the lens of political constructs, state interests, and incentives structures. A corrupt and dysfunctional government might breed militias, and state failure can disrupt regional and global security structures. Lastly, constructivists largely see militias as a function of unique identities, ideas, and experiences. Each IR lens has explanatory power but are limited in viewing irregular militaries and militias as autonomous powers. While IR theories can partially explain the behavior of the militias, a different theory is needed to explain each militia.

Historical Context of Militias in the Arab World Militias are not new to the Arab world. The history of Islamic dynasties is largely a story of local militias gaining solidarity, inciting an uprising and conquering status quo powers (Lapidus, 1990). The Abbassid Caliphate, which established Baghdad as its capital, started from tribal militias uprising against the status quo Ummayid rulers (Lapidus, 1990, pp. 34–35). Ibn Khaldoun explained this cycle in his book al-Muqaddima, with asabiya being the unifying concept to the rise of rural militias challenging corrupt urban rulers (Khouri & Kostiner, 1990). Additionally, Muslim states have a history of relying on militias to maintain control. Caliphates often maintained control in a de-centralized way, with local emirates recognizing the religious legitimacy of a caliph, however, maintaining their own security through militias. Ideology, tribal solidarity, economic interests, and alliance making are common features of militias in the Arab world (Khouri & Kostiner, 1990). Staniland (2015) argues that regime ideology plays a crucial role in shaping state strategy toward militias and that identifying which militias are and are not potential allies of the state is difficult to calculate. In the case of Iraq, identifying militias as potential allies has been a main component of its statecraft. Throughout four centuries of Persian-Ottoman Wars both empires rallied on militias in what is today Iraq against encroachment of the other’s desired sphere of influence (Nakash, 1994). The British gained allies in Arab militias to fight against the Ottomans during World War I (Dodge, 2003), particularly to protect transportation lines. The British continued this tradition in the early years of their Mandate in Iraq, when they turned to local militias to provide security rather than sacrifice British and Indian troops to do the job (Mitchell, 2012). The use of militias in modern-day Iraq is part of its domestic security structure, especially during times when the state experiences periods of instability (Jensen, 2014). Rulers in Baghdad must co-opt and coerce tribal, religious, and political communities to recruit armed allies and deter competing militant foes (Salehyan, 2020).


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What has changed in the last 100 years is that tribal and ethno-sectarian militias in the Arab world are operating in an environment where new interpretations of political Islam, or Islamism, are being applied in an international system of nation-­ states (Jensen, 2014). This has created a polarity in Islamic statecraft where traditional ways based on transnational and tribal networks compete with Westphalian state systems promoting both nationalism and individualism (Allawi, 2009). Arab militias, then, have competing historical and ideological pulls, be it tribal, religious, or nationalistic. Islamist militias, then, challenge state sovereignty if they do not recognize its legitimacy. Variations of Islamism have become ideological unifiers for many of Iraq’s militias and militant groups, be it Shiite or Sunni, or Sufi or Salafi (Jensen, 2014). For Shiites, the writings of Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Iraqi Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr developed the Islamist ideology of wilayat al-faqih, or guardianship of the jurists, and Shiite political activism, respectively (Bernhardt, 2012). Islamism became a transnational political platform to influence the policies of nation-states. As a result, many Muslim militias have adopted modern interpretations of political Islam to mobilize and achieve their objectives, challenging the legitimacy of state sovereignty in the process. The polarity between national and transnational is illustrated in Iraq’s Shiite militias, which range from those that support the state and recognize its sovereignty to those that use the state as a tool for radical change, transnational mobilization, and foreign patrons (Dodge, 2020). There are three main types of Iraqi Shiite militias (Mansour & Jabar, 2017). They are Wala’iya (‫)والءية‬, Marja’iya (‫)مرجعية‬, and Sadriya (‫)صدرية‬. Each has different relationships with the Iraqi government, has different political objectives, and acts as militias in different ways. Each of these militias has roots in Shiite opposition groups either exiled during the rule of the Baathists and Saddam Hussein or remaining in Iraq during those years (Alaaldin, 2017). After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, many of these militias developed and expanded their recruits and political networks. From 2003 to 2010, the objectives of the militias varied, but they were largely to consolidate Shiite political gains in Baghdad, protect historically Shiite neighborhoods and to end the US occupation of Iraq. However, after the Arab Spring in 2011 and the rise of Sunni extremist groups in Syria, many of these militias reemerged to defend Shiite communities from the spillover of Sunni extremist groups coming into Iraq from Syria and reemergence of the Islamic State of Iraq which had been underground since 2009 (Cigar, 2015). Since 2014 these militias have operated under the umbrella of the Hashid al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which is a group of militias operating officially under the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office; however, the prime minister has little influence over many of these militias (Knights et al., 2020). The PMF was created in reaction to the downfall of Mosul in 2014 to Islamic State (IS) fighters and the spread of IS into Shiite neighborhoods and holy sites (Isakhan, 2020; Dodge, 2020). The purpose of the PMF was to coordinate and legitimize militia activity with other Iraqi security force operations. While the PMF militias were loosely affiliated with the Iraqi security forces, they had different goals, political patrons, command structures, and operations (Knights et al., 2020). The distinctness of each militia and its impact on Iraq’s domestic and

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foreign policy demonstrates how militias can act as independent actors in a way that influences international relations outside the realm of state sovereignty. The following is a description and analysis of each type of Iraqi Shiite militia.

Wala’iya (‫)والءية‬ Wala’iya militias are militias with a political agenda that is aligned with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s state ideology wilayat al-faqih (‫)والية الفقيه‬. Wala’iya derives from the same root as wilayah and walayah, which in Arabic means both guardianship and loyalty or allegiance. In Iraq, these militias help expand the influence and ideological model of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its objective to change the status quo security relationships with the USA in the region (Dodge, 2020). These militias have roots in the Iraqi Shiite community that exiled to Iran during the Iran-­Iraq War and were organized into the Al-Badr Brigades to fight Iraqi forces (Thurber, 2014). Their political objectives are largely non-negotiable, as they have been patronized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s special unit, the Al-Quds Force (Cigar, 2015). Though these militias have developed their own grassroots approaches to domestic politics in Iraq, they are viewed by many as Iranian proxies (Mansour & Jabar, 2017; Dodge, 2020; Cigar, 2015; Jones, 2020). These militias, which include the Badr Organization, Kata’ib. Hezbollah (KH), and Ahl Asaib al-Haq, have political wings that are directly tied to Iraqi government officials (Jones, 2020). Their militia leaders have prominent positions in the PMF, including the late Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the commander of KH, and deputy commander of the PMF at the time of his assassination by US forces in January 2020 (Dodge, 2020). These militias do not follow the command of the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces even though they are officially under his command and receive salaries and equipment from the government (Knights et al., 2020). They might coordinate their operations and follow advice from individual Iraqi military commanders, but they are heavily trained, armed, and influenced by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which receives its guidance from the Supreme Commander in Iran (Jones, 2020). This is the principle of guardianship and loyalty meant by the word wala’iya. Members of these militias swear allegiance to their spiritual leaders, which in their case is ultimately the Grand Ayatollah of Iran, who is the Supreme Commander. The Shiite doctrine of loyalty to a leader is distinct from Sunni doctrines of loyalty. Many Shiite beliefs, especially those who adopt wilayat al-faqih as developed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, emphasize the role of the Ayatollah in receiving both spiritual and political guidance for God’s affairs. Therefore, those they recognize as their spiritual leaders have influence over their political behaviors. Wala’iya militias prioritize the political sovereignty held by the Grand Ayatollah over the political sovereignty held by the state (Cigar, 2015). As such, these militias maintain transnational ties to other militias and irregular militaries under the patronage of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, including the Houthi in Yemen, Lebanese Hezbollah, and the Fatemiyoun and Zeinabiyoun in


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Syria. These militias are behind destabilizing attacks against Iraqis and Iraqi government partners who threaten Iranian interests, in particular the USA and Arab Gulf States, hence they are considered by many as Iranian proxies. Rauta (2018) defines proxy war as “a violent armed interaction resulting from the polarization of competing political goals between two organized parties…in which at least one party engages the other indirectly in sustained collective violence through a third party” (Rauta, 2018: 457). Iran and the USA are engaged in a proxy war in Iraq, where Iran indirectly engages US forces and those working against Iranian interests in Iraq in sustained collective violence through Wala’iya militias. This is the basis of them being considered foreign proxies. The defining characteristics of the Wala’iya militias are that they are transnational, act as proxies and their objectives are based on ideological and religious interests, which tend to be non-negotiable. Wala’iya militias constrain the Iraqi government’s relations with governments that are seen as enemies of Iran, including the USA, many European states and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. As they act as proxies in a US-Iranian conflict, Wala’iya militias operate in a sphere where they are not held fully accountable for their actions, as they undermine Iraqi sovereignty, and Iran fully denies any involvement in their violent actions. Constructivism might be the most useful IR lens to interpret Wala’iya militia behavior, yet it is insufficient. These militias demonstrate inter-subjectiveness in their loyalty to Shiite political doctrine defined by Iranian state ideology and their behaviors are based on transnational networks. They have uncompromising objectives and do not recognize the full sovereignty of the state. Some realists might assume after the killing of Qassim Suleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January 2020 that the Wala’iya militias would be weakened due to the loss of leadership and personal relationships Suleimani had nurtured with the leaders of Iranian proxy militias (Johnston, 2012). However, others argue that the opposite happened, with the proxies given more autonomy to act (Young, 2020). A constructivist could argue that the cult of martyrdom in Shiite culture shapes the morale of their militias, which would be different than assassinating the leader of another irregular military or militia like FARC. International institutions and norms, as well as brute military force are not sufficient to change their behavior because they have autonomy to act in a gray space not fully accounted for in state relations. As such, it is difficult to fully account for them in current IR theories. They are an armed non-state actor with enough military power to affect the strategic calculations of states without belonging to a state.

Marja’iya (‫)مرجعية‬ Marja’iya is known as the “source of authority” in English, or in the Iraqi context, the religious leaders in the Shiite capital of Najaf, or the Hawza. Marja’iya militias were largely used to protect the Holy Shrines of Shiism (Isakhan, 2020), which have been called Atabat units (Knights & Malik, 2021). In particular, these are militias

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loyal to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is recognized as the senior spiritual leader of Najaf. Shortly after IS controlled vast amounts of territory in Anbar, Salahideen, and Ninevah in June 2014 and Shiites were victims of IS violence, Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwah declaring a jihad against IS and encouraged Iraqis to join the security forces (Isakhan, 2020). The Iraqi Shiite community answered Sistani’s call enthusiastically and formed militia units that joined the PMF, which was established by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (Knights et al., 2020). Some of the most prominent Marja’iya militias were the Imam Ali Corps, the Greater Ali Brigade, Abbas Combat Corps, and the Ansar al-Marja’iya Brigade. In 2019 Marja’iya militias represented nearly 40% of the PMF units, however within months after Qassim Sulaimani’s death in January 2020 many of these militias disbanded (Al-Nashmi, 2020). Even though both Wala’iya and Marja’iya militias have similar institutional and leadership cultures, they differ in Islamist ideology, where Marja’iya militias prioritize the political sovereignty of the state over the political sovereignty of the religious scholars (Alsulami & Sayyad, 2020). Marja’iya militias remaining after Sulaimani’s death were kept protecting the Holy Shrines and in late 2020 they withdrew from the PMF (Knights & Malik, 2021). The Shiite clerics in Najaf have a long tradition of non-interference in political matters. Ayatollah Sistani avoided using militias after 2003 fearing that they would become political and cross the line of Najaf’s tradition of political neutrality. Sistani invoked the Shia concept of hisba, or exceptional circumstances, to make a call to arms in 2014 (Alsulami & Sayyad, 2020). It is important to note that Sistani did not call on Shiites to form militias, but to join the already existing state security forces (Mansour & Jabar, 2017; Knights et al., 2020). While Sistani’s religious influence mobilized many Shiites to volunteer to fight IS, his fatwa was exploited by Wala’iya militias seeking more legitimacy for their clandestine operations (Isakhan, 2020). Unlike Wala’iya militias, Marja’iya militias recognize the sovereignty of the state and avoid collaborating with transnational militias. Fighters in these militias follow the guidance of Sistani’s representatives in the different Iraqi provinces. In December 2020 Sistani representatives hosted a conference in which they announced they would withdraw their militias from the PMF and only keep militias that would protect the Holy Shrines (Knights & Malik, 2021). This was seen as a move by Sistani to distance Marja’iya militias from the questionable behavior of Wala’iya militias within the PMF that was witnessed in Iraq during anti-government protests in predominantly Shiite areas from 2019 to 2021. With the Marja’iya militias recognizing Iraqi government sovereignty, abiding by the rule of law, and relying more on the power of their religious influence than arms, they illustrate behavior in harmony with liberal assumptions. Religious institutions are their main source of power. The Marja’iya militias fall in the category of semi-official pro-government militias (Knights et al., 2020; Carey & Mitchell, 2017). While they see Ayatollah Sistani as their spiritual leader, they follow the political and military orders of the Iraqi Armed Forces more than through the PMF chain of command, which is largely made up of Wala’iya politicians and militia commanders (Isakhan, 2020). These militias are not known for being involved in death squads or harassing protesters as were the Wala’iya militias (Knights et al., 2020). As they recognize the sovereignty


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of the Iraqi government and avoid direct political participation, Marja’iya militias use their power to protect the status quo. Marja’iya militias have a consistent history of upholding the rule of law and prioritizing the power of Najaf’s spiritual influence on the Shiite community, rather than using coercive capabilities. Sistani and his associates have long been accused by their opponents as being clerics without an army (Alsulami & Sayyad, 2020). This assertion against Sistani supports the argument that Marja’iya militias follow liberalist assumptions, where one of liberalism’s weaknesses is that it underestimates the role of military power to the security of the state and illiberal preferences for security. Additionally, Marja’iya militias do not actively undermine the security and political agreements made by the Iraqi government, as opposed to the Wala’iya militias which attack foreign forces (Knights & Malik, 2021). Therefore, diplomatic and law enforcement tools could be successfully used against Marja’iya militias as long as their spiritual leaders recognize the political sovereignty of the state. These clerics act on the basis of the interests of the Hawza in Najaf, to protect its religious autonomy. Its power is defined by its influence in religious affairs, which liberals consider a source of soft power. As a semi-official pro-government force, Marja’iya militias played a temporary role in increasing state coercive power in the fight against IS by augmenting the Iraqi Armed Forces as a necessity, not as a choice. This is in contrast to the Wala’iya militias that prioritize coercive power and chose to exploit Sistani’s June 2014 fatwa to increase their military strength. The problem with IR theories in explaining Marja’iya militias is distinguishing between political and spiritual sovereignty and its impact on state power. The Iraqi state only became capable to protect its borders when it co-opted semi-autonomous religious institutions it was beholden to. The clerics in Najaf showed more mobilizing power than the state. This independent power needs to be studied separate from state capabilities.

Sadrists (‫)صدرية‬ The Sadrists are militiamen who are aligned with the leadership and political agenda of Muqtada al-Sadr. Muqtada al-Sadr is the son of Mohamed Sadiq al-Sadr, who was a Grand Ayatollah in Najaf during the 1990s. Muqtada is also the son-in-law of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr, who was a prominent Shiite cleric during the 1960s and 70s and was one of the leading founders of the Islamic Dawa party. While there is overlap between some of the Wala’iya, Marja’iya and Sadrist militiamen, what makes Sadrists distinct from the other two groups is that Sadrists are more political agents based on nationalist and local social interests rather than religious ideology (Thurber, 2014). What unites Sadrists is a sense of grievance from government corruption and marginalization, as they derive much of their legitimacy from having endured life in Iraq during the full reign of Saddam Hussein (Mansour & Jabar, 2017). This victimization of Sadrists touches on some of the Shiite themes of martyrdom and suffering, but there is not a clear ideological agenda the Sadrists

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follow other than Iraqi nationalism and defending the interests of marginalized Shiite communities (Parreira, 2020). As such the Sadrists are politically active and promote social justice. The Sadrists militias also have a history of clashing with other Shiite groups, including Wala’iya and Marja’iya fighters over political, not ideological priorities (Robin-D'Cruz, 2019). Sadrist militias illustrate a pragmatic militia not controlled by the state, but willing to compromise with the state. They seek gradual change in the status quo. The Sadrist militias started in 2003 when Muqtada formed the Mahdi Army (Jaysh al-Mahdi, or JAM) to secure Shiite neighborhoods and fight US forces in Iraq. The Mahdi Army gained many Shiite recruits from former Baathist security services such as the Fedayeen Saddam, which provided the militia fighters with irregular warfare skills. As the Sadrists were known for staying in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War and during the sanctions period in the 1990s, they had a natural rivalry with the Shiite clerical elites from Najaf who were in exile in Iran (Thurber, 2014). After 2003 the Sadrists exploited local Shiite grievances towards both the US forces and the Shiite exiles. In the vacuum of power that resulted from regime change and the lawlessness that ensued, Sadrists militias took the law into their own hands and provided law enforcement in their areas. Sadrists militias were pulled in different directions with different objectives, as vigilantes, paramilitaries, and foreign proxy militias. They received financial and operational assistance from Iran to fight US forces but were not easily controlled by the Iranians (Thurber, 2014). They also did not fully recognize the sovereignty of the Iraqi state or Iran. Internal division after intra-Shiite militia fighting divided Sadrist militias, and in 2008 the Mahdi Army was disbanded due to a military campaign against them in 2007–2008 (Cochrane, 2009). Realists argue that military force effectively neutralized the Sadrists militia threat against US forces and the Iraqi government (Cigar, 2015; Mansour & Jabar, 2017). The Sadrist militia reconstituted into the Promised Day Brigades soon after it was disbanded in 2008 and then transformed into the Peace Companies (Saraya al-­ Salam) in 2014, but these subsequent militias were less militant and numerous as they were with the Mahdi Army. After the 2010 Iraqi national elections, Muqtada Sadr became more active politically and helped his political party become a kingmaker in Iraqi politics (Robin-D'Cruz, 2019). As a result, his command over Sadrist militias became more pragmatic than ideological. Al-Sadr does not claim religious sovereignty like the Hawza over the Shiite clerics, and after 2010 he did not demonstrate strong loyalty to the Iranian government like the Wala’iya militias (Mansour & Jabar, 2017). Realists would argue that Sadrists have been forced to disband as armed militias through military means, whereas liberals would emphasize the Sadrists’ political inclusion into Iraqi institutions as tempering their militant activities. Al-Sadr’s decisions to prioritize political over militant options, while at the same time not being afraid to fully embrace coercive capabilities when able, support realist and liberal assumptions of rational choice theory. The difference is that Sadrist militias, which follow al-Sadr’s leadership, are not states, and therefore are not a unit of analysis in IR theory. Yet like Walai’ya militias, Sadrist militias have demonstrated coercive capabilities that can


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engage states independent from the Iraqi state. While al-Sadr might temper his belligerent rhetoric when it is politically expedient, his militia has the potential capability of being more powerful than the Iraqi Armed Forces due to the sheer number of his followers who are former fighters, which some estimates reach over 100,000 fighters (Mansour & Jabar, 2017). Sadrists militias illustrate how an armed non-state actor can make rational choices in a political environment, yet their support for state sovereignty is based on political priorities. The Sadrists fit in between the Wala’iya militias which have uncompromising objectives as foreign proxies and the Marja’iya militias which seek to protect the status quo and respect state sovereignty. Unlike the Wala’iya and Marja’iya militias, though, Sadrist militias are not driven by religious ideology, but social and political interests. Sadrist militias fit the mold of both realist and liberal assumptions, in that they are restrained and changed by both military force and political incentives. However, with coercive capabilities that cannot be fully controlled by a state, it is difficult for IR theories to analyze their impact on international relations.

Conclusion This chapter sought to illustrate how irregular militaries and militias are interpreted by IR theories and provide cases of Iraqi Shiite militias as examples of militias that are not easily explained by the theories. Irregular militaries and militias can have state-like coercive capabilities that engage states in the international environment but are not controlled by another state. And while there are proxy relationships with many militias, as well as a range of state relations, IR theories need more tools to better analyze the extent of the proxy relationship and explain how armed non-state actors in some cases can wield more influence in a strategic conflict than can states. However, as constructivist would argue, no two militias are exactly alike. IR theories analyze militias by their connection to states, rather than as units unto themselves. The three types of Iraqi militias discussed in this chapter are better interpreted by separate IR theories. There is no one-size-fits-all theory that can explain their behavior. Yet all three types of militias have similar religious, social, geographic, and political roots. Their perceptions of the prioritization of national and transnational interests differ, as well as their assessments of threats, challenges, and opportunities to securing the interests of their Shiite constituency. The militias act like strong mini states within a weak internationally recognized state, with different views of power. Wala’iya militias see military capability as their principal source of power, yet, they have more uncompromising objectives that undermine state sovereignty and can be better understood within constructivist assumptions of inter-subjectivity. While Marja’iya militias see religious influence as their main source of power, supporting the political sovereignty of the state and rule of law, but claiming a transnational spiritual sovereignty. They can be better understood with liberalist assumptions of the importance of state institutions and soft power in

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international relations. And lastly, Sadrist militias prioritize political and social power, being flexible to move between militant and non-militant activity as militias based on the circumstances, which both realism and liberalism cannot explain sufficiently. How can a militia that is more powerful than a state be explained within the ontology of the state? If IR theories provided an ontology to non-state actors, answers to these types of questions might find more consensus among IR scholars. To better understand the role of irregular militaries and militias in International Relations, literature will need to provide more tools to analyze the security dimensions of non-state actors as units of analysis. Currently, it is an amalgamation of different parts of IR theories that explain their existence and longevity.

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Chapter 4

Dilemmas of Fundamentalist Non-state Actors in International Relations Patrick Finnegan and Vladimir Rauta Abstract  This chapter addresses fundamentalism by placing it within international relations broadly and the interactive strategic environment more narrowly. By comparing the role played by fundamentalism within two ethno-nationalist groups and the development of their campaigns, this chapter challenges some of the long running assumptions around the topic of fundamentalism, including the role of religion and the simplistic answers which have been offered on the topic in the past. We present fundamentalism as a strategic choice which brings positive and negative consequences to those who embrace it. Arguing that adopting and maintaining, or eventually abandoning, a fundamentalist position is a strategic choice, we reposition the topic of fundamentalism away from a simplistic label of non-state actors and towards a more nuanced position within the wider strategic environment. Keywords  Fundamentalism · Strategic interactions · Strategic goals · Adaptability

Introduction The introductory chapter to this volume (Chap. 1) canvases a range of dilemmas, problems, and puzzles surrounding non-state actors (NSAs). It convincingly argues that they should be considered as an integral part of IR’s ontology and as a result it presents a robust, power-based typology that seeks to locate five ideal types of NSAs. This chapter addresses what the introductory typology calls fundamentalist groups defined as broadly as possible as holding diverse priorities, goals, and aims, but identified through discursive and operational extremism and modus. In this chapter, we unpack the dilemmas presented by such NSAs. In doing so, we correspond with the points raised in the introduction to this volume regarding the role of organisational nature. What sets fundamentalists apart is how they view the world and their relationship with potential strategic options to bring about change/ P. Finnegan (*) · V. Rauta University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK University of Reading, Reading, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022 M. Charountaki, D. Irrera (eds.), Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations, Non-State Actors in International Relations,



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maintain the status quo. While they may employ similar tactics as other groups, the reasons why are what set them apart. Our departing assumption is that few stereotypes are more frequently associated with non-state actors, of any kind, than that of the fundamentalist - matched perhaps only with the equally problematic idea that poverty alone drives conflict (for example, see Jackson et al., 2011: 205; Krueger, 2008: 1). Combinations of these two themes can also be seen in elements of the failure of ‘New Wars’ debates (Kaldor, 2013), with material interests replacing politics as the primary cause of violence. Indeed, this surface-level description of terrorists, insurgents, or militia members as the most desperate or the most irrational has sparked countless works from scholars to highlight how problematic the term can be. As Kreuger (2008: 4) made clear previously: ‘Most terrorists are not so desperately poor that they have nothing to live for. Instead, they are people who care so deeply and fervently about a cause that they are willing to die for it’. This chapter does not set out to finally prove the (in) validity of the term. Rather it sets out to illustrate how fundamentalism has influenced the campaigns of a variety of actors with an emphasis on two case studies. Ultimately, this chapter will highlight how adopting, maintaining, or abandoning a fundamentalist approach can have strategic ramifications, some intentional others not. If fundamentalism was a binary distinction, with universal traits, then there would be no variation in groups we might label as such. As Wilson (2020: 8) has made clear ‘even the most hardcore ideologues have to navigate specific social contexts that will modify their room for manoeuvre significantly’. In this way, our understanding builds on the introductory classification by strengthening the claim that such groups’ orientation varies, but by expanding the extension of the qualifier of ‘extremism’.

Conceptual Properties and Definitional Limits We begin by setting the conceptual and definitional baseline for our analysis given that conceptual clarification stands ‘to correct theoretical and methodological ambivalences’ (Rauta, 2018: 449). Central to this chapter is the belief that fundamentalism is not a static concept or state of mind, nor it is solely related to religion: in short, it exists within a complex semantic field and what falls under its defining properties is not just time and context variable, but also intellectually contingent to theoretical and empirical choices (Rauta, 2021a). This seemingly automatic association can be seen through the definitions in leading dictionaries. The Oxford English Dictionary provides three definitions of the term with the first two focusing on Christianity and Islam respectively, which the third stating: ‘strict adherence to the basic principles of any specified doctrine, subject, or discipline; a movement or approach associated with this’. In the case of Merriam-Webster the immediate connection is again with elements of Christianity before proving a broader definition, ‘a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles’, the first subset of which is Islamic fundamentalism. Tied up with these

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religious connotations is that the rise of fundamentalism is related to the rise and expansion of globalisation. Emerson and Hartman (2006) provide a useful insight into the difficulties of defining the term clearly. They present the viewpoint from modernists, ‘fundamentalists are reactionaries, radicals attempting to grab power and throw societies back into the dark ages of oppression, patriarchy, and intolerance’ (2006, p.  131), as well as from the viewpoint of religious fundamentalists themselves. The important point though is that rather than being a clear-cut, readily identifiable status, fundamentalism depends on perspective and must be historically informed. We must also be careful to avoid misapplying the term (Jackson et  al., 2011: 158–159). While we agree that fundamentalism is a strict dedication to certain beliefs, to the point of excluding other options, we do not think it should be automatically associated with religion. To make this point, this chapter has taken two ethno-nationalist organisations who held binary views of the world and relied exclusively on force, at least initially, as its subject matter to show how fundamentalists can exist beyond religion. Although this is not to say that religion cannot play a role, rather it is one of many potential foci. For our purposes, fundamentalism will be defined concerning strategic interaction and organizational goal attainment. Specifically, we define fundamentalism as: the unchanging maintenance of clearly defined practices and beliefs, regardless of religiosity, often in combination with a Manichean view of the world. Within this, violence is often seen as the only means to bring about change, where other options are deliberately disregarded as objectionable on principle, rather than on strategic merit. We accept that this is a broader definition than most, but in a way that is the point. Fundamentalism has long been considered in some of the most simplistic ways, rather than as a strategic option for groups and actors, which comes with advantages and disadvantages. While there is not space to discuss it here, we could look to recent western interventions for examples of political and ideological fundamentalism. As Tony Blair, quoted in Patrick Porter’s work (2018: 2), has said: ‘Joining Washington’s war was not an act of geopolitical cynicism’. It was more dangerous, a real ideological crusade. As Blair said privately and publicly, ‘It’s worse than you think. I actually believe in doing this’. The second definitional parameter concerns our understanding is that this dedication can change over time. If it were not possible to move closer or further from a fundamentalist viewpoint, policies such as the United Kingdom’s Prevent strategy would be pointless. Nor would those who research deradicalization and disengagement find the evidence they need (see Horgan, 2009 and subsequent work). As such, and concerning non-state actors, we argue that fundamentalism is a strategic choice made by groups for the benefits it brings to them. It may sound strange that adopting an ‘irrational’ position would be a rational choice, but this chapter will show that groups that present themselves as fundamentalists reap certain rewards, while simultaneously closing off other strategic avenues. Indeed, we also challenge the assertion that terrorism, and political violence more broadly, is the preserve of the mad or the psychotic (Jackson et al., 2011: 207–208). As Townsend (2002: 20) has stated in terms of terrorists, ‘Like many of the most durable prejudices, the stereotype of the terrorist as a psychopathic monster has survived a lot of academic efforts


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to dilute it. Most academic studies point to the view that terrorists are generally remarkable for their sheer ordinariness’. Indeed, it is a failure of diplomacy and conflict resolution to disregard completely those we deem to be fundamentalists, especially if that label has only been applied for political purposes. As Jackson et al. (2011: 113) make clear ‘if our labels appear valid (or even inevitable) in a particular situation…they can actually foreclose the possibility of alternative understandings even emerging; different labels and understandings simply may not surface as legitimate options for us to consider’. While very many of today’s most violent non-state actors, such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda, might genuinely be incorrigible, their focus on religion may not be the reason why. For instance, the ending of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s campaign presents an example of how an avowedly Islamic organisation can be integrated within a wider political context. A warning against a knee-jerk, simplistic understanding of fundamentalism fuels our hope that this chapter will help to deepen our understanding of the concept in question but more importantly how groups that could be labelled as fundamentalists fit within the broader political mosaic.

A More Robust Account of Strategic Rationales Why does this conceptual delimitation matter? Understanding whether a group can deepen or lessen its level of fundamentalism provides several benefits. The most important of these is whether there is possible room for negotiation and compromise, even if this means a protracted period of bringing them in from the cold. Although adopting a fundamentalist stance might initially rule out any kind of negotiation, our case studies will show how groups can grow out of early fundamentalist positions as they become more ‘mature’ or conscious about achieving their strategic goals (see Whiting, 2016a, 2016b for a discussion of ‘normalising’ extremist political parties). Similarly, those who stick to their beliefs may be abandoned by external sponsors once their fundamentalism becomes a block to future progress. The strategic environment is dynamic and groups that do not adapt to the changing situation will be left behind. In short, ‘the strategic lens does not assume behavior and choice ex ante, but allows for strategic intent to be constructed through interactions: with ones’ goals and means, with ones’ targets, with the targets’ goals and means, as well as with the context and operational environment’ (Rauta, 2021b: 121). As such, understanding fundamentalism and how it influences non-state actors allow us to position them within the broader political landscape and design strategies allowing for their incorporation or destruction. Fundamentalism provides an organisation with advantages and disadvantages, whether that is in terms of motivating members, or outbidding potential rivals, while at the same time limiting the range of strategies and potential members available to it. In a recent study of desertion during the Spanish and Syrian Civil Wars, Theodore McLauchlin (2020) highlighted the key roles played by both pre-recruitment ideology and post-recruitment physical commitment. In both conflicts the groups which

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presented themselves as the most dedicated to their respective beliefs, Jihad or leftwing politics, for instance, while also warning of the high standards expected upon entry attracted the best recruits and functioned most effectively on the battlefield. In his words ‘the most cohesive groups, the ones best able to limit desertion, were those that imposed the costliest signals’ (2020: 195). This is important as research into outbidding tends to focus on escalating violence, rather than pre-­combat demands (for example, of either side of this debate see: Biberman & Zahid, 2019; Findley & Young, 2012). Drawing on Mironova (2019) and Walter’s (2017) work, McLauchlin makes clear that even at the cost of limiting their own recruitment pools and in the most serious cases preventing otherwise useful alliances or strategies, presenting yourself as the most dedicated and most demanding option for potential recruits has real long-term benefits. When groups maintain, at least outwardly, a fundamentalist stance they attract only the most committed recruits who are willing to sacrifice the most. Though this should be caveated with the point that fundamentalists groups do not always insist on pre-existing ‘fit’ and can instead pursue socialisation following recruitment. Likewise, recruits may feign commitment to avoid persecution from the same group or to respond to external threats This process can then result in what Kilcullen (2011) called the accidental guerrilla syndrome: ‘Even within seemingly fundamentalist groups, such as Al Qaeda, numerous members may be responding to more local concerns or might have decided that membership of a group is safer than not being a member’. History provides several examples of fundamentalism in action, often providing real-world benefits or at least psychological comfort to those concerned. When speaking about conflict within the colonial context, Fanon (2001: 31) clearly presents a Manichean view of the world. To him, violence was the only answer to truly free colonised people from their subordinate status: ‘The naked truth of decolonization evokes for us the searing bullets and bloodstained knives which emanate from it. For if the last shall be first, this will only come to pass after a murderous and decisive struggle between the two protagonists’ (Fanon, 2001: 28). Fanon’s world was that of good or evil, and violence was the only language worth speaking – a true fundamentalist view of the world. But even within this simplistic view, we see the supposed benefits which a commitment to violence (and violence alone) brings to individuals and groups. While most oft-cited for the supposed benefits to the individual, ‘violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect’ (2001: 74), the role of violence in building the community is perhaps more important for our needs: But it so happens that for the colonized people this violence, because it constitutes that only work, invests their characters with positive and creative qualities. The practice of violence binds them together as a whole, since each individual forms a violent link in the great chain, a part of the great organism of violence which has surged upwards in reaction to the settler’s violence in the beginning. The groups recognize each other and the future nation is already divisible. The struggle mobilizes the people; that is to say, throws them in one way and in one direction (2001, p. 73).


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Fundamentalism is not new, nor it is irrational and solely the preserve of the insane. Fundamentalism offers organisations opportunities and limits their choices, in a manner like other strategic choices. The preceding is not to say that fundamentalism within armed forces, of any type, cannot be extremely problematic, it can be. Arming people who hold fundamentalist beliefs is a serious concern, especially in organisations that cannot fully control their members (Shapiro, 2013). Other consequences of excessive commitment can be more material: ‘Although some actions such as suicide attacks may be a way for groups to signal their commitment and continued resistance, it may also be a serious drain on the most committed fighters’ (Wilson, 2020: 90). Even state-based militaries struggle with this issue. Indeed, military organisations often go to great lengths to prevent potentially problematic recruits from joining their ranks or to remove them if they do. Although ‘extremist’ and ‘fundamentalist’ are not synonyms, recent events such as the disbandment of a company of the German Bundeswehr’s Kommando Spezialkräfte for promoting far-right ideologies (Deusche Welle, 2020) show how militaries can react to members who are seen to hold problematic views. Although the German military may be particularly sensitive to extreme right-wing views, they are not the only ones worried about who is wearing their uniform or taking advantage of their training. Contemporary concerns may focus on the institutionalisation of fundamentalist belief within nascent bodies such as the Afghan National Army or the Iraqi military, but these problems are not new. For instance, at the same time as the Provisional Irish Republican Army were establishing their fundamentalist principles, discussed below, the British army was conducting investigations into the infiltration of the Ulster Defence Regiment by Loyalists (members of the Unionist population with the most extreme views). While the numbers involved were never concretely assessed, the problem was seen as worth monitoring. Initial assessments claimed that ‘a significant proportion (perhaps 5% - in some areas as high as 15%) of UDR soldiers will also be members of the UDA [Ulster Defence Association], Vanguard Service Corps, Orange Volunteers or UVF [Ulster Volunteer Force]’.1 More seriously, and more relevant for our purposes, was the likelihood that if these individuals were made to choose between their uniform and their cause they would likely choose the latter: The first loyalties of many of its members are to a concept of Ulster rather than to HMG [Her Majesty’s Government], and that where a perceived conflict in these loyalties occurs, HMG will come off second best…by the nature of its being, and the circumstances in which it operates, the regiment is wide open to subversion and potential subversion. Any effort to remove men who in foreseeable political circumstances might well operate against the interests of the UDR could well result in a very small regiment indeed.2

This extract is important as it shows that not only are military organisations often aware of the problems of fundamentalism within their ranks (when they are pursuing broader goals) but also that the problem can be unavoidable. If a body is

 ‘Subversion in the UDR’ (1973), p. 5.  ‘Subversion in the UDR’, pp. 12–14.

1 2

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organised for a particular purpose, communal defence, or engaging in ethnic conflict, for example, it might require the admittance of less than desirable members to ensure organisational mass. Thus, even in a more ‘normal’ organisation, fundamentalism can play a role. While this episode provides an interesting example of how non-state actors can potentially subvert formal military forces, further elaboration is beyond the current scope of this chapter. The below case studies will demonstrate the points raised thus far and more. Specifically, we will look at how organisations can adjust their level of fundamentalism, experiencing costs and benefits as it does so, as well as how fundamentalists groups can be both used and abandoned by external sponsors where relevant. Our case studies will highlight the role of fundamentalism within and across different types of non-state actors: terrorist group, militia, and paramilitary. Specifically, our cases are taken from Northern Ireland and the Balkans. Although these cases are illustrative, we hope that they demonstrate the benefits of taking the question of fundamentalism within non-state actors in a more holistic fashion. What we seek to observe is how their strategic rationales map onto different logics of fundamentalist discursive justifications.

 ase Study 1: The Provisional IRA: A Forty-Year Road C from Fundamentalism to Compromise There are a variety of reasons why we might look at Northern Irish republicanism when considering the role of fundamentalism within non-state actors and how it relates to the broader strategic context. As one other author has stated in justifying their own focus on the group ‘One cannot explain the durability of the Provo’s brutal campaign without acknowledging that there was, behind it, a serious and recognisably important contest over political legitimacy’ (English, 2010: 75). This legitimacy came from a variety of sources. Some of it practical, some of it more ideational. Taking the latter first, dogmatic republicans believed that taking up arms during the Troubles was their duty because they ‘regarded themselves as the rightful heirs to republican historical tradition and ardently maintained the idea of the incomplete national revolution’ (Smith, 1995: 94). Physically, and particularly during the period before 1976, communal violence in Northern Ireland demanded an organised response: ‘The violence of one’s opponents, in this Northern Irish case, seemed both to validate and to necessitate an aggressive response which in turn stimulated counter-response, and so on’ (English, 2010: 72). This response began with local defence committees which were subordinated and absorbed by PIRA’s expanding organisation, to the point that they would claim to be the sole defenders of the Catholic population. The resulted in ‘genuine popular kudos from fulfilling such a practical function…PIRA’s popularity, in the main, was not forced but rested on the legitimacy acquired from its protective role’ (Smith, 1995: 91–93). The extent to which this activity was fuelled by sectarianism will not be discussed in this chapter


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due to limited space (For those who are interested see: White, 1997a, 1997b; 1998; 2011; Bruce, 1997; Dingley, 1998; Kowalski, 2018; Patterson, 2010; McCleery, 2021). Beyond the above rationale, there are other reasons to choose PIRA. The first is familiarity. PIRA presents a rich case study for those seeking to understand non-­ state actors under a variety of lenses (see Finnegan, 2019; Malešević & Dochartaigh, 2018; Shapiro, 2013 for some examples). The second reason is that the story of PIRA is essentially one in which an organisation that began as a tiny, incredible doctrinaire, group of social outcasts managed to declare position themselves as the only ones able to stand for their community. This was then combined with an outbidding of its rivals in terms of both violence and ideology before eventually transitioning to a mass movement militia structure and waging an open insurrection against one of the strongest states in Western Europe. This was then followed by a slimmed-down terrorist organisation and eventual decommissioning of its arms. Part of the transition would be an eventual reorientation away from its fundamentalist roots, particularly with its relationship to violence. What began as an organisation entirely resistant to political negotiation and compromise ended up as a partner in a power-sharing regime. Whatever other lessons PIRA can teach us, understanding how a non-state actor can transition between a variety of organisational forms and politically, from totally incorrigible to a major stakeholder in a democratic government, is a key one. The third reason is that PIRA also provides a useful example of what can happen to a group as it moves away from fundamentalist beginnings during its campaign. These changes were not without consequence, throughout its existence PIRA, and the wider republican movement suffered two major splits over its core political and one military principles (Morrison, 2013). These periods of fragmentation are directly related to questions around core doctrinal and philosophical beliefs and again provide useful lessons about what happens to non-state actors who seek to move away from fundamentalist positions. At times they will suffer fragmentation and threats from within. What matters for our analysis is that these decisions were part of a deliberate attempt to garner the largest amount of support possible during each phase of the conflict. A perfect balance between popular support, military activity, political activity, and counterintelligence could not always be maintained over more than forty years and throughout the conflict, PIRA’s leadership made calculated decisions to prioritise different support networks at different times and adapted their relationship to fundamental principles based on the situation at hand. Although potentially questionable from an external viewpoint, the gradual and purposeful changes enacted over PIRA’s lifespan are rational and show how fundamentalism supports and hinders organisational goals, particularly in terms of adjusting to the strategic context. Although we are not necessarily concerned with the success or failure of the organisations discussed here, PIRA’s ability to achieve even intermediate goals in the face of one of the world’s leading military powers is important. While we can challenge the view that PIRA succeeded in the face of their eventual decommissioning and disbandment, never mind the continued partition of Ireland, this is a distinction between strategic and tactical success. Richard English (2016) clarifies the

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importance of this distinction. Highlighting how terror organisations often secure their secondary objectives. In the case of PIRA, this included revenge, spreading socialist ideology and Gaelic cultural celebrations. Specifically, English (2010: 89) stated: ‘In a straightforward military sense, the IRA did not lose: it had the capacity to continue with its campaign, and it could ensure that the British did not impose things without its own endorsement’. Republicans in the form of Sinn Féin were granted seats at the negotiating table because of PIRA’s campaign, not in spite of it (English, 2016: 108–131). If further support is needed, we can turn to the British military’s own analysis: ‘It should be recognised that the Army did not ‘win’ in any recognisable way; rather it achieved its desired end-state, which allowed a political process to be established’ (OP Banner, 2006, para. 855). The Army and PIRA fought each other to a standstill with the Army unable to completely stamp out political violence while PIRA reached the limits of gains delivered by military force alone. PIRA’s eventual development and role within the Troubles was not preordained, nor was their development straight forward. McKearney (2011: 107), a former PIRA Volunteer, makes this clear: There was no master plan for insurrection prior to the situation in Northern Ireland deteriorating and descending into violent chaos. Under the prevailing circumstances, there was a demand, first for defence, then for reprisals as a deterrent, and finally all-out assault to overthrown the state. Given the circumstances, almost any organised group could have assumed the role, but history and the absence of alternatives meant that it was the Provisional IRA which emerged to fill the vacuum.

Although the IRA had existed in skeletal form before the 1970s, it was in no position to lead a challenge against the British state. They had ‘been taken by surprise’ (OP Banner, 2006, para. 302) and struggled to respond to the local population’s demands for protection against Loyalist forces and the police. Smith (1995) provides perhaps the best description of PIRA during its early phase when he defines them as ‘mono-military’, completely opposed to political discourse. Although he presents the organisation as essentially a-strategic at this point, this is only partly true. It is true that PIRA was immature in its belief that it could drive the British out with force alone and was extremely ill-prepared for early negotiations, making utterly unrealistic demands which related more to doctrinal republicanism than to the strategic reality (English, 2012: 157–158). However, this and other episodes of talks allowed them to demonstrate their position as the preeminent republican group and the only ones able to bring the British to the table. This in combination with the greater military strength allowed PIRA to draw in the most recruits, prestige, and external support. The most notable material support would later come from Gadhafi’s Libya, but other financial contributions were significant, including sums such as ‘about £100,000 in 1974’ with a peak ‘during the hunger strikes in the early 1980s, with $250,000 being raised in 6 months’ (OP Banner, 2006, para. 316). PIRA’s early expansion did not come without problems. While it managed to outbid its rivals, it did not place enough emphasis on vetting new recruits which formed its organisational mass. This resulted in both many shirkers (McKearney,


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2011) and intelligence agents gaining entry. This infiltration nearly ended the organisation and resulted in a major structural reorganisation. The core aims of this reorganisation were greater discipline, downsizing of personnel, more focused operations, and much tighter security. Shapiro (2013: 183) provides a useful summary of this reorganisation: ‘The reorganization plan was worked out by Ivor Bell while he was in prison, was approved by the PIRA Army Council in late 1976, and was largely implemented by Gerry Adams, who was appointed to the PIRA Army Council on his release from Long Kesh prison in February 1977’. Due to these changes, PIRA’s own enemies (OP Banner, 2006, para 106c) described them as ‘one of the most effective terrorist organisations in history. Professional, dedicated, highly skilled and resilient’. What mattered here was that PIRA had also begun its eventual shift away from its doctrinaire stance. This reorganisation, which was ultimately the beginnings of its professionalisation and the formation of its ‘Volunteer’ ethos (Finnegan, 2019), was undertaken by a new generation of leaders who were able to bridge the gap between its fundamentalist roots and its eventual politicalisation. While maintaining its outward political fundamentalism, insisting on the continued role of violence, British perfidy and its own historical legitimacy, it managed to implement stricter recruitment measures like those mentioned by McLauchlin (2020). Rather than relying on willingness alone, PIRA began to outline the potential dangers to its members, explicitly outlining to recruits that they would need to sacrifice as part of their membership and were unlikely to benefit personally: Before any potential volunteer decides to join the Irish Republican Army he should understand fully and clearly the issues involved. He should not join the Army because of emotionalism, sensationalism, or adventurism. He should examine fully his own motives, knowing the dangers involved and knowing that he will find no romance within the Movement. Again he should examine his political motives bearing in mind that the Army are intent on creating a Socialist Republic (Green Book).

The highpoint of this commitment would be seen in the 1981 Hunger Strikes, which were a combination of the republican martyrdom tradition (Spencer, 2015: 20) and its emerging steps into electoral politics. These strikes were a direct response to the British policy of criminalisation, which sought to directly challenge the legitimacy of republican violence and their claims to be a liberation movement. However, this played into republican dogma of British oppression, with force being the only legitimate response. While the Hunger Strikes were a watershed moment in moving the republican movement into a political direction, it is worth remembering that the candidates ran under an ‘Anti H-Block’ ticket, rather than as official Sinn Féin candidates. Taking inspiration from the earlier Irish Revolutionary period the republican response to which was to put prisoners striving for political status up for election. This campaign was epitomised by Thatcher’s statement that ‘There is no such thing as political bombing or political violence. We will not compromise on this. There will be no political status. Crime is crime is crime. It is not political. It is crime and there can be no question of granting political status’. Despite Thatcher’s rhetoric, the elections of figures like Bobby Sands, demonstrated the scale of PIRA’s popular support and challenge its criminal designation (Wilson, 1994: 44; Spencer, 2015: 22). Although Margaret Thatcher stood firm in her opposition to the Hunger

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Strike, the deaths of those involved ‘were used not only to oppose prison conditions but to exacerbate suffering in an attempt to intensify republican resistance and entrench anger against the repressions of the British regime’ (Spencer, 2015: 113; Smith, 1995). While the success of the hunger striking candidates demonstrates the popular appeal of republicanism in Northern Ireland it also struck at the core of PIRA’s fundamental principles and laid the ground for two eventual splits, one over the position of politics within republican dogma and the other over military concerns (Finnegan, 2021). The central paradox here was ‘The need to maintain hearts and minds within the organization motivated violence that the rank and file wanted, but that leaders felt motivated would be counterproductive’ (Shapiro, 2013: 190). However, as has been well discussed in the Troubles literature (Spencer, 2015; Whiting, 2016a, 2016b; McGlinchey, 2019; Finnegan, 2021), this rise of politics within republicanism increased the internal tensions between pragmatic strategists and those adopting a mono-militant approach. The argument was well summed up by Spencer (2015, p. 118) when he wrote: ‘Armed struggle provided instant, irrefutable evidence of victory and resistance against the British, whereas politics was ambiguous, lacking in the same irrefutable impact and likely to become absorbed into a process of institutionalization which would gradually squeeze energy and motivation from the militant ethos’. In 1986 and 1994, the ‘Continuity’ (CIRA) and ‘Real’ (RIRA) IRAs would, respectively, break away from PIRA as it sought to move beyond its established philosophical and practical concerns. Those who would form CIRA objected to the dropping of the republican policy of abstention following any electoral success, while those who formed RIRA objected to the move away from violence as part of the Mitchell Principles as the peace process gained speed. CIRA chose their name to demonstrate their continued adherence to republican fundamentals, as abstentionism was second only to the right to bear arms against British rule within republican dogma. This belief derived from the understanding that the IRA represented the legitimate government of Ireland, based on the first and second Dálaí (Irish Parliaments) of the early twentieth century. Indeed, CIRA went as far as to seek formal recognition as the ‘true’ inheritors of the republican tradition by seeking the blessing of the last surviving member of the second Dáil, General Tom Maguire (Morrison, 2013: 140; Smith, 1995: 63; Moloney, 2007: 56). This was a move previously used by PIRA to set itself up as the true IRA when it split from the ‘Official’ IRA (English, 2012: 113). This political split would see the disengagement of most of the doctrinaire ideologues from PIRA, including its support organisations such as the women’s and children’s branches, Cumman na mBan and Fianna Éireann. Their limited military capacity and continued refusal to engage in electoral politics essentially removed them from the contest over popular support though. RIRA on the other hand was what remained of the ‘mono-militarists’. This group comprised mainly those who had the greatest access to PIRA weaponry and were disaffected by the shift in focus from violence to politics. They would go on to carry out the Omagh bombing shortly after breaking away. This was their attempt to outbid PIRA as the leading force in Republicanism, however 1998 was far removed from 1970


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and the group was largely rejected by the republican community. This final step was what allowed those leaders who had risen during the reorganisation of PIRA to take the remainder of the organisation into the political process as a coherent force and eventually call an end to the campaign in 2005, having successfully, albeit very slowly, transitioned PIRA from a dogmatic, violence first (and only) movement to one of the key stakeholders in the new peace settlement which required compromise with those they opposed on a fundamental basis. The Northern Ireland Peace Process has not been easy, nor has it been free from upset, but the gradual lessening of PIRA’s fundamentalism as it adapted to the strategic context allowed the process to take root and mature.

 ase Study 2: The Bosnian Serb Army and the Strategic C Consequences of Fundamentalism There are two main reasons for selecting the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA) for our second case study. The first is that in terms of ethnic fundamentalism, the Wars in Yugoslavia provide some of the richest material with the BSA as one of the most significant participants. The second reason is that the BSA also provides a great example of an organisation which adopted an extreme stance within the conflict and stuck to this position throughout. Contrary to the change over time seen in the last case study, the BSA provides an example of a group unwilling to change with the strategic context and whose fundamentalist ultimately provided to be its downfall. Relatedly they also provide an example of a ‘deniability’ proxy for the Serbian state (Moghadam & Wyss, 2020; Rauta, 2020). Although not seeking to rehash the arguments about the soundness of distinctions between ‘New’ and ‘Old’ wars, it would be remiss to speak of the powerful paramilitary forces which fought during the collapse of Yugoslavia and its attendant wars without mentioning the inspiration they provided for this way of thinking around war and political violence. In the central work on this topic, New and Old Wars, Mary Kaldor (2013: 4) claimed that ‘there has been a revolution in military affairs, but it is a revolution in the social relations of warfare’. This revolution was contextualised by heightening levels of globalisation, within which we see ‘the erosion of the monopoly of legitimate organized violence’, which is ‘eroded from above and below’ (2013: 5). Without focusing on what was either new or old about conflict, we can agree that increasing prevalence of ‘identity politics…the claim to power on the basis of a particular identity’ (2013: 7) within conflict both in the former Yugoslavia and more contemporary conflicts. As has been seen in conflict areas before and since, when state legitimacy breaks down and violence becomes democratized, groups such as the BSA who can establish themselves as protectors or those best placed to enact revenge can become significant actors. The BSA presents a useful case of such an actor as they were not trying to emulate the success of other identity-based actors, such as Hamas, to gain popular support. Rather they were

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using their power to harness, as stated by Kaldor (2013: 9), ‘fear and hatred’ rather than ‘hearts and minds’. In a binary view of the world, the BSA were fighting for what they say as their community and for their own interests, rather than trying to bring about some eventual compromise. In contrast to PIRA’s eventual decommissioning, the BSA understood itself solely in a military sense and that military force was the means to secure a clearly fundamentalist end: an ethnic reorganisation of the former Yugoslavia. They wanted to rapidly rebuild the world in their image and that was best achieved via extreme violence. Another factor which distinguishes the BSA from PIRA was its reliance on support from Serbia proper. This reliance would become telling as the conflict wore on and the aims of Serbia and its proxy in Bosnia diverged further. This would ultimately result in the abandonment of the BSA by Serbia. Without retelling the story of the Bosnian wars, the BSA emerged out of Serbia’s need to aggressively engage with its neighbours while avoiding international censure, and the Bosnian Serb need for military and political support. The BSA was the result of the central conundrum faced by the Serbian regime, which was also pursuing a goal of ethnic remapping (Ron, 2000: 292): ‘If they abandoned the Bosnian Serbs entirely, they would face censure at home for leaving brother Serbs in the lurch. If they openly sent Serbian state forces to fight for Bosnian Serbs, however, they would face stiff international pressure’. As the international community attempted to sanction Serbia if it continued its own military activity, in what was now internationally recognised, independent Bosnia, Serbia simultaneously bowed to international pressure while also redirecting resources towards its affiliated non-­ state and quasi-state forces. Addressing the question of how to ensure Bosnian Serbs were armed had begun before open conflict, with Operation RAM being put in place as early as 1990 (Ramet, 2018: 58). As Ron (2000: 291; see also UN CoE, 1992: 30) puts it: Serbia outwardly seemed to comply with these restrictions on extraterritorial military action, promising international observers it would respect Bosnia's territorial integrity. A key part of this effort was Serbia's order to withdraw from Bosnia the remnants of the Yugoslav People's Army…some 80 percent of the Yugoslav People's Army remained in Bosnia, since these men were local Bosnian Serbs.

This partial withdrawal provided significant support for the ethnically Serbian forces, including the territorial defence forces which would form the basis of the BSA: ‘The BSA was much better equipped than the other regular forces…it had a considerable advantage in heavy weapons…It inherited the JNA’s equipment and, more importantly, it controlled most of the JNA’s weapons stores’ (Kaldor, 2013: 48; see also Glaurdić, 2009: 102). Indeed, certain units active within the BSA could trace their ‘lineage’ directly back to disbanded units of the Yugoslav army, especially in areas of static warfare such as around Sarajevo. The Un Committee of Experts (1992: 44) stated that ‘The Sarajevo Romanija Corps is the Bosnian-Serb force of the Bosnian Serbian Army. The Corps has surrounded the city since the beginning of the siege. It is the successor of the unit of JNA that occupied the same positions until May 1992’. Although this is not to say that the JNA was a complete


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and total ally of the BSA from the beginning, support increased as its command structure was increasingly taken over by the Serbian Regime: ‘Although Serbia increasingly influenced the army’s senior command, it could not rely on the federal army in the early stages of the conflict to fully back the Serbian cause’ (Ron, 2000: 290). In other words, in the chaos of the earliest period of the Bosnian war, Serbia fell back on ethnic stereotyping (McLauchlin, 2020) to achieve its goals, trusting non-state armed forces of Serbian heritage to pursue its military aims rather than the declining Yugoslav forces at its command. This would have significant consequences for those caught up in the fighting. The BSA’s capacity was initially maintained by the Yugoslav army’s withdrawal and the transfer of troops and supplies between command structures, again on ethnic lines. These transfers would allow Bosnian Serb forces to control 70% of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the end of 1992 (Ramet, 2018: 207). This external support for the BSA was further enhanced by an arms embargo on the Bosnian forces. This resulted in a distinct imbalance in the forces arrayed against each other. Although the BSA was much smaller than the Bosnia military, it was much better equipped. By mid-1993 ‘The Bosnian (Muslim) army had 120,000 active troops and an additional 80,000 reserves, 40 tanks, and 1 aircraft. The Bosnian Serb army, by contrast, had only 60,000 troops, supplemented by up to 20,000 Yugoslav army troops, 350 tanks, and 35 aircraft’ (2018: 213). This is not to mention the equipment supplied by Russian supporters (2018: 215). It should be noted that cooperation between regular and irregular (of any kind) units was not an innovation within Balkan military thought during this time, rather it had been central to Yugoslav military doctrine (Patrick, 1994). In a way, the partnership between the Serbian military, formerly the rump Yugoslav military, was a logical extension of pre-war doctrine which might explain the ease at which Serbian and BSA forces cooperated, even when they attempted to portray distinctiveness from one another to external observers. As Malešević and Ó Dochartaigh (Malešević & Dochartaigh, 2018: 300) make clear the BSA was fundamentally the Bosnian Serb section of the former Yugoslav army allowed enough operational distance to claim independence: ‘The General Staff was composed entirely of former professional JNA high ranking officers: four generals, seven colonels, and one captain. The new armed force also adopted the military doctrine of the JNA including its tactical, operational, and strategic dimensions’. However, this did not account for all their active forces: Following several waves of mass mobilization starting in May 1992, out of the total number of VRS [BSA] soldiers 98% were conscripted recruits. In most important respects throughout the war, the VRS tended to rely extensively on its professional cadre who were not only responsible for the command, tactics, strategy, and organization but also bore the brunt of action on the frontlines (Malešević & Dochartaigh, 2018, p. 302).

This social composition would have significant consequences in terms of capability. This supporting relationship was mirrored in other the paramilitary forces who shared the views and goals of the BSA but formed around different pre-war structures, such as Arkan’s Tigers or the White Eagles. These groups presented themselves as independent organisations which were choosing to ‘step up’ to protect

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their fellow Serbians. Initially, at least, they were reliant on the same support as the BSA (Ron, 2000: 296; United Nations Commission of Experts, 1995: 76). As time progressed, however, these paramilitary forces were perhaps more closely aligned with the Serbian security rather than military forces (Glaurdić, 2009). These organisational connections and transfers served a purpose and gave the collective Serbian forces a wide range of options in the earlier stages of the conflict. Strategically, it was all part of an attempt to take, control, and reforge territory (Toal & Dahlman, 2011: 307), to remake the space around them as they saw fit and for some to return it to what it ‘used to be’. As one intercept from 1991 stated: ‘Bosnia is long as you are there and I am here...and it will be lengthened and widened’ (Glaurdić, 2009: 91). At a tactical and operational level, the support offered by the Serbian regime was aimed at ensuring the technical dominance of the BSA over its foes as quickly as possible. To achieve these aims, blurring the lines between formal Serbian forces and their irregular allies was essential and deliberate. The UN Commission of Experts (1992: 72) concluded that ‘The confusion may be intended to permit senior military and political leaders to argue lack of knowledge of what was happening and inability to control such unlawful conduct’. This relationship has been described as ‘a subcontracting relationship with semiprivate groups’ (Ron, 2000: 287), with the recent expansion of work on militias (for some examples see Carey et al., 2015; Mumford, 2013; Rauta, 2016) we might rephrase this terminology, but the relationship was that of a proxy or auxiliary at different times. To an extent this worked, as the International Court of Justice ruled those crimes committed by the BSA were not attributable to the Former Yugoslavia government or to the Serbian regime, rejecting the ICTY finding ruling that they could (Spinedi, 2007: 827). However, this flexibility and early success came at a cost: ‘The chain of command was significantly blurred, even to insiders. Consequently, the organizations’ “command and control” structures were seriously eroded, which resulted in much confusion. The confusion was more pronounced in Bosnia among Serb combatants but seems to have been purposely kept that way for essentially political reasons’ (United Nations Commission of Experts, 1995: 30). The BSA started strong, but it could not maintain its advantage when Bosnian and particularly Croatian forces received external support and had the time to train. Although the BSA had helped secure the establishment of the Republika Srpska within the boundaries of Bosnia, time was against them and rather than adapting to the changes occurring around them they stuck to their stated aims and sought to push further and further. This would seal their fate. Although the forces of the fledgling Republika Srpska were capable and motivated, when they pushed too far, they began to run counter to the strategic interests of their sponsor. Although pursuing goals of Greater Serbia and regional power, the Serbian regime did not need to see Bosnia or Croatia destroyed and was more concerned with maintaining its local rather than regional advantages. This would come at the expense of their more fundamentalists proxies. When the BSA pushed too far their sponsor could no longer or was no longer willing to provide them with the strategic depth, in terms of space or resources, needed to resist the resurgent Croatians and Bosniaks and their power declined (Kaldor, 2013: 51). Even though they were ‘the aggressors in this war, and it was they who


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initiated and applied most systematically and extensively the policy of ethnic cleansing’, their power was limited by the extent of their external support, which could be reduced voluntarily or because of NATO action (Kaldor, 2013: 44). Voluntary reductions from the Serbian point of view were seen most clearly when Bosnian Serbs rejected diplomatic efforts to bring the conflict to a close, first during the Vance-Owen Plan but also throughout the rest of the conflict when Serbia needed to apply pressure to their allies (Ramet, 2018: 211). This was one of the BSA core weaknesses, it was not willing to operate in a bounded system and saw complete success as its only option. It assumed others acted similarly and were not prepared to have their support withdrawn by a sponsor with more immediate concerns. The BSA also suffered from another core weakness, its outward strength aside. They never overcame their initial composition and command and control problems and indeed seem to have suffered more and more cohesion-related tension as the conflict progressed. No amount of technological or material advantages could make up for these. The central problem was conflict within and between units with greater or lesser commitments to the Serbian Ethnic ideal and how it should be achieved. It was ‘riddled with a pronounced tension between (the former JNA) professional officers and conscripts who generally did not trust the high-ranking officers and tended to be much more loyal to their local (non-professional) commanders’ (Malešević & Dochartaigh, 2018: 302). If we borrow briefly from Shapiro (2013) and highlight the importance of internal discipline, bureaucracy, and the ability for leaders to communicate their preferences and punish subordinates, we can see the problems inherent with the force structure adopted by the Serbian forces. A force made up of semi-autonomous units with localised loyalties combined with a lack of innovation due to early ‘victory disease’, either could not or would not adapt or innovate in the ways needed to maintain their power: ‘many units there was a chronic lack of discipline. Some platoons were composed of soldiers who did not undergo even the basic military training and the new recruits had to learn how to use weapons on the frontline. Others emphasise the lack of enforcement of discipline’ (Malešević & Dochartaigh, 2018: 303). Again, we can see similarities to the findings made by McLauchlin (2020) and how different militia groups can attract different members based on the signals they demand from potential recruits and the longer-term consequences derived from these. This was in almost complete contrast to the Croatian military which went from initial failure to success (Malešević, 2018: 736). Seemingly true for all BSA capabilities, as the war progressed these problems became more and more pronounced and a failure to move away from its core motivations or beliefs doomed it in a changing world. At the beginning of the conflict, the BSA lacked the more advanced skills to press their military advantage, especially in urban areas, meaning that most of the gains were in rural areas or lightly urbanised locations (Ramet, 2018). When the tides of battle swung in the favour of the Croatian forces, this earlier inability to wage urban warfare provided the framework for the final straw of the flawed BSA strategic level thinking. When BSA forces had been unable to seize urban areas consistently, they instead surrounded them and laid siege with their own artillery and later the guns seized from UN

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compounds. These areas were then held hostage to success in negotiation or targeted for larger attacks, such as in Srebrenica. This would have been more than punishment enough but the BSA’s lack of command and control would eventually see aggravated units and fronts take out their frustrations on the populations within these towns and cities. These attacks would eventually be the catalyst needed for NATO to properly punish Serbian forces and bring them to the negotiating table, which would eventually lead to the Dayton accords (Ramet, 2018: 236–7).

Conclusion This chapter has presented the two case studies of PIRA and BSA to highlight how groups that initially pursued (ethnically) fundamentalist policies either adapted or failed to do so in a changing strategic context. Although these case studies were primarily illustrative, they do present cases where adaptation led to the continued survival and eventual partial success as well as another case where an actor can be abandoned by its less extreme sponsor as it overstretched. This has been to highlight the role of fundamentalism in a strategic sense. In both cases, establishing themselves as the most committed or the most capable organisation provided benefits to the organisation. It was the following decision to adapt or not which was perhaps the most telling and consequential. PIRA was able to move from a small conspiratorial group to one-half of the Northern Ireland administration. The BSA benefitted early from Serbian military support and saw major successes within the early strategic context, when this changed they failed to adapt and suffered two major reversals, militarily at the hands of western-backed forces and politically when Serbia no longer had a use for its inflexible proxy.

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Findley, M. G., & Young, J. K. (2012). More combatant groups, more terror? Empirical tests of an outbidding logic. Terrorism and Political Violence, 24(5), 706–721. Finnegan, P. (2019). Professionalization of a nonstate actor: A case study of the provisional IRA. Armed Forces & Society, 45(2), 349–367. Finnegan, P. (2021). Explaining violent dissident republican breakaway through deviant cohesion. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 1–17. Glaurdić, J. (2009). Inside the Serbian war machine: The Milošević telephone intercepts, 1991–1992. East European Politics and Societies, 23(1), 86–104. Horgan, J. G. (2009). Walking away from terrorism: Accounts of disengagement from radical and extremist movements. Routledge. Jackson, R., Jarvis, L., Gunning, J., & Breen-Smyth, M. (2011). Terrorism: A critical introduction. Macmillan International Higher Education. Kaldor, M. (2013). New and old wars: Organised violence in a global era. John Wiley & Sons. Kilcullen, D. (2011). The accidental guerrilla: Fighting small wars in the midst of a big one. Oxford University Press. Kowalski, R. C. (2018). The role of sectarianism in the provisional IRA campaign, 1969–1997. Terrorism and Political Violence, 30(4), 658–683. Krueger, A. B. (2008). What makes a terrorist: Economics and the roots of terrorism. Princeton University Press. Malešević, S. (2018). The structural origins of social cohesion: The dynamics of micro-solidarity in 1991–1995 wars of Yugoslav succession. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 29(4), 735–753. Malešević, S., & Dochartaigh, N. Ó. (2018). Why combatants fight: The Irish republican Army and the Bosnian Serb Army compared. Theory and Society, 47(3), 293–326. McCleery, M. J. (2021). Sectarianism and the provisional Irish republican Army. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 1–22. McGlinchey, M. (2019). Unfinished business: The politics of ‘dissident’ Irish republicanism. Manchester University Press. McKearney, T. (2011). The provisional IRA from insurrection to parliament. Pluto Press. McLauchlin, T. (2020). Desertion. Cornell University Press. Ministry of Defence (2006). Operation Banner: an analysis of military operations in Northern Ireland. Mironova, V. (2019). From freedom fighters to jihadists: Human resources of non-state armed groups. Oxford University Press. Moghadam, A., & Wyss, M. (2020). The political power of proxies: Why nonstate actors use local surrogates. International Security, 44(4), 119–157. Moloney, E. (2007). A secret history of the IRA. Penguin UK. Morrison, J. F. (2013). The origins and rise of dissident Irish republicanism: The role and impact of organizational splits. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. Mumford, A. (2013). Proxy warfare. Polity. Patrick, C.  R. (1994). Tactics of the Serb and Bosnian-Serb armies and territorial militias. The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 7(1), 16–43. Patterson, H. (2010). Sectarianism revisited: The provisional IRA campaign in a border region of Northern Ireland. Terrorism and Political Violence, 22(3), 337–356. Porter, P. (2018). Blunder: Britain’s war in Iraq. Oxford University Press. Ramet, S. P. (2018). Balkan babel: The disintegration of Yugoslavia from the death of Tito to the fall of Milosevic. Routledge. Rauta, V. (2016). Proxy agents, auxiliary forces, and sovereign defection: Assessing the outcomes of using non-state actors in civil conflicts. Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 16(1), 91–111. Rauta, V. (2018). A structural-relational analysis of party dynamics in proxy wars. International Relations, 32(4), 449–467. Rauta, V. (2020). Proxy warfare and the future of conflict: Take two. The RUSI Journal, 165(2), 1–10.

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Rauta, V. (2021a). “Proxy war”—A reconceptualisation. Civil Wars, 23(1), 1–24. Rauta, V. (2021b). Framers, founders, and reformers: Three generations of proxy war research. Contemporary Security Policy, 42(1), 113–134. Ron, J. (2000). Territoriality and plausible deniability: Serbian paramilitaries in the Bosnian war. In Death squads in global perspective (pp. 287–312). Palgrave Macmillan. Shapiro, J. N. (2013). The terrorist’s dilemma: Managing violent covert organizations. Princeton University Press. Smith, M. L. R. (1995). Fighting for Ireland? The military strategy of the Irish republican movement. Routledge. Spencer, G. (2015). From armed struggle to political struggle: Republican tradition and transformation in Northern Ireland. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. Spinedi, M. (2007). On the non-attribution of the Bosnian Serbs’ conduct to Serbia. Journal of International Criminal Justice, 5(4), 829–838. Subversion in the UDR (1973). Retrieved from Text of Irish Republican Army (IRA) (n.d.) Green Book (Book I and II). Retrieved from https:// Toal, G., & Dahlman, C.  T. (2011). Bosnia remade: Ethnic cleansing and its reversal. Oxford University Press. Townshend, C. (2002). Terrorism: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press. United Nations Commission of Experts (1995). Final report of the Commission of Experts Established Pursuant to security council resolution 780 (1992), S. UN, 1995. Retrieved from Walter, B. F. (2017). The extremist’s advantage in civil wars. International Security, 42(2), 7–39. White, R. W. (1997a). The Irish republican Army and sectarianism: Moving beyond the anecdote. Terrorism and Political Violence, 9(2), 120–131. White, R. W. (1998). Don’t confuse me with the facts: More on the Irish republican Army and sectarianism. Terrorism and Political Violence, 10(4), 164–189. White, R.  W. (2011). Provisional IRA attacks on the UDR in Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Implications for the study of political violence and terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence, 23(3), 329–349. White, R. W. (1997b). The Irish republican army: An assessment of sectarianism. Terrorism and Political Violence, 9(1), 20–55. Whiting, S. (2016a). Mainstream revolutionaries: Sinn Féin as a “Normal” political party? Terrorism and Political Violence, 28(3), 541–560. Whiting, S. A. (2016b). Spoiling the peace? Manchester University Press. Wilson, A.  J. (1994). The conflict between noraid and the friends of Irish freedom. The Irish Review, 40–50. Wilson, T.  K. (2020). Killing strangers: How political violence became modern. Oxford University Press.

Chapter 5

The Impact of Ethnic Groups on International Relations Maria do Céu Pinto Arena Abstract  Ethnic groups are non-state groups that share a communal identity and have “political significance” as a result of their status and political actions. Mobilization of ethnic identity and ethnic nationalism is a powerful tool to engage the group in a political struggle. The status of ethnic conflict as an important object of study in IR has been reinforced by the upsurge of ethnic violence in the 1990s. IR scholars have sought to analyse the phenomenon by employing several analytical lenses, namely the “security dilemma”. The problem is that what is usually categorized as an ethnic conflict quite often has a more complex nature. Still, the rise in violent ethnic conflicts can largely be linked to the sharp increase in militant ethnic nationalism. Spill over effects of ethnic conflicts to nearby regions can destabilize whole regions and cross-border ethnic identities tend to internationalize conflicts. Keywords  Ethnicity · Ethnic conflict · Identity · Instrumentalism · Security dilema · Constructivism

Introduction Ethnic groups are non-state groups that share a communal identity and have “political significance” as a result of their status and political actions (Gurr 1993). The universe of international relations has become more diversified with organized actors, other than states, having acquired greater capacity to mobilize resources, shapes preferences and policies, and generate issues that become consequential in international politics. The bases of communal identity seem to be shared language, religion, national or racial origin, history, common cultural practices, and common territory. To have political significance means that the group is the basis for political mobilization and collective action in defence or promotion of its self-defined interests. As mobilized groups with a strong sense of identity, ethnic groups can play a role both in domestic and in international politics. As far as domestic politics is M. do Céu Pinto Arena (*) University of Minho, Braga, Portugal e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022 M. Charountaki, D. Irrera (eds.), Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations, Non-State Actors in International Relations,



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concerned, they may influence both the domestic politics of their homelands and/or of their host states regarding issues that are of interest to them. In the realm of international relations, they have the power to influence both national foreign policy decisions and the decisions of international institutions. Transnational expressions of ethnic politics comprise irredenta, diasporas, transnational activities that affect ethnic relations or exploit ethnic conflicts and transnational networks. Mobilization of ethnic identity and ethnic nationalism is also a powerful tool to engage the group in a political struggle. Ethnic conflict is a form of conflict in which the rationale and objectives of at least one party are defined in ethnic terms. The status of ethnic conflict as an important object of study has been reinforced by the upsurge of ethnic violence in the 1990s, highlighting how ethnic groups respond to a broad spectrum of domestic and external challenges. Ethnic groups are of consequence to International Relations when ethnically framed politics fuels instability, violence, or war within and between states. The ethnic groups’ mere existence does not necessarily lead to political action and strife (Szayna, 2000, 12). This text propounds the understanding that there is no causal pathway linking ethnic differentiation, political mobilization, and ethnic conflicts in world politics. It is important to note that there are key differences between ethnicity and nationalism (“pernicious terminological blurring”, Cederman, 2012, 532). Too often, the literature often treats ethnic groups as unitary actors, thus equating them ontologically with the state (Černy, 2018, 41). The distinguishing criterion—central to an IR reading of ethnic groups behaviour—is that nations pursue self-government and sovereign statehood (Černy, 2018, 29; Barrington, 1997, 712). Consequently, broadly speaking, “ethnicity becomes a form of nationalism when it assumes a political (and often territorial) dimension that challenges the status quo, and, in some cases, the legitimacy and stability of the state in question by becoming a catalyst for intra- or inter-state conflict” (Pamir, 1997, 9). This chapter is divided into six sections: the first section engages with the contested definition of ethnic actors, namely the implied and causal relationship between ethnicity and violence. Section two explores the contested notions of ethnicity and ethnic identity. Section three presents the main theories of enquiry regarding ethnicity/ethnic conflict. Section four lays out the issues related to ethnic conflict, while section five delves into the internationalization of ethnic conflicts.

Taking Groups for Granted Ethnicity is often conflated with conflict. When one speaks about ethnic actors, it conjures up the idea of rivalry, and tribal or racial violence. The term lends itself to the mystification of facts because the narratives of ethnic conflicts—such as those on the Yugoslavia war—are emotionally charged and have a strong impact on media audiences. The use of abstract concepts, such as identity and ethnicity, often results in confusing or conflating aspects that need to be kept distinct. Since it is difficult to mark off its perimeter, it becomes a fertile ground for oversimplifications: Ethnic

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categories are naturalized when these symbolic groupings—the products of specific historical contexts—are wrongly conceived as natural and unchangeable. Journalistic coverage of ethnic conflicts, with their imagery of brutality and “ancestral hatreds”, had a great deal of influence on public thinking and exhibits many examples of reification of entire nations. Globalization has reified the perceived ethnic dimensions of given conflicts. The analysis of violence legitimized by identity-based narratives, reifies their “actorness”, their discourses, and amplifies their cause and legitimacy. The first point to be made is that ethnic groups differ from nation-states, in that they do not necessarily claim statehood, and can exist in a world without modern states (Cederman, 2012, 533; Varshney, 2003, 86). Ethnic groups may not even exhibit awareness of their existence, as nations do (White, 2004, 26). The concept of ethnicity generally implies the awareness, on the part of a particular community, of having a distinct identity. Most ethnic groups are oriented towards recognition and expression of their cultural identity and the protection of their rights as a group, but that does not entail demands of political recognition or autonomy. When ethnic groups develop aspirations for political self-government, it becomes a national cause. While a straightforward translation of findings from the realm of inter-state relations to those of inter-ethnic relations is not accurate, it is equally important to bear in mind that some of the units of analysis do coincide: the state is the arena and ethnic actors are players of the political game having choices to make about war and peace or conflict and coexistence (Cordell & Wolff, 2010, 9). The truth is that the energies of politically mobilized ethnic communities keep focusing mainly on the state as the main arena and target of their demands and aspirations. From an analytical viewpoint, the challenge stems from political scientists’ implicit bias towards the nation-state, and the fact that the nation—and, by extension, the cultural/ethnic group—seem to coincide with the state. Arguably, in the current era, the fact that nation-states increasingly seek to extend control over their territories and citizens, and impose uniform policies, is often at odds with the persistence of ethnocultural groups. In light of a concept that conjoins the political entity of a state to the cultural entity of a nation, global migrations and ethnic minorities disrupt the implied unity of the state. Brubaker and Černy have questioned the tendency of taking groups for granted in the study of ethnicity, and in the study of ethnic conflict in particular. Brubaker criticizes what he calls “groupism”, i.e., the tendency to “treat ethnic groups, nations and races as substantial entities to which interests, and agency can be attributed” (Brubaker, 2002, 164). He criticizes how scholars have applied an “ethnic lens” and “groupist thinking”, lending too much weight to ethnic explanations and exaggerating the ethnic groups’ cohesion, homogeneity, and common purposes (Cederman, 2012, 535). As regards the origins of ethnic conflict, “some still question the use of the term ‘ethnic war’ since it might imply a causal link between ethnicity and conflict” (Angstrom, 2001, 67).


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That “misleading representation” (Černy, 2018, 329) is widely diffused in the media and by political decision-makers, but often dominates how mainstream IR makes sense of ethnic conflicts. It is due to interpretative frames (Brubaker, 2004, 43) that sees ethnic violence as having a specific cultural/racial/ethnic, and group quality. That conflation “epitomize[s] the misguided presumptions and flawed ontologies that dominate mainstream IR’s approach to ethnic conflict at large” (Černy, 2018, 329). Due to the need for conceptual clarity, there are, thus, major problems attached to defining these two central concepts in social studies. A related major issue is the tendency to overestimate the incidence of ethnic conflict and violence (Brubaker, 1999; Bowen, 1996). As Cederman postulated, ethnic conflict is a much used but poorly understood concept (Cederman, 2012, 534; Gilley, 2004), a shorthand way to speak about all violent confrontations between groups involving different ethnic or cultural identities.1 As Carment, Davis, and Taydas aptly suggest: “generally, ethnic conflict refers to the appearance the conflict takes, not to its causes. To say that ethnic conflict arises because there are distinct ethnic groups is, at best, tautological. By themselves, ethnic differences are insufficient to guarantee political mobilization and inter-group violence” (Carment et al., 2009, 65). Furthermore, there is widespread acceptance in academic and policy communities that primordial explanations are sufficient to account for the violence. In the words of Nederveen Pieterse: “When politics is upfront we speak of political conflict. When politics is opaque we say ethnic conflict” (1997, 31). Ethnic conflicts supposedly pose specific intractable problems that make their management and resolution difficult once they have erupted. The term “intractable” is used to describe conflicts that sink into self-perpetuating violent interactions and are protracted, remaining unresolved for at least a generation. In those conflicts, each party develops vested interests—symbolic and material—in the continuation of the conflict (Bercovitch, 2003; Bar-Tal, 1998, 2013). That centrality is commonly felt across élites and society, where an incentive structure to help the two sides bridge their differences is non-existent. Intractable conflicts rely on polarized, conflict-­ supporting collective narratives that perpetuate specific perceptions and discourses. Deep feelings of fear and hostility coupled with destructive behaviour make these conflicts very difficult to deal with, let alone resolve them.

1  Several authors have tried to identify a causal link between a society’s diversified ethnic structure and violent conflict. Generally speaking, ethnolinguistic fractionalization is not an accurate predictor of conflict (Fearon and Laitin 2000). More elaborate models used by Montalvo and Raynal-­ Querol (2005), and Reynal-Querol (2002), and Cederman and Girardin (2007), do seem to more pointedly predict civil wars or inter-group conflict. Wimmer et al. (2009) show that ethnic conflicts result from specific ethnopolitical configurations of power, rather than from ethnic diversity per se. They identify three particularly conflict-prone configurations: ethnocracies, states with a high number of power-sharing ethnic elites, and incohesive states with a short history of direct rule by a central government.

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Ethnic Identity In one of the earliest works on the international aspects of ethnic conflicts, Carment stated that when engaging with ethnic conflicts, one of the most difficult tasks is to provide a precise definition of ethnicity (Carment, 1994, 557). Anthropologists caution that rather than being “a single unified social phenomenon”, ethnicity is actually a family of “related but analytically distinct phenomena” (Eller, 1999, 7). However, some definitional matters must be addressed before starting. In ordinary usage, “ethnic group” is typically used to refer to groups in which membership is ascertained primarily by a descent rule (Fearon & Laitin, 2000; Fearon & Wendt, 2002). Ethnicity is endowed with some objective markers, such as physical features, language, and religion. However, as emphasized by Max Weber long ago, the determining factor is the belief that members of specific groups entertain in their common descent (Torres, 2019, 56). Thus, ethnic identification is based on presumed blood ties and supposed ancestry, as is generally claimed by clans, tribes and, occasionally, by entire nations (Carment, 1994, 557). The content of ethnic identities includes both tangible and intangible markers: cultural attributes, such as religion, language, customs, or historical myths. Connor has noted that tangible characteristics are important only in as much as they “contribute to this notion or sense of a group’s self-identity and uniqueness” (1994, 104). Arguably, there is also a subjective approach to ethnicity, as the ethnic sense of belonging is built on intersubjective perceptions and beliefs. Ethnic groupings can exist based on mythical beliefs held by a collectivity (Ben-Yehuda & Mishali-Ram, 2006, 51), and thus ethnic membership differs from the kinship group by being a presumed identity. Ethnic identity is also defined by internal and external ascriptions (Ganter, 1995, 57). The sense of identity is not only internally developed by everyday social interactions that produce and reproduce social identities—the social construction of identity (Fearon & Laitin, 2000, 874). Ethnic identities are inherently exclusive: their membership and content are constructed by differentiation from the “Other”. The process of “Othering” is constructed by scripts and narratives that define reality for their adherents (Nederveen Pieterse, 1997, 371–372; Brubaker & Cooper, 2000, Fearon & Laitin, 2000, 874). Since they are inevitably socially constructed, their “imagined” membership (Anderson, 2006) and content are formed by actions and speech, and can be mutable and fluid over time (Fearon & Laitin, 2000, 848–855). This flexibility of ethnic identities and their boundaries lead to different experiences of ethnicity. An individual may hold multiple ethnic identities at the same time. Additionally, members can choose the intensity to which they identify as member of an ethnic group (Nederveen Pieterse, 1997, 371). Thus, “every ethnic collectivity and solidarity can be located on a spectrum between (primordial) historical continuities and (instrumental) opportunistic adaptations” (Esman, 1994, 14; Van Evera, 1994, 5–39; Heraclides, 1991). The link between tangible and intangible aspects is key to understanding the political implications of ethnic identity and of the formation of conflict groups


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based on ethnicity. Much of the literature on ethnic conflict focuses on the origins of ethnic identity (instrumentalists versus constructivists; Smith, 1986, 1993; Kaplan, 1993; Connor, 1994; Arfi, 1998), or on the sources of ethnic conflict (Lake & Rothchild, 1998). I will first outline the different theoretical approaches which help to explain the existence and intensity of ethnic identities. These have to be outlined for the purposes of analysis in this chapter.

Theorizing Ethnicity in IR Broadly speaking, extant theories on ethnic identity and/or ethnic conflict can be divided into three main traditions of enquiry: primordialism, the rationalist approach, which includes instrumentalism, and constructivism.

Primordial Hatreds The first view sees ethnic groups as ancient, and immemorial kinship groups and ethnic groups as a given, a natural kind (Geertz, 1963). It is still prevalent in common discourse and journalism. In fact, in accounting for the violence unleashed in the Balkans, “most western journalists, academics, and policymakers have resorted to the language of the premodern: tribalism, ethnic hatreds, cultural inadequacy, irrationality; in short, the Balkans as the antithesis of the modern West” (Gagnon, 2004, 1). They “tend to treat ethnic groups as organic, static, substantive, distinct, homogeneous and bounded units, and largely equate conflicts between said groups with conflicts between states” (Černy, 2018, 328). The primordialist mode of interpretation tends to treat ethnic discourses as unchanging essences that strongly determine individuals’ actions (Fearon & Laitin, 2000, 648). Ethnic identity is seen as an indisputable, essential feature; as something a person or a group “just has” by nature, and which is immutable. This objectivist or essentialist view assumes that all ethnic groups have static cultures that are inherently different from each other. Groups and cultures are seen as monolithic, meaning they are taken to be “internally homogeneous and externally bounded” (Brubaker, 2002, 164). Because ethnic differences under primordialism are ancestral, deep, and irreconcilable, ethnic conflicts arise inevitably from “ancient hatreds”, “age-old antipathies” (Posen, 1993a, 1993b, 27) between ethnic groups, and “mutual fear” of domination, expulsion or even extinction (Geertz, 1963). By emphasizing differences in ethnic identities as the foundational source of inter-ethnic hatreds, fear, and conflicts, primordialists believe that ethnically heterogeneous states will unavoidably experience ethnic conflicts (Vanhanen, 1999, 58; Fearon & Laitin, 2000, 849).

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The Rationalist Approach The rationalist approach of explaining the construction of ethnicity focuses on the role of individuals. Rationalism, which follows a “logic of consequentialism”, asserts that interests are exogenously determined. States interact strategically—as utility-maximizing egoists—with pre-existing preferences. In this model, states are regarded as “rational”, egoistic actors. They use their capabilities to realize their preferences and maximize their utility, usually defined materially as power, wealth, and security (Risse, 2000, 3–4; March & Olsen, 1989; Finnemore, 1996; Reus-­ Smit, 2009, 221). In the case of ethnic and sectarian strife, rational choice theorists argue that they are the suboptimal outcome of ethnic entrepreneurs rationally pursuing their interests (Devotta, 2005, 155). The rational choice explanation of ethnic conflicts focuses on the so-called security dilemma and assumes that individuals tendentially make rational choices, weighing the costs and benefits of their actions. The security dilemma nevertheless presupposes that emerging anarchy is a cause of ethnic tensions, usually in transition periods after the fall of authoritarian rule. Ethnic groups feel the need to provide for their own security and ponder whether other groups are a threat to their collective survival. Within the realist camp, the rational choice theory was proposed by Lake and Rothchild (1996a, 1996b), based on Barry Posen’s security dilemma (Posen, 1993a; b). The conceptual frame of the security dilemma is useful when thinking about ethnic conflicts at intra-state level. Applying the security dilemma as an explanation for ethnic conflict was first used by Posen. He articulates some interesting parallels between an international system and ethnic relations within a state, from a realist’s perspective. He makes the case that security dilemmas within states can occur when conditions are similar to those that take place with states in the international system. The collapse of multi-ethnic states can be viewed as a problem of emerging anarchy. This IR concept applies to situations when neighbouring groups suddenly find themselves in a situation of “anarchy” under conditions like the lack of effective control by the government and the presence of strong rival groups. This development makes the security of one’s own group paramount. However, as relative power is difficult to measure objectively, and groups cannot obtain the information they need to bridge the bargaining gap between them, there could be more incentives to resort to the pre-emptive use of force. This then creates a “spiral dynamic” (Jervis 1976), whereby the priority of self-preservation pushes groups to acquire increased power to counteract the power of their neighbours. This breeds competition with escalatory effects, potentially leading up to the point of war. Viewed through this lens, Posen (1993a, 1993b) states that the disintegration of Yugoslavia was highly influenced by re-emerging identities of each other as threats, competition for resources, wealth and military assets, and bands of troublemakers. Ethnic groups behave as if they are states without the assurance of their security by the state, and thus “the security dilemma affects the relations among these groups, just as it affects relations among states” (Posen, 1993a, 1993b, 29). Third, the ability to analyse one another’s military capabilities is limited, and the “other”


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is identified as a threat. All these conditions will similarly generate a spiral of action and reaction that is typically found in an international conflict. Typically, examples of the security dilemma include the former Yugoslavia (Dulic & Kostic, 2010; Posen, 1991), Moldova’s civil war (Kaufman, 1996), and Croatia (Roe, 2004). All these can be more accurately described as an “ethnic security dilemma” (Posen, 1993a, 1993b; Glenny, 1994; Kaufman, 1996). Stuart Kaufman’s approach comes strongly to resemble that of Posen’s. He envisages the possibility of anarchy under conditions like the lack of effective control by the government, and the presence of strong ethnic groups pursuing an independentist agenda. Looking into the cases of Sudan’s civil war and Rwanda‘s genocide, Kaufman admits the existence of an ethnic security dilemma. However, he asserts that rational choice theories, with their reliance on explanatory factors, such as information failures and commitment problems, fail to fully account for mass violence. In such cases, ethnic security dilemmas are driven, not by uncertainty but by predatory leaders, who embrace and play up to widely shared ethnic mythologies and fears (Kaufman, 2006): symbolic politics as a key for understanding ethnic war. Extremist politics and insecurity mutually reinforce each other in an escalatory spiral leading to war. He divides ethnic conflicts, and the security dilemma, into two: mass-led hostilities and elite-led hostilities (Kaufman, 2001, 12). Leaders can manipulate the masses because of the dynamic of asymmetric information, which makes the masses believe in their leadership. De Figueiredo and Weingast argue that rational security concerns, based on misinformation, prompt rational security-seeking and explain the onset of ethnic conflict. Lake and Rothchild (1996a, 1996b) argue that misrepresentation of information contributes to security dilemmas. David Lake and Donald Rothchild provide the overarching theoretical framework to explain the international dimension of ethnic conflict. They argue that the causes for the spreading of ethnic conflicts can be found in the dynamics of three “strategic dilemmas”: information failures, problems of credible commitment, and the security dilemma operating between ethnic groups and states (Lake & Rothchild, 1998, 18; Lake & Rothchild, 1996a, 1996b). This is more so under conditions of state weakness and lack of legitimacy. The rational of this lies in the fear and uncertainty experienced by ethnic groups in divided societies over the intentions of their ethnic rivals and the consequent potential for pre-emptive attacks that such fears can foster. The problem is that information, be it accurate or inaccurate, can be misinterpreted and thus increase tensions. The suspicion within multi-ethnic states that commitments to minority safeguards may not last indefinitely can generate the sort of fears that lead to violent ethnic conflicts. They argue that this information failure means that groups cannot acquire the necessary information to bridge the bargaining gap between themselves, hence making conflict possible. They also add the problem of credible commitment: when a group cannot commit to maintain mutually beneficial agreements, the risk of conflict increases. This is what drives the logic of the other, leading to the spiral dynamic, and, ultimately, to ethnic conflicts. This same dynamic was identified in Fearon and Laitin’s model (1996), which highlights how information failures

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contribute to credible commitment problems, which, in turn, feed into an evolving security dilemma. The security dilemma is triggered by elite fears of loss of power, and uncertainty about the true intentions of the propagators of violence. Thirdly, leaders construct a threatening “Other” and picture themselves as the only protector: “extremist elites begin or provoke violence in order to activate an ethnic security dilemma which in turn generates even more violence” (Kaufman, 1996, 158). The leaders hold the power to introduce an ethnic discourse as the only frame to perceive the situation, which can blind the masses for other possible non-ethnic frames (Fearon & Laitin, 2000, 853–855). They use the propaganda resources of modern political organizations and mass media to manipulate ethnic symbols and fan ethnic hostility, by identifying out-groups with enemies and highlighting the threats they pose. Focusing on the case of Yugoslavia, Oberschall argues that, in the run-up to the fall of communism, national activists created a “crisis frame” by playing on fears of ethnic annihilation in the mass media. This made for ethnic polarization of society and allowed nationalists to be elected (Oberschall, 2000). In cases of élite-led violence, the initial degree of hostility can be very low: as long as leaders have myths to work with, they can create hostility and fear by provoking conflict and violence (Kaufman, 2001, 37, 207; Kaufman, 1996, 157–8). Kaufman uses a hybrid approach to explain ethnic violence. He adds a symbolic explanation of war to recognize how international actors’ goals and causal beliefs are established by their own, internal, symbolic predisposition models. Kaufman suggests the outbreak of extreme violence depends on several factors, namely on the specific type of interaction among elite politics and on the socialization of competing identities. A set of interacting variables work in each particular instance to produce mass hostility along ethnic lines. They depend on activation by nationalist symbols that legitimize violence against another group. When there are opportunities to mobilize and fight, and for ethnic warfare to erupt, there usually are widely circulated myths that justify ethnic hostility, and the conviction that the very existence of the group at stake. Ethnic animosity episodes can be gleaned from ancient history to sustain perceptions of recent threats to group survival, or from economic and demographic trends that putatively jeopardize populations. At the end of the day, rational choice theorists work with an instrumental view— mass violence is a choice, an efficient means to an end, or utility maximization.

Instrumentalism A third group of scholars emerged to argue that ethnic identity is not “primordial” at all, but merely “instrumental” (Hardin, 1995). This is an alternative view of rationality: some version of instrumental utility maximization. The elite-predation model assumes that elites use violence as a rational power-conserving strategy. The work of Paul Brass emphasizes the role of elites in the formation and persistence of ethnic


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identity. Kaufman’s main proposition is that ethnic violence occurs when political elites purposively construct antagonistic ethnic identities to strengthen their hold on power (Kaufman, 2006; Fearon & Laitin, 2000, 583). In a context of uncertainty, predatory elites rely on mass uncertainty to mobilize their group for violence. Elite led conflicts occur when a few powerful elites harness ethnic myths and symbols to provoke fear, hostility and heighten a security dilemma (Kaufman, 2001, 34). These leaders can be motivated either by ideological zeal or by opportunism to mobilize group support for their own objectives. Kaufman’s symbolic politics postulates that ethnic conflict is driven by the existence of deeply held hostile mythologies and mutual fears of group extinction, which usually are stirred by “chauvinist political mobilization” (Kaufman, 2001, 30–39). Looking into the case of the Rwandan massacres, de Figueiredo and Weingast demonstrated that the genocidal aims of the Rwandan Hutu elites were part of a preconceived plan. As a result, they did not engage in negotiating a deal with their adversaries, the Tutsis. He found that both predatory elites skilfully exploited misconceptions and played on mass fears of a security threat. Consequently, political elites use ethnic politics as a form of resource mobilization. Hence, “the cultural forms, values, and practices of ethnic groups become political resources for elites in competition for political power and economic advantage” (Brass, 1991, 15). The connection between the ethnopolitical group configuration of deeply divided societies and violent conflict is undergirded by a number of facilitating factors, but those conditions are augmented when there is the interaction of reciprocal fears of group extinction, and elites’ manipulation of symbols of ethnic identity. In that context, exclusive and oppositional identities, based on ethnic elements, are politically constructed, and made virulent as “political entrepreneurs” try to mobilize populations in support of their struggles with other elites for political power, social status, and economic resources. (Lipschtz, 1998, 36). However, the mechanism linking these facilitating conditions to violent action is facilitated, in large groups, by information asymmetries between leaders and followers that enable the former to use an extremist rhetoric aimed at rendering “primordial” and demonizing the “ethnic other” (Bates et al., 1998; de Figueiredo Jr. & Weingast, 1999). Leaders who fear losing power may “gamble for resurrection” by resorting to predation-provoking ethnic conflict to try to change the agenda toward issues that favour their remaining in power (de Figueiredo Jr. & Weingast, 1999). Those who frame violence as “ethnic” they do it instrumentally, resorting to political narratives which are internalized through the process of victimization or suffering from violence. Indeed, and as stressed by Kaldor, the actual aim of violence in ethnic conflicts serves to mobilize political support through hostility towards another group, bolstered by the fear of extinction (Kaldor, 2013; Kalyvas, 2006). According to Gagnon, “violent conflict along ethnic lines is provoked by elites in order to create a domestic political context where ethnicity is the only politically relevant identity” (1997, 134). He maintains that, when ruling elites in undemocratic societies face challenger elites, they tend to “gamble for resurrection”.

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Constructivism Social constructivism is in opposition to the approach that views ethnic identity as an immutable feature of human nature. Constructivism posits the socially constructed nature of political reality and the mutually constitutive relationship between agents and structure (Jepperson et al., 1996). The constructivist position conceives ethnicity and ethnic groups as social constructs based on historical, social, and political circumstances (Fearon & Laitin, 2000; Finnemore & Sikkink, 2001, 392–393; Lapid, 1996, 7–8; Wendt, 1992, 398). Fearon and Laitin note that constructivism rests on the premise that ethnic groups are social categories. Constructivists have thus opposed an analytical understanding to “everyday primordialism” (Fearon & Laitin, 2000) that views social identities as being natural, static, and unchangeable. In order to explain ethnic violence, they argue, instead, that they are malleable, fluid, and socially constructed (Fearon & Laitin, 2000; Gartzke & Gleditsch, 2006; Kalyvas, 2008; Demmers, 2012). Whereas primordialism sees ethnic conflict as a natural consequence of inter-­ ethnic differences (Rizova, 2011), social constructivists argue for the heterogeneous and fluid nature of the behavioural expression of ethnic and religious identities during conflict, which identities, even when they are the actual cause of war, they do not remain fixed. They change during the conflict, generally heightening the salience of pre-existing ethnic identities (Kalyvas, 2008). Gagnon (2004, 10) analysed how nationalist leaders in the former Yugoslavia, like Slobodan Milosevic, sought to construct “ethnicity as a hard category, and ethnic groups as clearly bounded, monolithic, ambiguous units whose members are linked through ineffable bonds of blood and history, and who thus have a single, objective common interest, which is identified with the status quo elites”. The connection between social identities and conflict has been debated in the literature, with social constructivists attempting to discuss the role of the social construction of identities in the emergence of ethnic and religious conflicts.

Ethnic Conflict In the post-Cold War era, it was conventional wisdom to affirm that ethnicity and nationalism were the most important parameters of intra-state conflicts. As a point of fact, policymakers, researchers, and the media employed the term “ethnic conflict” to describe most intra-state conflicts that occurred since then. That momentous event and the collapse of communism fuelled the resurgence and politicization of ethnonationalism in places such as Slovenia, Croatia, Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, Somalia, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, or Kosovo. These so-called new patterns of conflicts corresponded to internal or civil wars, largely because they involved a clash of


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identities within the state, such as ethnicity.2 From a domestic-centred perspective, states are major actors in creating, accentuating, or downplaying ethnic identities. States are both arenas of rivalry and conflict, as well as of resources that drive and feed ethnic mobilization and counter-mobilization. From an IR perspective, ethnicity is most often seen through the prism of ethnic rivalries, ethnic conflict, and, thus, generally of having an impact on the state, and, consequently, on IR.  It must be said that relations between states matter in the understanding of ethnic conflict, although treating ethnic actors as states is misleading. On the other hand, so-called internal or civil wars, of which ethnic conflicts are but one form, may not be inter-state wars, although they are often not internal wars either in the sense that they are frequently not confined within the borders of just one state. Yet there are important differences too: rather than being fought exclusively between regular armies, ethnic conflicts also involve non-state armed groups, defined on the basis of ethnic identities, which often straddle state boundaries and give many ethnic conflicts a distinct regional dimension (Cordell & Wolff, 2011, 11). The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina is the paradigm of the “new wars”. According to Kaldor, they are rooted in competing claims to power based on “national, clan, religious or linguistic” characteristics of groups (Kaldor, 1999 6, 76–79) in a context of simultaneous globalization and localization, and the “disintegration or erosion of modern state structures” (1999, 78). The key role of identity in these wars seems to dictate that the objective of the belligerents is “to control the population by getting rid of every one of a different identity…” (1999, 8). According to Kaldor, these “new wars” are fought in the name of identity, either ethnic, religious, or tribal (2013, 2). Identity politics has a different logic from geo-­ politics or ideology. The aim is to gain access to the state for particular groups (that may be both local and transnational), rather than to carry out particular policies or programmes in the broader interest of the ethnic community. Further, she maintains that this “retrograde set of social relationships, which is entrenched by war, tends to spread across borders through refugees or organized crime or ethnic minorities” (Kaldor, 1999, 9; Henderson & Singer, 2002, 167). Contrary to popular opinion, ethnic conflicts are not such a widespread phenomenon. Despite the tens of thousands of ethnic groups that coexist around the world, relatively few situations of actual violent conflict exist. Not only are claims of surging ethnic conflict unsubstantiated, but the term tends to homogenize quite distinct political phenomena (Gilley, 2004, 1150). Many scholars have taken issue with the term “ethnic conflict” (or alternately, “ethnic war” or “ethnic violence”), and denounced the existence of a prevailing “ethnic myth” (Bowen, 1996; Gagnon, 2004). And, indeed, Cederman and Pengl (2019) have ascertained that, in recent years, non-ethnic internal conflicts have outpaced ethnic ones. This appraisal stands in stark contrast to the situation of a surge in ethnic conflict at end of the Cold War and the early post-Cold War periods. According to those authors, ethnic civil conflict

2  For earlier approaches to the international aspects of ethnic conflict, see Shiels (1984), Boucher et al. (1987), Heraclides (1991), Moynihan (1993), Ryan (1990), and Carment (1994).

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has been following a slow but steady decreasing trend since the mid-1990s (Cederman & Pengl, 2019, 62). Many “ethnic conflicts” are nationalist battles, insurgencies by groups seeking to secede and form independent states, and minorities trapped outside their kin state. Černy makes the distinction between an ethnic conflict and a nationalist one. An ethno-nationalist conflict is “a violent conflict between two (or more) ethnically defined nations about acquiring sovereign statehood”, whereas an ethnic conflict is a “political conflict turned violent between two ethnic groups about a certain issue, usually political status”, such as autonomy, political, or cultural rights, within the existing state structure (Černy, 2018, 29). Černy gives the example of the Kurds, highlighting that despite the diversity of Kurdish groups, only the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) pursued a strictly ethno-nationalist agenda—that is, an irredentist and secessionist one. Examples of the former can be found in Rwanda, Kosovo, and Chechnya and in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country. As for ethnic conflicts, one contemporary example is that of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which operates in Rakhine state, in northern Myanmar, where the mostly Muslim Rohingya people have faced persecution by the Myanmar military. In Ethiopia, the military conflict that is raging in Ethiopia’s Tigray region since November 2020, pits the government against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF had held a stranglehold on power for decades, since taking power in 1991. The current government curbed the TPLF’s dominance over Ethiopia’s political and economic life. Tensions spiked culminating with a military offensive against the TPLF. Contrary to popular perceptions, most so-called ethnic conflicts do not involve a direct conflict between two ethnic populations. Violent ethnic conflicts usually manifest themselves as armed insurrections by segments of a minority population against the state and its apparatus, rather than against members of other ethnic groups (de Varennes 2014, 443). Most examples of ethnic conflicts involve situations in which the state is dominated by one ethnic group: if one dominant ethnic group has a monopoly on political, social, and economic decision-making, then the result is likely to be inter-ethnic conflict. Ethnic groups are more likely to rebel when they are politically excluded (Cederman et al., 2010; Gurr, 2000). A large, excluded population increases the political threat posed to political authorities. They come to see excluded ethnic groups as threats, and rely on violent repression to maintain their dominance (Davenport, 2007; Nordås & Davenport, 2013; Poe & Tate, 1994; Rørbæk & Knudsen, 2015). Rarer are the instances of internationalized ethnic conflict, when the “intensity of disruptive interactions between two or more states, with a heightened probability of military hostilities … destabilizes their relationship and challenges the structure of an international system” (Brecher & Ben-­ Yehuda, 1985, 23; Ben-Yehuda & Mishali-Ram, 2006, 50).


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The Internationalization of Conflicts Ethnic civil wars are often seen as being especially prone to spread. They often overflow across national borders and affect neighbouring countries in what has been described as “the bad neighbourhood syndrome” (Young, 2004, 44). The transition from ethnic and inter-state conflict, to its internationalization, may take on different forms and have divergent underlying dynamics. As Lobell and Mauceri argue, the internationalization of ethnic conflict requires the cognizance of “intermestic” structures and processes: “‘intermestic’ forces, and especially the entangling of domestic and international pressures, and their internal and external reverberations, contribute to the diffusion and the escalation of ethnic conflict” (Lobell & Mauceri, 2004, 1). In the Balkans, ethnic unrest was exacerbated by both the number of ethnic disputes and their proximity to their countries of ethnic origin, thus tying all the Balkan states—and beyond—into a common problem. This was most evident with regard to the distribution of the Serbian population throughout the former Yugoslav republics, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, as well as regarding Albanians in Kosovo and North Macedonia (Bennett, 1995, 85, 215). There are few studies focusing on the dynamics of the actual processes leading to the spread of ethnic conflict. Several authors have engaged with the dynamics that may lead conflicts to have spill over effects and to be diffused internally, as well as externally, beyond the geographic boundaries of the original conflict country or region. Conflicts can also escalate, involving other ethnic groups, other states or non-state actors participating in the ethnic conflict. Transnational ethnic groups have been identified as a source of conflict spread, because of the mismatch between cultural and political boundaries (Brubaker, 1996). The fact that international borders frequently run right through ethnic groups is one of the most named factors that can generate both diffusion and escalation. The breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s is an excellent example to examine both the diffusion and escalation of ethnic conflicts. In terms of diffusion alone, as ethnic tensions mounted in the 1980s and in 1990–1991, the conflict spread first from Slovenia, then to Croatia, and finally to Bosnia, culminating in a three-year war that ended with the Dayton Accord of 1995 (Williams, 2004). Several authors argue that scenarios that are especially susceptible to the spreading of violence are situations where the majority population of state A is a minority in neighbouring state B, and vice versa (Carment & James, 1997; Davis & Moore, 1997; Moore & Davis, 1998). The literature has also amply demonstrated that ethnic conflict in one state, in interaction with the existence of shared ethnic kin between two states, increases the likelihood of ethnic conflict erupting in the second state (Lake & Rothchild, 1998; Lobell & Mauceri, 2004; Forsberg, 2008). Ethnic conflicts can have a potential to spread rapidly and catastrophically, like a “wildfire” metaphor. Scholars share one point about ethnic conflict: “whatever the cause, ethnic conflicts do have a tendency to spread, and this poses a real threat to peace and stability in many regions of the world” (Angstrom, 2001). A chain reaction usually ensues, with ethnic war causing refugees, who destabilize other

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countries, causing more war, causing more refugees, and so. The cross-border movement of refugees can also have important impacts on regional conflicts (Väyrynen, 1996, 40–44). Other potential destabilizing factors enter this equation, such as transnational arms trafficking, state weakness, regional alliances, and porous boundaries (Weiner, 1996). Where transnational ethnic groups are present, refugees might trigger even more far-reaching dynamics by impacting directly or indirectly on ethnic relations in their host country. Salehyan and Gleditsch (2006) statistically demonstrated that refugees are an important mechanism through which conflicts spread across areas, as they facilitate the spread of arms, fighters, and ideologies conducive to conflict. Existing research has uncovered that trans-border ethnic kin groups or forced migration movements contribute to the regional clustering of civil conflicts (Cederman et al., 2013; Cederman, 2009; Forsberg, 2014; Gleditsch, 2007; Salehyan & Gleditsch, 2006). According to this logic, if refugees contribute to instability in the asylum state, they only do so in combination with precipitating internal factors, namely co-­ ethnic dynamics, political tensions, and the policies put in place by the host state towards refugees (Rüegger, 2019). Frequently, phenomena like refugee instrumentalization and militarization have taken place in the context of ethnic civil wars like in Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, and the Balkans (Muggah, 2006; Lischer, 2005). Against a backdrop of globalization and the support of third-party states, refugee fighters often succeed in launching or maintaining armed campaigns against their home state from the territory of their host state. Refugee militarization seems more likely in a context of low state capacities on the part of the receiving state, facilitating the spread of conflict. Many examples from different world regions suggest that refugees increase ethnic instability in the receiving state. An instructive example was the influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan in the aftermath of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (Krcmaric, 2014). Scores of Afghan refugee camps were set up on the border with Pakistan, becoming recruitment centres for the Taliban. In 1990, Rwandan Tutsi refugees launched an invasion of Rwanda that sparked a civil war and the 1994 genocide (Epstein, 2017). The situation escalated when Rwanda invaded Zaire in 1996, to defeat a number of rebel groups that had found refuge in the country. This invasion quickly escalated, as more states (including Uganda, Burundi, Angola, and Eritrea) joined the invasion, while a Congolese alliance of anti-Mobutu rebels deposed the regime (Byman & Pollack, 2007). In the spring of 1999, approximately 800,000 Kosovar Albanians poured into North Macedonia, upsetting the distribution of power between North Macedonia’s Slavs and Albanians. The influx significantly increased the number of North Macedonia’s Albanian inhabitants and threatened to destabilize a still weak state. Western fears of the war in the northern Balkans spreading to North Macedonia prompted the UN to dispatch a peace-keeping mission to the area, the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force, which was deployed there from 1995 to 1999. A regional conflict complex refers to “situations where neighbouring countries experience internal or inter-state conflict and with significant links between the conflicts” (Wallensteen & Sollenberg, 1998). Rubin et  al. (2001, 3) redubbed the


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concept as “regional conflict formation” and defined it as “a set of transnational conflicts that form mutually reinforcing linkages with each other across state borders”. The authors identify two types of regional links: a) “trans-border incompatibility”, where an ethnic group straddles an international border; and b) direct military and political alliances, or significant direct and indirect military and economic support. Lake and Rothchild draw a useful distinction between spreading by diffusion and spreading by escalation: the former occurs when ethnic violence in one state increases the probability of conflict in a second, while escalation involves the drawing or pulling in of other states, non-state actors, or outside ethnic groups into the internal strife (Lake & Rothchild, 1998, 5; Lobell & Mauceri, 2004, 3). Thus, external forces are involved in an ethnic conflict that is primarily confined to a specific area, becoming internationalized (Durneika, 2020, 188). However, most empirical studies have not set different sources of conflict spread in relation to one another, or categorized them according to their significance. It is generally acknowledged that neither transnational ethnic groups, nor refugee flows, nor state weakness is responsible for the spreading of conflict per se—they simply shape opportunity structures. While many factors drive “ethnopolitical conflicts” (Gurr and Moore 1997; Gurr & Harff’s, 1994), theoretical arguments point out variables, such as discrimination, underdevelopment, and the absence of full-fledged democracy, as key factors leading to ethnopolitical violence—a classic exposition from the grievance literature. Gurr’s (Gurr & Harff, 1994) findings suggest that issues of state building and nation building seem to be at the heart of these conflicts, insofar as “contention for state power among communal groups in the immediate aftermath of state formation, revolution, and efforts to democratize autocratic regimes” (1994, 347), are the main issues of the fifty most serious “ethnopolitical conflicts” in the ‘Minorities at Risk’ data set. Therefore, the constellation of these variables is important. This argument dovetails with Posen’s (1993a, 1993b, 328) thesis that in situations where ethnic groups cannot rely on the central government to provide protection, such as in regime transitions, an ethnic security dilemma develops and increases the likelihood of inter-ethnic conflict. For both Posen (1993) and Gurr (1994), political transitions are strongly implicated in intercommunal conflict. And for Gurr, political transition is the major culprit in large-scale ethnopolitical conflicts (1994, 359–363). The political science literature on foreign interventions and transnational aspects of civil wars has been growing considerably in recent years. Scholars use a variety of terms in an attempt to describe this situation, namely trans-border ethnic affinities (Horowitz, 1985), transnational ethnic alliances (Davis & Moore, 1997), ethno-­ nationalist triads (Cederman et al., 2009), trans-border ethnic kin (Cederman et al., 2013), or foreign constituencies (Saleyhan et al., 2011). Quantitative research has solidified this research strand. There is evidence that civil war substantially increases the risk of inter-state conflict through strategies of intervention and externalization (Gleditsch et al., 2008). Third-party interventions of a kin state in a co-ethnic insurgency can foster direct military intervention. Findings suggest that transnational ethnic affinities have a robust and sizeable effect on the likelihood of interventions

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in civil conflicts. States are more likely to intervene when they contain ethnic groups with affinity for an ethnic group in the civil war state than when they do not, ceteris paribus. Studies by Heraclides (1990), Cooper and Berdal (1993), Carment & James (2000), and Ganguly (1998), and quantitative work like Davis et al. (1997), Davis and Moore (1997), and Saideman (2002), provide evidence that affective factors and ethnicity variables really do influence inter-state relations, intervention, and war. Cederman, Gleditsch, Salehyan, and Wucherpfennig have inquired into the role of large trans-border ethnic kin (TEK) in triggering trans-border wars, since some studies suggest that aggressive interventions driven by irredentist groups can trigger a spiral of escalating tensions on both sides oGf the border (2013). Some studies argue that the presence of external kin who could potentially offer support is more likely to increase the risk of conflict when the excluded minority is relatively large (Cederman, 2009, 404). Multi-ethnic states that have problems with minority issues must typically think twice before supporting rebellions in neighbouring states: “Even where ethnic affinities relate, not to peripheral minorities in the external state, but to centrally influential groups, support is by no means automatic” (Horowitz, 1985, 275). Trans-border ethnic affinities more often promote restraint in supporting separatists or intervention on behalf of a central government fighting to suppress separatism. Fear or contagion and domino effects is widespread. Among states, fear of the success of separatism works in the opposite direction (Horowitz, 1985, 274–275): cross-border assistance may likewise lead to unwanted turmoil spreading across state borders into the territory of the intervening state.

Conclusion Questions of regional war and peace took on critical importance in the post-Cold War era due to the assumed growing salience of internal ethnic conflicts, being likely to develop into international conflicts, with potential implications for international stability. Various social science approaches to the phenomenon of ethnicity influence offer interpretations of ethnicity and ethnic conflicts. IR scholars have sought to analyse the phenomenon by employing the “security dilemma”—a realist concept typically used to explain inter-state war. The problem is that what is usually categorized as an ethnic conflict quite often has a more complex nature. In many ethnic conflicts, the actual decisive factors are political rather than ethnic. Because of the multi-ethnic composition of major areas of the world, practically all kinds of conflicts and clashes—from skirmishes to clashes at the highest levels of power— easily acquire an ethnic manifestation and flavour. Reducing those strains to an ethnic conflict per se may be an oversimplification. The rise in violent ethnic conflicts can largely be linked to the sharp increase in militant ethnic nationalism against a backdrop of state fragility, growing predatory practices, and feelings of insecurity for vast sectors of the population. Ethnic minority groups are especially vulnerable in uncertain and unstable conditions, which may compel them to provide for their own defence. Spill over effects of ethnic conflicts to nearby regions can


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include refugee flows, and spill over effects, such as refugee militarization, that can destabilize whole regions. Cross-border ethnic identities tend to internationalize conflicts: ethnic and religious linkages between groups in different countries increase the chances of escalation or diffusion of war. A country is especially prone to ethnic conflict if groups have ethnic kin in an adjacent state.

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Chapter 6

States-to-be as Foreign Policy Actors Marianna Charountaki and Radka Havlová

Abstract  This chapter aims to look at a specific type of non-state actor, the “states-­ to-­be” and demonstrates why foreign policy practise is critical for their survival and further development. The chapter is thematically divided into two case studies of considerable importance for International Relations (IR). Following a thorough explanation as to how this category can be conceptually perceived by Dr. Charountaki, the first example analyses the role of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) offered by Dr. Charountaki. The second example discusses the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Palestine explained by Dr. Havlová. With the aim to revisit the importance of this type in the relevant literature, this chapter offers a new insight into the ontological understanding of IR, including its sub-field (the Foreign Policy Analysis). Keywords  States-to-be · KRG · Foreign policy analysis · Process · development · Ontology · IR · PLO · Israel

Introduction This work discusses the triumph of non-state actors (NSAs) in International Relations as agents of power and change, both in the perception of the discipline and, more specifically, in foreign policy analysis (FPA). It focuses on the role of “states-to-be” in understanding the discipline’s ontology and, at a secondary level, Dr. Radka Havlová has contributed to this article with the case of PLO: ([email protected]). M. Charountaki · R. Havlová (*) University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022 M. Charountaki, D. Irrera (eds.), Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations, Non-State Actors in International Relations,



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on the FPA. Regardless of the breadth of their recognition, such entities are characterised by attributes similar to those of states. The evolution of their status clearly indicates the need for further and ongoing scholarly analysis, as does the current framework within which these entities are perceived. Kolstø and Blakkisrud (2008: 484) note “[t]he lack of consensus in the scholarly literature on the most appropriate appellation for such political entities”; a deficiency that is further illustrated through the complications that arise from the many scholarly terminological variations on a single term. The study therefore examines the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Palestine as representative examples of NSAs as actors of foreign policy development (Hill, 2016: 48)1; as such they are thus able to formulate and implement their own foreign policy priorities, and by so doing demonstrate how “states-to-be” can contribute to a re-evaluation of the outlook of FPA (Charountaki, 2019a, 2019b: 14). Scholarly studies characterise states-to-be by using a wide spectrum of modifiers: nascent; pseudo; de facto; unrecognised; para- (Jackson, 1987: 529). The quasi-­ states, for instance, are perceived as those that “result from their formal membership in the international community”, or their further separation into entities that “do not enjoy international recognition … [but] are characterized by efficient internal control of their territories and populations” (Stanislawski et al. 2008: 367–68). Current debates underline their understanding as “an inherently subjective term, measured against the ideal-types of ‘mature’ or ‘successful’ statehood or… ‘full’ sovereignty” (Fawcett, 2017: 799). Quasi-states, which are also perceived “as the outcome of decolonisation process” (Jackson, 1990: 26)2 or by other works as “the unrecognized, de facto states … not supported by international recognition”, give rise to contradictory views by scholars, some of whom, as argued by Kolstø, support the contention that the “majority of these quasi-states are quite strong”, while others maintain that “their modal tendency is weak economy and weak state structures”. The same author proposes that “recognized but ineffectual states ought to be referred as ‘failed states’”, a position that resonates with this chapter’s overall thesis (Kolstø, 2006: 723). For instance, the fact that “separatist quasi-states” are developed in the same typology with “unrecognised and recognised states” is indicative of the argument pursued here (Stanislawski et  al. 2008, 369). Similar assertions occur frequently in relation to para-state entities “formed in the post-Soviet era” (ibid, 381). Further classifications include the “as-if-states” that “possess the key features of the de facto states (including territorial control), except for international recognition” (ibid, 368, 378). These “as-if” states “… cannot perform the basics of a state” and “almost-states … are not recognized by the international community”, much like “ states-within-states” (ibid, 371). None of these positions or labels seen through the lens of the state, adequately addresses the non-state type analysed here. For instance, 1  According to Hill, agents can be “the entities capable of decisions and actions in any given context…they may be single individuals or collectives…”. 2  Other element that Jackson has brought in, for instance, is about “quasi-states’ incapacity to deliver services to its population”.

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the KRG held a referendum on self-government in September 2017, demonstrating a formal intention to declare independence which reveals the variation of actions that can be pursued in the case of the states-to-be (Pegg, 2008: 51). Defining the characteristics of non-state actors, then, too narrowly can therefore limit both the importance of this category and opportunities to understand its wider context. Methodological variations in the attempts to analyse this type of NSA stem from the differing conceptualisation of the category of states-to-be. Whilst there might be as many different labels as there are NSAs worldwide, classifications might usefully consider epistemology. This chapter seeks to move beyond vague terms of the kind that Cochran observed in the statement made by Philip Jessup, the Deputy United States Representative in the Security Council: “US full recognition, [which] indicates the traditional concept of de jure recognition, to the state of Israel as a de facto authority of the new state”, differed from the “de facto authority [that] describes the type of power the government enjoyed” (Cochran, 1968: 458). Thus, if this kind of recognition, as is implied by the US paradigm, is essential “to both de jure and de facto governments” (Cochran, 1968: 457), terms pertaining to non-state actors are imbued with additional significance and further complexities. Kolstø equates “quasi-states” with “unrecognised, de facto states”, implying that the designation “de facto” is not necessarily connected to recognition, and notes that these entities “are not supported by international recognition” (Kolstø, 2006: 723). However, as others have observed, there are “de-facto states [that] have achieved certain degree of ‘statehood’” (Caspersen, 2012; Kolstø & Blakkisrud, 2008: 378) without having achieved consistent international recognition (e.g. Chechnya from 1991 to 1999), but non-state actors require different considerations. According to Marjorie Whiteman, the terms “de facto” and “de jure” refer only to the character of the government and not to the level of recognition (Cochran, 1968: 457). Furthermore, it is not always the dominance and status of the “parent state” (Kolstø, 2006: 729) that is of primary importance (Caspersen, 2012: 734), nor the general conditions that prevail. As is shown here then, the analysis of this type through the prism of specific notions that are borrowed as defining elements appears ambiguous and this is because determinants such as the politics of international and regional players in the shaping of foreign policy—demonstrated through the US example above—is critical. While scholarly debate has occasionally focused on the implication of international versus internal legitimacy in relation to NSAs, a similar sense of ambiguity prevails: international recognition is unquantifiable in the context of power disparities, as are the variations in the status and significance of geo-political actors. While it is certainly the case that representation at international fora and within global institutions can elevate the status of a non-state actor, the lack of state sovereignty necessarily limits the range and nature of its participation. The absence of internal legitimacy—variously interpreted (Caspersen, 2012: 1)—does not seem to be a prerequisite for this category. Not only can systemic factors play a distinctive role in the perpetuation of existing structures such as the case in the Middle Eastern region, but they are also subject to political hiatuses and power-vacuums of the kind that


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have affected state democracies such as Belgium, which was without a government for more than 20 months. Notions of external or internal sovereignty as factors that influence categorisation also appear contingent and changeable (Caspersen, 2012: 6). If connotations of the term “sovereignty” that pertain to freedom from external interference are privileged, its applications are further complicated. Associations with decolonisation (Pegg, 2008: 49) and/or state services further expand the applications of the term, whilst simultaneously rendering it too narrow for broader application (Linklater, 2005: 102). The same paradox applies to arguments that link external support mechanisms, such as aid, to the progress of this type of entity (Natali, 2010: 127). However, recent global crises have highlighted similarities in the financial precarity of, for instance, European states and states-to-be. Classifying concrete examples of evolving NSAs is rather more challenging than developing abstract taxonomies. Given the variety of existing scholarly categories pertaining to this type, and the changing nature of states-to-be, this work understands states-to-be as entities with state attributes and an ability to adjust the status quo – that is, to drive or shape the process of development in an effort to preserve or consolidate their power-base and self-governance, as is the case for the KRG and PLO. The changing situation of these non-state entities towards further self-­ determination has upgraded their role in international relations (ir) so that, alongside state entities, they can be considered equally as the other actor within the (IR) discipline. This study moves then beyond the concept of “non-” to consider what “is”, and specifically who are these states-to-be and what is their role within international relations, especially in a context in which their status might not necessarily be one of independence, but rather become one of co-existence. This process of development and their ability to determine foreign policy (Charountaki, 2019a, 2019b) indicates a change of status that implies, in turn, an aspiration to play a distinctive role in the international realm and constitutes what is perceived here as the triumph of the non-state actor as being of note within the IR system. This ability to engage with both regional and international geo-political realms requires that the ontology of IR must recognise state and non-state actors equally and move beyond an over-emphasis on non-state characterisations such as those outlined above. Finally, this work does not seek to imply that foreign policy matters only as “an indicator” (Owtram, 2012: 128) of a non-state’s evolution towards statehood. Rather, it considers the involvement of such NSAs in foreign policy practice as a prerequisite for their survival and further development.

The Case of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) The impact of the foreign policy practices of the KRG at both a regional and an international level is increasing. It is therefore important to underline the ability of the KRG (a) to establish relations with strongly institutionalised states such as Russia or the USA; (b) to enter into both regional and international agreements; and

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(c) to use different means, such as its army (constitutionally recognised as regional guards),3 to facilitate the KRG’s foreign policy. The independent income generation by the KRG through its oil reserves, especially after May 2014 (Charountaki, 2018: 206), and the strengthening of its relations with other non-state actors as evidenced, for instance, through the opening of the EU liaison office in the KRI in August 2015, suggest a significant shift in its status. Along the same lines, constant interactions between the KRG and international organisations such as the United Nations Population Fund (21 June 2021) can be seen (, 2021). Indeed, the KRG’s foreign representation in Europe stands out in this regard: Macron’s “fundamental role in resolving [the KRG’s] issues with Baghdad” (Barzani, 2021), particularly since the KRG’s independence referendum, was critical to the KR’s re-entering the international dialogue and political scene. For instance, France’s “continuous support” for Iraq, including the KRI (Jangiz, 2021) to accomplish regional stability but equally its counter-terrorism work against the Islamic State (IS), in addition to Pope Francis’ historic visit to Erbil on seventh March 2021, are notable in terms of rendering the KRI as one of those exceptional cases in the landscape of states-to-be for which the theory of IR must account. The position of France has traditionally been crucial, both as a steady ally of the KRG, while its role in support of the Kurdish cause dates back to World War I. France’s role as mediator with Baghdad can be also traced historically to the Mitterrand family’s particular interest in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Charountaki, 2011: 177). Similarly, developments towards a closer relationship between Russia and the KRG have proved vital, especially in relation to the latter’s energy survival, given the successive regional conflicts. Such interactive relations can also be linked to  Russia’s new foreign policy concept Russia’s new Foreign Policy Concept (December 2017), which emphasises its position as “a major center of influence in the modern world” (Galstyan & Melkonyan, 2017). According to Reynolds “Russia has to pursue relations with the Kurds because they constituted a potential force that could further Russian interests in the region” (Reynolds, 2011: 77). Sergei Lavrov’s recent meeting in Moscow (March 2021) with a delegation from the Lebanese Hezbollah is indicative of Moscow’s broadening foreign policy approach to non-­ state actors. More specifically, the renewed relationship between the KRG and Russia is perhaps not surprising given the historical links between the Soviet Union and the newly created Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in 1946. According to William Linn Westermann, writing on Kurdish Independence and Russian Expansion in 1946, the early links “between the Kurdish rebellion and the Soviet Union” were connected to the Kurdish independence movement that was gaining traction in “Syrian Beirut, Sauj Bulagh in western Iran, and within the ‘communist’ party of Iraq”, while “Russian interest in the Kurdish question revived after the Gulf war” (Westermann, 1991: 50). More recently, President Masoud Barzani would ask Russia to play a mediating role in foreign policy to “prevent further suffering and

3  Article 121 sect. 5 of the Iraqi constitution provides for the establishment of the internal security forces for the region, such as police, security forces, and regional guards.


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pain of the Kurdish people in Syria” (Barzani, 2021). Such interactions witness the possibility of a further strengthening of mutual relations. The army, which has an explicit role in the implementation of the KRG’s foreign policy agenda, has been of critical importance in the KRG’s battle against Islamic State (IS). The threat posed by IS has strengthened the cooperation between the KRG and the USA, given both the US’s strategic objectives in the region and the KRG’s role as an essential player in the anti-IS global coalition. Efforts to form joint coordination centres between the KRG’s Ministry of Peshmerga and Baghdad, with the support of British and European forces, have been critical in the fight against terrorism (Sherwani, 2021). More specifically, a process of reorganising and arming the structures of the peshmerga brigades through US military and logistical assistance has been evident (Shilani, 2020). In this sense, the Kurdistan Region’s military forces operate as a catalyst within the global coalition against IS.  Most interestingly, the coalition forces (e.g. US, UK, Germany) also play a mediating role between Kurdish parties (e.g. KDP and PUK) (Mawlood, 2019). Their paramount role, defined as “security forces and guards of the region”, has been recognised by the Iraqi Constitution since October 2005, as has their role in implementing the foreign policy of the KRG and preserving and providing the conditions necessary for the stability and security of the KR. The KRG’s ability to negotiate regionally and internationally is clear from the 2016 arrangement that was agreed before the Mosul operation. The agreement mandated that “the People’s Mobilization (‫الحشد الشعبي‬, al-Hashd al-Shaabi) would not come to East Mosul”, and that the “first line of defence against IS would be penetrated by the peshmerga forces”. It also required that control of these territories “would stay with the peshmerga forces”, in addition to the territories that had been liberated by them up to that point—with the exception of Mosul. Masoud Barzani, however, recalls anxieties over the implementation of the agreement: “I told US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter: ‘what if Baghdad will not stick to the agreement?’ … but the US said we will guarantee and make sure of that” (Barzani, 2017). Even though the agreement was not implemented, US-Kurdish interactions intensified, representing a continuous development of their relations. Successive US visits to the KRI following the Kurdish referendum in 2017—such as that by the Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, in 2018—demonstrate both a consolidation of their institutionalised relations, and the increasing importance that Washington confers on the Kurdish role. The KR’s energy and natural resources, which have been recognised by global investors, have also contributed to the KR’s strategic importance (Charountaki, 2018: 202), as has the Kurdish role in influencing the transformation of Iraq since the beginning of the twenty-first century. The KRG’s official relations date back to the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq (May 1992) as an actor that has exerted its policy in the international arena and has implemented its foreign policy agenda in international relations. Consistent formal interactions between the US and the KRG can therefore be traced mainly to the post-Cold War period. This was indicated by US Congressional hearings in 1991 and 1992; there were official Kurdish missions to the US State Department (1991) and interactive US relations

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with the Kurds as an intrinsic part of the Iraqi opposition at that time (Charountaki, 2011: 101–2, 166). America’s post-Cold War objectives pushed even more the need for non-state policies (already in place since the 1970s) to facilitate US regional agenda. US support for the Kurds in Iraq as strategic partners was part of its requirement for strategic alliances, in addition to its adherence to the US traditional commitment to alliances with regional state actors. Thus, 1969’s limited contacts between the USA and the Kurds of Iraq moved into an official but covert US–Kurdish relationship in the early 1970s (July 1972), which was further transformed from 1992 onwards into extensive interactions and an overt relationship that would culminate in an institutionalised relationship of strategic importance for America’s Iraqi foreign policy, following the Turkish refusal to participate in the Iraq War (2003) (Charountaki, 2011: 257). Even though the onset of direct US relations with the Kurds of Iraq started on a humanitarian basis in the form of economic aid (August 1969), and the establishment of the KRG was dictated by regional developments (Charountaki, 2011: 170), US objectives in the post-Saddam era explain the fifth stage of US relations with the KRG—that is the establishment of an individual implicit US Kurdish policy (2005) that gradually appeared to transform into a declared Kurdish policy (2014) from Obama’s Presidency onward (Charountaki, 2020). At the same time, statements arguing that the US utilises its alliances, especially the non-state ones, cannot be ignored; even so the alliance is certainly of benefit to the US, the “Kurds have [undoubtedly] had an impact on the strategic directions of Iraq” (Ricciardone, 2000). On a regional level, the formalisation of Turkish-Kurdish relations in 2008 stands out as another momentous step in the international trajectory of the KRI (Charountaki, 2012). More recently, Turkey appears to have “set up four new military bases in Chale Zewke, Khala Sarka Spi, and Khala Rabia-Baranshe villages and near the village of Gire Biye” (Dri, 2020). In the same context, among the KRG’s more institutionalised relationships within the Gulf region, the KRG-UAE interactions are a notable example of working relations (Charountaki, 2016) beyond the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The recent visit of the Kurdish Presidency to the UAE (12 June 2021) was part of a series of meetings that have been taking place regularly, especially since the opening of the latter’s Consulate in Erbil on 1 February 2012. The UAE’s support has been exceptional on foreign aid (mainly through humanitarian assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees in the KRI). The opening of the UAE’s Red Crescent camp in Erbil, which consists of 632 houses, as well as schools, hospitals, and playgrounds is indicative of this commitment. It is interesting that such developments, perhaps because they concern an interplay between a state and a non-state actor, have received little scholarly attention. Indeed, the UAE and, to a lesser extent, other Arab Gulf states of the GCC have so far been the most active economically within the KRI. The UAE has increased its economic and political ties with the KRG considerably in recent years to the extent that this interaction could serve as a working model with implications for future relations (Charountaki, 2016).


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In this environment, which is characterised by new policies and the formation of non-traditional alliances, both the KRI and, more broadly, the Kurds are of strategic importance, whereas the establishment of alliances is ongoing.

The Case of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)4 The same can be argued about the PLO in relation to the ways in which Palestine, despite not being a fully recognised state (Al-Arian & Moshin, 2017),5 acts as an agent of foreign policy and can therefore be recognised as a state-to-be. Palestine is not considered universally to be a regular state because it does not fulfil the criteria of statehood as defined by international law, including those aspects that pertain to defined territory, population, independent government with effective authority, and international recognition (Lauterpacht, 1944: 408–414). In fact, it is having considerable problems fulfilling all four criteria of recognition as a proper state, in part because Palestine does not have defined and internationally recognised borders since there is no peace agreement with Israel. The issue of recognition is further complicated by extensive Jewish settlement within the localities of the Palestinian territory, mostly in the West Bank and in the area surrounding East Jerusalem, which necessarily impacts on the Palestinian ability to meet the second criterion for international recognition: a defined population. The population living in the Palestinian territories is also composed of Jewish settlers with Israeli citizenship and many Palestinians are living in exile, including the majority of the Jordanian population, which is of Palestinian origin, Palestinians living in other Middle Eastern states, in Europe and in America, as well as members of the Palestinian population living in refugee camps. The limited ability of the Palestinian leaders to control the situation in its territories efficiently and to perform the functions of government is mostly due to developments since 2006 and the split between Fatah and Hamas. Before analysing how the PLO and later Palestine acted as an agent of foreign policy, this study briefly outlines the history of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict with a particular focus on the peace process of the 1990s, which clearly framed the PLO and Palestine as an agent of foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel. Although the territory of Palestine was first inhabited by Jews, Palestinians have been present in Palestine continuously since the seventh century. The territory of Palestine became part of the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century, when most of the population in Palestine was Muslim, with small Jewish communities living in Palestine peacefully alongside the Muslim majority. However, relations changed due to the Zionist movement at the end of the nineteenth century, when Jews started to express their political ambitions in Palestine. Jewish immigration continued during the Ottoman

 For more information on the case study of PLO: Dr. Radka Havlová ([email protected])  By January 2017 the Palestinian state had been recognised by 137 of the UN’s 193 member states (e.g. 70.5% of states). 4 5

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rule over Palestine and under the British Mandate which led to rising tensions between Jewish and Arab populations in the territory. Although UN Resolution 181 (II) from November 1947 called for the creation of two independent states in the territory of the British Mandate Palestine, only the State of Israel was established on 14 May 1948. Given that no Palestinian state had been set up and that the territories assigned to Palestine were administered by Egypt and Jordan, Palestinian elites and leaders were forced out of the territories after May 1948 and the Palestinian population living in Israel was left leaderless for many decades. The Palestine Liberation Organisation was formed at the Arab League summit in Cairo in 1964 to represent Palestinian interests and to conduct foreign relations on behalf of the Palestinian population. The PLO gained international recognition, mostly among the Arab, Muslim, and Communist countries, and as a non-state actor and a predecessor of the Palestinian state, the Organisation “has exercised a number of roles that approximate those utilized by nation-states” (Peleg, 1998: 124). Headed from 1969 by Yasser Arafat, the PLO served as a quasi-government of the Palestinian people, representing both Palestinians living in the territory of Palestine and Palestinians abroad, and was recognised by the Seventh Arab Summit held in Rabat in October 1974 as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and reaffirmed their right to establish an independent state of urgency” (Al Madfai, 1993: 21). Since the mid-1970s the PLO has represented the interests of the Palestinian people (among others) at the United Nations, the Movement of the Non-Aligned Countries and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (Al-Jazeera Investigations, 2006). However, Israel and the USA considered the PLO to be a terrorist organisation rather than a freedom fighters’ movement, since the PLO had called for the “liberation of the whole Palestine through armed struggle” (Sayigh, 1986), which included terrorist attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets. The situation of Palestinians deteriorated after the 1967 war when Israel took control over Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem (including the Old City) that had formerly been controlled by Egypt and Jordan. Subsequent military occupation of former Palestinian territories and the establishing of extensive Jewish settlements in these territories led to the 1987 Intifada, thereby bringing the Palestinian question yet again to the centre of international attention. In support of the uprising, the PLO declared the establishment of the State of Palestine on 15 November 1988. Like the PLO itself, the state was mostly recognised by Arab, Muslim, and Communist states (Permanent Observer Mission). The relations between the State of Israel and the PLO improved in the 1990s as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which began at the 1991 Madrid peace conference. In 1994 Israel recognised the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian Authority was formed on the basis of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements from 1993. Throughout the 1990s, territory and competencies were slowly transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in line with the peace agreements. Yasser Arafat was elected as the first president of Palestine in 1994, the Palestine Legislative Council was formed as the legislative branch of the Palestinian Authority, and elections were


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held in 1996. Despite such moves, however, Palestine was unable to establish itself as a fully independent and internationally recognised state, due to the absence of a peace agreement with Israel. Many controversial issues remain unresolved in the permanent status negotiations with Israel, including the status of Jerusalem, the borders of the Palestinian territory, the issue of Palestinian refugees, and the question of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories. The peace process and transfer of territory and powers to the Palestinian Authority were terminated upon the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000. Israel nevertheless withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 and control of the territory was transferred to the Palestinian Authority, although for security reasons Israel maintained jurisdiction over Gaza’s borders, air space, and territorial waters. However, the 2006 elections for the Palestine Legislative Council, won by Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, almost led to a civil war between Hamas and Fatah, and despite numerous reconciliation efforts, relations between these two parties remain tense, thereby preventing the Palestinian Authority from effective governance of the Palestinian territories. The outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring shifted international attention from the long-term Israeli-Palestinian conflict towards the unrest in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The international recognition of Palestine nevertheless improved during the Arab Spring: in 2012 the status of Palestine within the United Nations was upgraded, following the General Assembly’s granting Palestine non-member observer state status at the United Nations (United Nations, 2012a). However, full recognition of Palestine as an independent state and a peace agreement with Israel are yet to be reached. These achievements since the 1960s by the PLO and later the Palestinian Authority demonstrate the ways in which the provisional Palestinian government acts as an agent of foreign policy, particularly vis-à-vis Israel. The discussion that follows therefore focuses on three aspects of this agency: (1) institutions enacting the foreign policy of Palestine; (2) the international relations of Palestine; and (3) Palestinian academic institutions studying and developing foreign policy. Palestine has regular institutions that carry out diplomatic activities and enact long-term foreign policy objectives. The key institution in this regard is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Palestine and Expatriates, currently headed by His Excellency Riad Malki (State of Palestine, 1988). Diplomatic representation abroad is secured by Palestinian embassies located in most countries. However, the fact that Palestine is not a fully recognised state and should instead be considered a “state-to-be” is confirmed by the reality that no country has an embassy in Palestine. Most countries have their Representative Office in Ramallah. Eight countries (the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Sri Lanka) have consulates in Palestine, located in Bethlehem (EmbassyPages, 2021). Of these eight, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Sri Lanka have both a Representative Office and a Consulate in Palestine (EmbassyPages, 2021). One of the PLO’s objectives was to establish and conduct relations with international organisations and states, in order to defend and promote the interests of the Palestinian people. The PLO gained early international recognition when it informed

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the UN Secretary-General of its establishment. The “Palestinian cause” and support for the PLO at the UN were backed by Arab states, which called for the PLO to be permitted to attend meetings of the UN Special Political Committee. The PLO was duly allowed to attend these meetings and to present statements on behalf of the Palestinian people, without implying PLO recognition, and from 1963 to 1973, as a representative of the Palestinian people, the PLO participated in discussions under the agenda of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. In 1974, the UN GA Resolution 3237 upgraded the status of the PLO to that of an observer, and in August 1986, the PLO gained full membership of the UN General Assembly’s Group of Asian states, a status that until today has been withheld from Israel. Following the declaration of the Palestinian state on 15 November 1988, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 43/177, which acknowledged “the proclamation of the State of Palestine by the Palestine National Council on 15 November 1988”, and affirmed “the need to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their sovereignty over their territory occupied since 1967”. The Assembly also decided that the designation “Palestine” should be used in place of the designation “Palestine Liberation Organization” in the United Nations system, “without prejudice to the observer status and functions of the Palestine Liberation Organisation within the United Nations system, in conformity with relevant United Nations resolutions and practice” (United Nations, 1988). Only Israel and the USA voted against this “upgrade” of the PLO status within the UN. The status of Palestine represented at the UN by the PLO was further improved in 1998 by the UN GA Resolution 52/250 which granted Palestine “additional rights and privileges of participation in the sessions and work of the General Assembly and the international conferences convened under the auspices of the Assembly or other organs of the United Nations, as well as in United Nations conferences” (United Nations, 1998). These included the right to participate in the General Assembly debates, the right to raise points of order, the right of reply, and the right to co-sponsor draft resolutions on Palestinian and Middle Eastern issues. Neither voting rights nor the right to put forward candidates were granted to Palestine (United Nations, 1998). In September 2011, Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian President and the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, submitted an application requesting Palestine’s full membership of the UN.  Despite aiming for full membership and recognition as a state within the pre-1967 borders (with the capital of East Jerusalem), Palestine was granted non-member observer status from 29 November 2012, on the basis of UN GA resolution 67/19 (United Nations, 2012b). Nine member states including the USA and Israel, voted against this resolution; 138 states approved the resolution (five were absent and 41 abstained). Although a testament to the success of Palestinian diplomacy, the resolution could neither constitute nor recognise Palestine as a state; only states can mutually recognise each other. Furthermore, the UN Charter does not regulate observer status, and the General Assembly resolutions have no binding effect on external relations between the UN member states (Sakhran, 2017). It is therefore not possible to consider the passing of this resolution as a de


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facto recognition of an independent Palestine. Nevertheless, having observer status enables Palestine to join specialised UN agencies and treaties, and to address the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation in Palestine, a facility which it employed in 2021 (International Criminal Court, 2021). In addition to representation within the United Nations ecosystem, Palestine is represented within other international institutions as a member state, an associate, or an observer. The most significant is the Arab League, full membership of which the PLO received in 1976. After the establishment of the State of Palestine in 1988, the PLO was replaced in the Arab League by the State of Palestine. The PLO had also been represented in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation from the date of its founding in 1969; again, it was replaced in 1988 by the State of Palestine. Palestine is a member of the Islamic Development Bank and has been a member of the Non-Aligned Movement since 1976. The PLO also established bilateral relations, mostly with Arab states, despite the fact that until the Madrid peace conference of 1991, Israel and the USA had regarded it as a terrorist organisation. Today, Palestine maintains diplomatic relations with more than 100 states (Geldenhuys, 1990). Additionally, Palestine has several academic institutions researching foreign policy matters and public opinion on related issues. The foremost research institution to focus on the development and analysis of Palestinian foreign policy is the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), a non-profit organisation based in Jerusalem. Its mission is to “to present the Palestinian Question in its national, Arab and international contexts through academic research, dialogue and publication” (PASSIA). Its main activities involve academic research and public debate concerning Palestinian foreign policy and associated matters, including relations with international organisations and states. Special attention is paid to the question of Jerusalem/al-Quds. In addition, the Palestine Centre for Policy and Survey Research regularly conducts opinion polls among Palestinians on various issues relating to domestic and foreign policy. Recent polls addressed the peace process with Israel, the USA’s position towards Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the peace plan proposed by former US president Trump in January 2020. The Centre also conducts polls on developments in other countries in the region (e.g. Syria, Jordan, and Turkey) and Palestinian relations with these states.

Conclusion The work claims that the existence of a plethora of terms utilised to explain specific types of non-state actors (e.g. those that can functionally become states since they conform to the accepted features of a state) have been perceived mainly through the lenses of the state. Such terms, which might also be called state attributes, include a clearly defined territory, a permanent/settled population, an effective system of government, and the capacity to enter into relations with others.

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The term, states-to-be, refers to single entities, whose current status and intentions are reflected in their will to develop their regional and international standing— as such, this important process is clearly depicted in the prominence given to the foreign policy element. The study has also shown that the scholarly criteria upon which this type of terminology has been created can appear relevant, because terms can be read differently, or can be applied according to conditions that are also appropriate for established state bodies; and thus, there is no differentiation of this “process-to-be”. Therefore, those single entities (which are often a more consolidated iteration of ethnic groups) which are able to progress and develop a distinct role—and thus status—in the regional and international realms are considered by this study as states-to-be. This, as I see it, means that since their standing is an evolving process, it might not necessarily lead to a position of independence, given that their capacity to reach different levels of self-governance is subject each time to different conditions. Yet they are recognised through their capacity to interact with other state and non-state actors and thus to formulate coherent (foreign) policies that are essential to ensure their survival, as well as to further consolidate their changing status. This latter aspect is also clearly demonstrated through their ability to effect changes at different levels of the policy-making operation (Charountaki, 2019a, 2019b: 14). Therefore, in an effort to identify NSAs of this type, their foreign policy practice is singled out and portrayed through various examples. Finally, the main argument that the chapter attempts to formulate is not necessarily intended to clarify all the differing scholarly theses on assorted examples of entities that aim at self-­ determination. Rather, it is an attempt to simplify an understanding of those entities which aspire to become fully self-governed, by proposing that the updating of their status is a process identified primarily by their capability to stand both regionally and internationally. Following the rise of IS, the increasing influence of the KRG has ensured that the region has become one of the few oases of stability in the Middle East, underscoring its importance in regional and international politics. Its position as the first legitimised Kurdish entity carries further significance, especially while the Syrian crisis is ongoing, by increasingly consolidating the position of the KRG as intrinsic within the continuing changes in the Middle Eastern region (Charountaki, 2018: 340). In the same context, Palestine is also perceived as a state-to-be, given the fact that, despite not being fully recognised internationally and thereby not fulfilling the criteria for a state according to international law, it represents a special case of a non-­ state entity that can operate as a foreign policy actor. Its diplomatic activities vis-à-vis Israel, the United Nations, and other international organisations and states can be taken as a demonstration of the fact that Palestine is also an active agent of foreign policy—as can the fact that Palestine has academic institutions researching their foreign policy agenda. In this sense, the roles and ongoing presence of both the KRG and the PLO in the foreign policy landscape elevate them as an effective force beyond the traditional understanding of non-state actors.


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Chapter 7

Conclusions: Understanding the Role of Non-state Actors in a Mutable Global System Daniela Irrera

Abstract  This chapter summarises the main rationale and findings of the book by highlighting the most important issues raised in the previous chapters. Non-state actors (NSAs) emerge as influential entities in international relations whose impact should be further analysed and evaluated. The typology offered in the book, based on a combination of different actors with shared objectives and modes of operation, is emphasised and described through the presentation of different categories that differ in their characteristics and nature. Keywords  NSAs · International relations · Objectives · Mode · Ontology · Change This book has been conceived as part of a wider reflection on the role and influence of non-state actors (NSAs) in international relations in initiating a research debate that is currently undervalued in the scholarly community. The main aim is to reflect both conceptually and empirically on the status of NSAs and to offer a broad typology that could help to connect these multifaceted entities to the ontology of the International Relations (IR) discipline. NSAs are part of the global system, and as such, they have been investigated and interpreted with respect to their specific characteristics and nature. Starting from the existing literature and assessing current assumptions and different understandings of NSAs in IR as these are debated in the introductory chapter, contributors to this book shed new light on the various categories of NSAs as these are set out in the typology introduced in Chap. 1. In specific, Charountaki presents a new thesis within the current debates, arguing that a review of the understanding of NSAs is necessary to grasp the dynamics of their status. Followed by empirical investigations of specific types of NSA along with their activities (Smits & Wright, 2012), not only should the evident gap in the

D. Irrera (*) University of Catania, Catania, Italy e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022 M. Charountaki, D. Irrera (eds.), Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations, Non-State Actors in International Relations,



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current literature covering NSAs be filled, but it is also necessary to reconnect IR and area studies and profit from the added value that this interlink can provide. The role of regions, including the Middle Eastern region (Buzan & Gonzalez-­ Pelaez, 2009) among the various case studies that are examined in the book, represents a powerful example of how the analysis of regional contexts can improve theory building as Charountaki argues. Thus, this book offers a new approach, built on a broad typology, as set up in Chap. 1, which starts from general and collectively recognised features and moves to specific entities. Charountaki divides NSAs into (a) institutions, (b) irregular militaries and militia groups, (c) fundamentalist groups, (d) ethnic groups, and (e) states-to-be. The triumph of the NSA’s role is underlined in Chap. 6, which distinguishes more explicitly their ability to engage with the actors of the global system, to exert influence and expand their networking capacities in multiple policy fields (Charountaki, 2010). As Charountaki argues, the importance of the NSAs’ nature is clearer in comparison to the modes of operation, which may differ or be the same from one category to the other. Although the mode of operation stands out as an explicit way to understand the different, similar, or even identical ways of functioning of NSAs, and possibly their orientation (demonstrated in Table 1.1), it cannot constitute a criterion for separating the types discussed. The chapters that follow then turn such typology into empirical analysis by focusing on single specific types of NSAs and their examples. Chapter 2 introduces the roles and impact of institutions on the global system, emphasising both intergovernmental and non-governmental dimensions. As a widely investigated topic, institutions pose several theoretical and empirical challenges (Viola, 2020). Focusing on their nature and mode of operation, they are analysed with respect to states and governmental powers but also concerning the most relevant and controversial issues of the global political agenda. In this case, there are references to those focused not only on economic aims, but also on a wide variety of other orientations. They are presented both as agents of power and as agents of change. Intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) are created and sustained by states primarily for defending and maintaining their power and strengthening the existing balances. The global system that survived the two world wars has offered plenty of examples and has been built on various forms of institutions. The point of the chapter, however, is to focus on the broader category of such institutions without an a priori exclusion of those with a specific orientation, on which the literature has traditionally focused (Reinalda, 2010). International regimes, IGOs, military and defensive pacts, and regional partnerships have contributed to maintaining the status quo, preserving, and legitimising hegemonic stability, building confidence and trust in the most troubled regions, or favouring integration and economic cooperation in the most democratic areas. Institutions are also investigated as a place of socialisation and persuasion. They are a space in which common needs and preferences are used to build cooperation and produce global public policies, and, at the same time, a space for negotiation. Major IR schools have struggled with largely recognised definitions and described

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how institutions reflect the symmetry and asymmetry of power, legitimise dominant neoliberal policies (as in the case of international financial institutions), and contributed to preserving stability during and after the Cold War. In so doing, institutions tend to reproduce existing inequalities and to expand economic and political cleavages in the global system. They are presented as agents of change, since they are also used by states and other entities, including transnational movements, lobbies, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as a collective place for contesting public policies, representing different interests, and trying to shape governmental and intergovernmental agendas. IGOs have been largely debated by the IR scholarly community. However, different kinds of actors, such as NGOs, have increasingly attracted attention. In addition to the traditional role of monitoring and contestation, the capacity of NGOs to interact with states and IGOs and to play a variety of innovative functions has been investigated. It will certainly depend on the policy field, but the case study that is described in the chapter supports the idea that even in the most sensitive issues, non-­ governmental entities can be extremely productive. Although conventionally associated with states’ sovereignty, crisis management and conflict resolution, they represent a field deeply subject to change. The transformations in the nature of war and the political and humanitarian implications, on the one hand, and the shift from the military to civilian dimension of external interventions, on the other, have produced a significant combination of governmental and non-governmental action. In the global humanitarian system, therefore, a multi-layered institutional structure in which NGOs maintain a link with states and also operate within international organisations has been put in place (Irrera, 2021). This can be observed within the UN and EU, to name the most important examples. NGOs are important for mediating between states and IGOs and local communities, implementing aid projects in the field, and contributing to shaping the global humanitarian agenda. A wide variety of interactions between states and NSAs, as well as between categories of NSAs, were already evident at the end of the Cold War but have become even more evident in the contemporary global system. In different regions of the world, NSAs develop crisis responses, capacities, and policies, as described in Table 1.1. of the book. In Chap. 3, Jensen and Al-Rawi discuss the impact of another relevant and contentious category of NSA, the irregular militaries and militia groups. Assessing the ample IR literature on them (Grygiel, 2018; Carey & Mitchell, 2017) and referring to different and very discussed examples, such as Hezbollah, the Kurdish Peshmerga, in addition to a specific case of militia—the three types of Iraqi Shiite militias—the authors argue that, as happens with the majority of NSAs, irregular militaries and militias are analysed with respect to the state and are mainly conceived as one of the functions of or a supplement to governmental authority (Bapat, 2012). However, this is not the case for all irregular militaries and militias. They are perceived as non-state armed groups whose nature and activities can vary from no state control and authority to the literature on the privatisation of security has already demonstrated how non-state armed groups, provided with different natures and aims, can influence a state’s domestic and foreign policy by determining its performance in


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the regional and global domain. At the same time, non-state armed groups can also significantly influence the outcome of a conflict or crisis (Mandel, 2001; Avant, 2004; Bures & Carrapico, 2017). They have distinct characteristics; they can follow a separate agenda and act outside of a state’s control. Jensen and Al-Rawi refer to case studies to support the fact that irregular militaries and militias are becoming more and more relevant as NSAs in international affairs, independent of the relations they establish with the state. Such a condition of independence is one of the features that mark irregular militaries and militias and distinguishes them from other actors, such as fundamentalist groups, which are addressed in Chap. 4. This aspect is even more relevant if the changes in global security are considered. As the IR literature has widely demonstrated, at the end of the Cold War, the shift from interstate to intrastate war produced several civil conflicts fought by various political and social groups with different identities, alliance relations, and a willingness to change alliance if needed (Kaldor, 1999). As it can be read in the chapter, as well as in the rest of the book, states are not always the aggressor in conflicts and may have little or no function in the causes and development of the conflict itself. Examining the role of various armed groups can instead offer a better explanation of these ongoing processes. Irregular militaries and militias can act independently, they do not represent a state nor a governmental or intergovernmental set of preferences, and their security function is not driven by ethnic, political, or religious fundamentalism (Shultz & Dew, 2009). This does not mean that relations with states are not existing or meaningful. Overlaps and blurring boundaries can often be found. Militias can be proxies of states, can adapt their strategies depending on states’ performances or, if necessary, opt for more cooperation and act as paramilitaries. However, relations remain informal or temporary and states usually do not take full responsibility for these actions. Such nuances are becoming increasingly relevant in the current conflicts and proxy wars, such as in Syria, Iraq, and Mali, and will inevitably require further investigation (Hughes, 2014). Therefore, the ways through which relations with states are conceived and interpreted needs to be reconsidered. Although such relations continue to be the main reference point, when it comes to NSAs, they tend to be more and more informal and evanescent. This complexity—and the above-mentioned differences—emerges more evidently in Chap. 4, dedicated to fundamentalists and insurgents. Following the typology presented in the Chap. 1, Finnegan and Rauta move their analysis from the use of conventional power modes to the use of violence and aim at presenting dilemmas and challenges in the analysis of NSAs, focusing on their diverse priorities, goals, and aims, and trying to locate them in one of the ideal types of NSA through discursive and operational extremism and modes. The authors point out that the IR literature on civil wars, through several case studies, has supported the fact that terrorism, insurgency, and fundamentalism flourish more easily in poor and deprived areas. As the New Wars debates (Kaldor, 2013) also argued, poverty represents the main factor that drives conflict and is the primary cause of violence (Jackson et al., 2011; Krueger, 2008). This assumption has

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contributed to demonstrating how problematic the term fundamentalism can be and how difficult the attempt to apply it to different regional contexts. As Kreuger pointed out, terrorists are not always and not everywhere desperate people who commit suicide bombings or attack simply because they have nothing to lose. They can be more rationally convinced of the relevance of a cause and be more wisely driven by this in their actions (2008: 4). Finnegan and Rauta ground their contribution on this main assumption, arguing that fundamentalism is a characteristic of several NSAs that should be carefully analysed because it can result in different meanings and implications. The orientation of fundamentalist groups varies, depending on the social context, and even the most committed must take such contexts into account, modifying their manoeuvres accordingly (Wilson, 2020, p. 8). Two case studies are used to illustrate how fundamentalism has significantly influenced the campaigns of a variety of actors. On the one hand, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) first started to act as a small conspiratorial group representing the Catholic, pro-Republic community in Northern Ireland using a radical approach. Then, it became increasingly involved in the peace process and in the dialogue with protestant factions including British and Irish interlocutors. It finally ended up as one-half of the Northern Ireland administration. On the other hand, the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA) was very successful at the beginning of the conflict, along with the Serbian military support and the hegemonic approach of the Serbian government. External intervention by the US and European states changed the conditions of the ethnic balance and the outcome of the conflict. The BSA failed to adapt to these changes and was unable to survive the military dominance of the Western forces and the political backlash from Serbia. These two cases were selected to demonstrate that fundamentalist groups, ethnically and/or religiously driven, even in the most extremist and radicalised settings, are subject to strategic change and will either adapt or fail. In the case of the PIRA, adaptation allowed the group to survive, preserved their relations with the local community and brought partial success. By contrast, the BSA did not give up on its extremist agenda and was unable to find another sponsor to help it survive the changing conditions in the region. The role of fundamentalism was strategic in both cases. The PIRA and BSA seemed the most committed and the most capable organisations. This provided them with a high degree of popular legitimisation, whereas their empowerment stemmed from their ability to negotiate with political interlocutors. The subsequent decision to adapt or not made the difference. Rather than invalidating the term, the chapter sheds new light on fundamentalism in the NSAs’ performances. Given that it is not a binary distinction, the authors conclude that adopting, maintaining, or even abandoning a fundamentalist approach can have strategic ramifications, which may be intentional or not. Adaptation and failure are also relevant for understanding how fundamentalists develop their strategies for maintaining the status quo or rather promoting change. This is common to another significant and contested typology—ethnic groups—discussed by Maria do Ceu Pinto in Chap. 5. They are here defined as a particular kind of NSA sharing a communal identity and having a specific “political significance”


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because of their actions (Gurr, 2000). Whereas a communal identity is made up of a shared language, religion, national, or racial origin, as well as a common history and territory, the political significance provides the basis for political mobilisation of the group and collective action in defence or promotion of interests. The author argues that such mobilisation is the most powerful tool to engage the group in a political struggle and therefore she focuses on the upsurge of ethnic conflicts. The Cold War and the early post-Cold War periods offer a rich variety of case studies that IR scholars have empirically observed and analysed (Crawford & Lipschutz, 1998). Ethnic conflicts turned into the most prevalent type of violent conflict and became the major concern for the building up of policies aiming at strengthening security in the international community. IR investigations have focused on the “security dilemma,” which realists usually use to explain interstate war. However, ethnic conflicts present a more complex nature. On the one hand, they can produce spill-over effects—in terms of masses of refugees, IDPs, etc.— which can destabilise nearby regions and incentivise cross-border ethnic identities. On the other, the escalation to violent ethnic conflicts can result in an increase in militant ethnic nationalism. The role of ethnic groups is pivotal. They are the product of ethnically fragmented politics, which fuels instability and violence, and, at the same time, they respond to domestic and external challenges. As already seen in the case of militias or fundamentalists, the ways through which armed, violent, or radical NSAs interact with governmental powers and contribute to the escalation of conflicts—to maintain the status quo or promote change—is at the core of the mainstream literature on war and security. The collapse of multi-ethnic federal states that lasted for decades, such as Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union, and the breakdown of fragile states in some parts of Africa or the Middle East have forced scholars to reinvestigate the potential of ethnicity and identity to represent a major threat to regional security and stability. Even in this chapter, the New Wars model is considered a pioneering investigation on ethnic and communal conflict (Kaldor, 1999). The war in Bosnia-­ Herzegovina, in particular, represented a paradigmatic example of how nationalist leaders instrumentalised ethnic antagonism. They used ancient hatred to escalate conflict among groups and reach their own political goals (Mello, 2010). Given that major areas of the global system are characterised by multi-ethnic composition, all kinds of potential conflicts and clashes easily acquire an ethnic manifestation and flavour. The global system offers a variety of case studies in which the impact of ethnic groups can be investigated. Unstable states are a “safe haven” commonly used by terrorist groups, both domestic and external, which can profit from the increased ethnic and sectarian character of the state to expand their power and influence, as in the case of the Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Irish Republican Army, ISIS/Daesh and al-Qaeda (Pašagić, 2020). Such groups, in particular, have been able to use state breakdown in various regions from Africa to the Middle East to replace the lack of state power, authority and rule of law, achieving legitimisation and political control over larger territories. In Libya, Syria, and Yemen, the combination of the erosion of

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state governance and the mobilisation of political movements have facilitated intervention by external powers and regional actors. Most recent contributions have explained how proxy wars—which were traditionally associated with the Cold War period and primarily encouraged by the superpowers—have largely been replaced by other typologies driven by local groups (Kausch, 2017; Anderson, 2019; Irrera, 2021). Events such as the Arab Springs have contributed to creating large grey zones, in which the collapse of state legitimacy and authority is challenged by local ethnic groups supported by external powers (Charountaki, 2014). Fawcett depicts this concerning condition as a “return to a kind of pre-state model, with authority divided between different regional, ethnic, tribal and religious groups, some aided by external powers” (Fawcett, 2017: 792). Using several examples, do Ceu Pinto concludes that many factors may explain the escalation of an ethnic conflict, including the severe increase in militant ethnic nationalism, the manipulation of state fragility, and the growing legitimisation practices to achieve local community support. This may happen within a state or spread into neighbouring states or even affect an entire region. It may be an oversimplification to affirm that the mere presence of ethnic relations will automatically result in a violent conflict. However, as demonstrated in the chapter, ethnic groups are especially vulnerable in weak and unstable conditions, and this may induce them to act in their own defence. Self-defence and legitimisation are keywords often used by some NSAs to support their actions and obtain international support. This is the case of a very interesting category—states-to-be—as discussed in Chap. 6 by Charountaki, followed by examples that are effectively analysed by Havlovà offering the case of the PLO in Palestine in addition to the KRI analysed by Charountaki. The chapter particularly focuses on the relevance to and impact of these entities on the IR discipline and its subfield – the foreign policy analysis. The scholarly debate about this category has been wide and diverse and has made use of different labels, such as de facto, quasi, unrecognised, or para-state (Jackson et al., 2011). They all refer to state entities, on a large scale characterised by internal efficiency and legitimisation, but unable to gain formal international recognition and political support abroad (Stanislawski, 2008; Fawcett, 2017). The fact that they are often considered the result of the decolonisation process and the post-Cold War era and associated with instability, economic weakness, and ethnic fragmentation has also produced some contradictory views by scholars. In other words, being internally strong and very weak internationally or vice versa appears a very vague condition. As the authors argue, a sense of ambiguity prevails since international representation at major fora and institutions can contribute to elevating their status, but the lack of state sovereignty necessarily presents a limitation. Therefore, the terminology employed by IR scholars mainly referring to the state cannot help in the analysis of states-to-be. Charountaki defines them as “entities with state attributes and an ability to adjust the status quo—that is, to drive or shape the process of development in an effort to preserve or consolidate their power-base and self-governance.” Such a definition finds ground through the examples of two case studies, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Palestine. Both cases are paradigmatic


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of the ability to formulate and implement their own foreign policy priorities (Hill, 2016). Starting from their non-state status, they moved towards self-determination and increased their political influence. As Charountaki argues, this process was grounded on some specific factors, apart from their possession of a defined territory, a permanent population, and effective system of government. Firstly, both entities are acting in a context in which independence may be difficult to achieve, but they may be able to achieve co-existence. Secondly, they have developed the ability to engage at both the regional and international levels and interact with other state and non-state actors. In a very troubled and insecure region, both the KRG and PLO have attempted to engage in relations with local actors to institutionalise themselves. The KRG became the first legitimised Kurdish entity in the post-cold war era, whereas the Kurdish role as intrinsic part of the global anti-IS coalition constitutes a challenge for IR vis-à-vis its understanding and analysis. The Syrian crisis continues to remain unresolved, and while the Middle East is still subject to ongoing changes, the KRG has maintained—and increased as mediator—its political influence and even more consolidating its role as interlocutor for several regional and international actors. Therefore, Charountaki argues that the KRG’s position bears particular significance upon Middle Eastern politics. Havlovà discusses the PLO’s role and supports the assumption that although it does not fulfil the criteria for a state provided by international law and therefore it is not fully recognised internationally, Palestine represents a special case, able to develop its own foreign policy and to act accordingly. Its nature of state-to-be is consolidated by established and constant diplomatic activities within the United Nations with respect to EU and European states and also to Israel. Additionally, Palestinian academic institutions and think tanks support the PLO’s foreign policy agenda through research initiatives. Therefore, according to Charountaki, both entities have increased their presence and influence in the foreign policy landscape beyond the traditional understanding of NSAs to the extent that foreign policy constitutes today a condition of survival and further development. As described in the chapter on fundamentalism, several categories of NSA need to adapt to changing conditions or fail. In the case of states-to-be, and particularly for the KRG and PLO, the ability to develop a foreign policy indicates more than an adaptation attitude, but rather an aspiration to play a distinct role in the international context. In the end, Charountaki argues that the term states-to-be is still very contested and refers to single entities, willing to develop their regional and international position and influence. Compared to other NSAs analysed in the book, they are marked by a more distinct role and status. The foreign policy element is an addition that is peculiar to their aspiration and evolution process. The latter does not necessarily result in a condition of independence, but can facilitate different levels of self-governance, depending on the conditions in which they operate. Their success and survival vary according to their suitability to interact with other state and non-­ state actors and to formulate coherent foreign policy strategies (Charountaki, 2019) in a volatile political setting that it is still unfolding.

7  Conclusions: Understanding the Role of Non-state Actors in a Mutable Global System


At the end of this controversial and fascinating journey, rather than being exhaustive, this volume intends to offer a foundation from which to launch further debates and inspire those scholars involved in research about NSAs in various policy fields. Firstly, any discussion about the increasing influence of NSAs on the ontology of international relations deals with major changes in the global system that have been empirically observed and theoretically defined. Although the book offers a broad typology in which various entities can fit, the common need is to develop a wider set of tools that will allow IR scholars to capture the complexity of the contemporary world. Most chapters refer to the New Wars model as a starting point for understanding major changes in global and regional security and for explaining how escalating violence and, by contrast, crisis management, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding are not only—and not entirely—dependent on states. Secondly, NSAs need to be analysed also in terms of what they can develop into or are aiming to be. The approach suggested in Chap. 1 sees NSAs through a combination of their distinctive natures and shared objectives. In this context, the mode of operation is also important to frame how these different natures function. If the latter shifts from conventional political power to the use of violence, and from there to diplomatic cooperation, the goals may be located along a continuum that ranges from defence of the status quo to the promotion of change (as illustrated in table of Chap. 1). Such an approach allows one to analyse and interpret a wide range of actors, both conventional and subversive, including hybrid and intermediate. This leads to the third suggestion, to the consideration that interactions with governmental actors continue to be essential and need to be widely investigated. Whether as agents of power or change or both, NSAs interact with states, although with different priorities and outcomes. If international organisations reflect states’ preferences and needs and if most ethnic groups contest government authority, other cases, described in the book, cannot always be easily defined in terms of cooperation or contestation (NGOs), are marked by ambiguity and blurred boundaries (militias), and aspire to statehood and recognition (states-to-be). Strictly related to this feature is the fourth suggestion. Adaptation and failure represent two key terms that can explain various NSAs’ performance and complement the analysis of objectives and modes of operation. As described in all chapters, non-state entities are subject to internal and external factors and react accordingly, as for their strategies, agendas, and actions. The extent to which they are able to positively react to the changes in the environment in which they are located can make a big difference. Although there is ample literature on institutional change, warfare and the dynamics of ethnic conflicts, and development in fundamentalist groups, further investigations on how NSAs invest in resilience and try to survive global challenges are needed. Lastly, all the above-mentioned suggestions stem from the need to update the current IR literature with more sophisticated and flexible approaches and models for understanding the roles and influence of NSAs. This can apply to various policy fields and different regions and the potential for policy prescriptions is extremely high. Considering that the contemporary global system is subject to constant changes, turbulence, and crises and that policy-making inevitably involves the governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental dimensions, emphasis on the understanding of the impact of NSAs can open new avenues for further research.


D. Irrera

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7  Conclusions: Understanding the Role of Non-state Actors in a Mutable Global System


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A Abkhazia, 83 Adaptation, 69, 77, 115, 118, 119 Agency, 4–9, 11, 12, 18, 24, 26, 30, 75, 104–106 Agents, 3–6, 11–14, 18, 23, 24, 30, 36, 46, 62, 83, 95, 102, 104, 107, 112, 113, 119 Ali al-Sistani, 45 Angola, 83, 87 Arafat, Yasser, 103 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), 23, 29 B Balkans, 59, 66, 78, 86, 87 Bosnia-Herzegovina, 66, 83, 84, 116 Bosnian Serb Army (BSA), 7, 64–69, 115 C Change, 3, 7, 18, 19, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, 36–40, 42–44, 47, 53, 55, 60, 62, 64, 67, 82, 83, 95, 98, 107, 112–116, 118, 119 Chechnya, 83, 85, 97 Cold War, 26, 28, 30, 84, 113, 114, 116, 117 Collectivity, 9, 22, 77 Conflict internationalization, 86–89 Conflict spill over, 86, 89 Constructivism, 11, 37, 38, 40, 44, 78, 83 Croatia, 67, 80, 83, 86

D Deficiency, 13, 14, 96 Diffusion, 86, 88, 90 E East Timor, 83 English school, 10–13, 21 Escalation, 28, 86, 88, 90, 116, 117 Ethnic affinities, 88, 89 Ethnic conflict, 59, 74–80, 82–86, 88–90, 116, 117, 119 Ethnic groups, 3, 4, 6, 7, 14, 73–90, 107, 112, 115–117, 119 Ethnicity, 74, 75, 77–84, 89, 116 Ethno-nationalism, 83 Ethno-nationalist triads, 88 External support for groups, 61 F Fatah, H., 7, 102 Fundamentalism, 37, 54–69, 114, 115, 118 Fundamentalist groups, 3, 4, 6, 14, 37, 53, 57, 112, 114, 115, 119 H Hashid al-Shaabi, 36, 38, 42 Hegemony, 11, 20, 21, 23 Holistic, 8, 10, 12, 13, 59

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022 M. Charountaki, D. Irrera (eds.), Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations, Non-State Actors in International Relations,



124 I Institutions, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9–11, 14, 17–30, 36, 38, 40, 44–48, 74, 97, 104, 106, 107, 112, 113, 117, 118 Instrumentalism, 78, 81, 82 Insurgency, 14, 85, 88, 114 International Monetary Fund (IMF), 7, 24, 26 International organizations, 6 Iranian Revolutionary Guard, 43 Iraqi Security Forces, 42 Irregular militaries and militia groups, 3, 4, 14, 35–49, 112–114 Israel, 37, 97, 102–107, 118 Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 104 J Jerusalem, 102–106 K Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), 38, 43 Keohane, R.O., 19, 21, 23 Kosovo, 83, 85, 86 Kurdistan Region Government (KRG), 7, 96–102, 107, 117, 118 Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), 3, 14, 36, 96, 99–102, 117 L Lebanese Hezbollah, 36, 37, 39, 43, 99 Liberalism, 10, 37–40, 46, 49 M Macedonia, 86, 87 Mahmud Abbas, 105 Marja’iya, 14, 37, 42, 44–48 Muqtada al-Sadr, 46 N Nagorno-Karabakh, 83 NATO, 7, 23, 29, 68, 69 New wars, 54, 84, 114, 116, 119 Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 2, 6, 9, 10, 22, 24–30, 113, 119 Non-state actors (NSAs), 1–14, 18, 22, 23, 25–30, 36, 37, 39, 40, 48, 49, 53–69, 86, 88, 95–99, 106, 107, 111–119 O Ontology, 2–5, 9, 10, 12, 13, 49, 53, 76, 95, 98, 111, 119

P Palestine, 40, 96, 102–107, 117, 118 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), 7, 14, 96, 98, 102–107, 117, 118 Power, 3–5, 7, 14, 17–30, 36–41, 44–48, 55, 60, 64, 65, 67, 68, 74, 79, 81, 82, 84, 85, 87–89, 95, 97, 104, 112–114, 116, 117, 119 Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), 7, 58–65, 69, 115

Q Qassim Suleimani, 38, 44

R Rationalist approach, 78, 79 Realism, 5, 37–40, 49 Refugees, 84, 86–88, 90, 101, 102, 104, 105, 116 Refugee’s militarization, 87, 90 Rwanda, 80, 83, 85, 87

S Sadrist, 14, 46–49 Security dilemma, 22, 39, 79–82, 88, 89, 116 Slovenia, 83, 86 Somalia, 83 States-to-be, 3–5, 7, 9, 14, 95–107, 112, 117–119

T Terrorism, 55, 100, 114 Trans-border conflicts, 87 Transnational ethnic alliances, 88 Typology, 2–7, 13, 14, 37, 53, 96, 111, 112, 114, 115, 117, 119 U United Nations, 20, 24, 25, 87, 99, 103–107, 118 W Wala’iya, 7, 14, 37, 42–48 Z Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo, 83