Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring: Popular Uprisings and the Politics of Repression 9781350987821, 9781786733191

Through detailed exploration of events in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen, Sean Burns here breaks down t

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Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring: Popular Uprisings and the Politics of Repression
 9781350987821, 9781786733191

Table of contents :
List of Illustrations
Explaining the Arab Spring
A Regional Wave
Military Behavior in the Arab Spring
Decisions, Outcomes, and the Syrian Case
Will and Capacity
Military Structure and the Outcomes of Middle East Revolts
The Plan of the Book
1. The Men with Guns
Civil– Military Relations and Military Professionalism
Coup- Proofing and Military Structure
Identifying Military Structure
Measuring Structural Features and Identifying Military Types
Features, Methodology, and Other Variables
Military Characteristics and Outcomes in the Uprising Phase
Democratization, Revolution, and Civil War
2. Tunisia: A Professional Military
Historical Development
Nationalism and Independence
Bourguibism and the Military
The Ben Ali Regime
The Uprising
The Transition
3. Egypt: An Institutionalized/ Corporate Military
Historical Development
Nasser’s Revolution and the Egyptian Military
The Military Under Sadat and Mubarak
The Uprising
The Transition
4. Bahrain: A Ruler/ Mercenary Military
Historical Development
Exclusion, Revolt, and Repression
Military Structure
The Uprising
The Aftermath
5. Libya: A Factionalized Military
Historical Development
The Jamahiriya
Qaddafi and the Military
The Uprising
Transition and Fragmentation
6. Syria: A Factionalized Military
Historical Development
Coup Politics
The Assad Regime
The Syrian Military
The Uprising
Civil War
7. Yemen: A Factional Military
Historical Background
Northern Yemen
The People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen
The Republic of Yemen
The Military
The Uprising
Negotiation, Breakdown, and Civil War
8. Iran: A Sultanistic Military
Historical Development
The Pahlavi Dynasty
The Shah and the Military
The Uprising
The Revolution
The Revolutionary Guards and the Islamic Revolution
The 2009 Green Movement

Citation preview

Sean Burns received his PhD from Northwestern University in Illinois and is currently a visiting assistant professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. He taught in Qatar for five years and has done extensive travel and research in the Middle East. He has previously published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at conferences internationally on military structures and many other areas of Middle East politics and democratization.

‘After years of neglect, the study of civil–military relations in the Middle East has re-emerged as an important area of study in the wake of the 2011 Arab uprisings. This book successfully brings together significant theoretical insights about the roles that Arab militaries played in the uprisings alongside an impressive range of case studies. Grounded in a robust theoretical framework, the book offers us a rich trove of empirical data and historical background into what was and continues to be one of the defining dynamics of the Arab Spring uprisings.’ Mehran Kamrava, Georgetown University, Qatar and author of Inside the Arab State

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Popular Uprisings and the Politics of Repression SEAN BURNS

I.B. TAURIS Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA BLOOMSBURY, I.B. TAURIS and the I.B. Tauris logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2018 Paperback edition 2019 Copyright © Sean Burns, 2018 Sean Burns has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN: HB: 978-1-7845-3893-4 PB: 978-1-8386-0014-3 ePDF: 978-1-7867-3319-1 ePub: 978-1-7867-2319-2 Series: Library of Modern Middle East Studies 199 Typeset by Newgen Knowledge Works Pvt Ltd To find out more about our authors and books visit and sign up for our newsletters.

For my mom, who has been looking forward to this

Contents List of Illustrations Preface

xi xiii



Explaining the Arab Spring A Regional Wave Military Behavior in the Arab Spring Decisions, Outcomes, and the Syrian Case Will and Capacity Military Structure and the Outcomes of Middle East Revolts The Plan of the Book

1 The Men with Guns

3 7 9 12 14 17 21


Civil–Military Relations and Military Professionalism Coup-Proofing and Military Structure Identifying Military Structure Measuring Structural Features and Identifying Military Types Features, Methodology, and Other Variables Military Characteristics and Outcomes in the Uprising Phase Democratization, Revolution, and Civil War Conclusion

2 Tunisia: A Professional Military Historical Development Nationalism and Independence Bourguibism Bourguibism and the Military The Ben Ali Regime The Uprising The Transition Conclusion


27 31 41 47 50 52 55 61

62 63 67 70 72 74 80 85 94

Contents 3 Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military Historical Development Nasser’s Revolution and the Egyptian Military The Military Under Sadat and Mubarak The Uprising The Transition Conclusion

4 Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military

95 96 101 104 113 118 126


Historical Development Exclusion, Revolt, and Repression Military Structure The Uprising The Aftermath Conclusion

129 135 139 144 152 156

5 Libya: A Factionalized Military


Historical Development The Jamahiriya Qaddafi and the Military The Uprising Transition and Fragmentation Conclusion

6 Syria: A Factionalized Military Historical Development Coup Politics The Assad Regime The Syrian Military The Uprising Civil War Conclusion

7 Yemen: A Factional Military Historical Background Northern Yemen The People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen The Republic of Yemen The Military The Uprising Negotiation, Breakdown, and Civil War Conclusion


159 161 164 172 181 187

190 192 194 199 203 208 214 220

222 223 225 233 235 239 242 248 250

Contents 8 Iran: A Sultanistic Military


Historical Development The Pahlavi Dynasty The Shah and the Military The Uprising The Revolution The Revolutionary Guards and the Islamic Revolution The 2009 Green Movement Conclusion

253 255 258 262 271 276 279 284



Notes Bibliography Index

295 332 345


List of Illustrations Chart 1.1 MENA Coups by Decade


Tables I.1 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.1 4.2 5.1 5.2 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2

Military Structure and Outcomes of Peaceful Uprisings Structural Features and Military Types Distinctiveness & Subordination Characteristic Internal Structure Characteristic Military Response to Mass Mobilization Post-breakdown Trajectories I – Overthrow Post-breakdown Trajectories II – Military Split Tunisia’s Military Structure Tunisian Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Egypt’s Military Structure Egyptian Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Bahrain’s Military Structure Bahraini Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Libya’s Military Structure Libyan Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Syria’s Military Structure Syrian Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Yemen’s Military Structure Yemeni Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization


18 48 53 54 55 57 60 79 79 112 112 143 144 171 171 207 207 241 241

List of Illustrations 8.1 8.2

Iran’s Military Structure (in 1979) Iranian Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization C.1 Military Response to Mass Mobilization C.2 Post-breakdown Trajectories I – Overthrow


261 262 286 287

Preface I was teaching in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. I taught at Northwestern University in Qatar in Doha from 2010 to 2015 and witnessed, and experienced, much of the hope, uncertainty, and disappointment from close by. I had students from all of the affected countries and taught them in classes, spoke to them in hallways and office hours, and ran large, school-wide meetings to discuss the upheaval as it was happening. I arrived in Doha in August of 2010 and one of the first classes I taught was Democracy and Democratization. To my surprise, many of the students expressed ambivalence about the value of democracy, its appropriateness for the Middle East, and its prospects in the Arab world. By late January of 2011, when the Arab Spring protests began to spread, democracy suddenly seemed possible and the conversations changed. I continue to refer to the uprisings that began in Tunisia in December 2010 as the Arab Spring, rather than referring to them as the Arab Revolts or Arab Uprisings as some others do. Part of the reason is that most historical ‘Springs’, such as the Prague Spring or the Spring of Nations in Europe in 1848, also ended with conflict, repression, and promises unfulfilled. The many unhappy outcomes of the Arab Spring align it with those historical ‘Springs,’ rather than running counter to them. The other reason is that, from my vantage point in Qatar, the period was marked by hope and optimism. Despite the names activists gave to their protests, such as the ‘Day of Rage,’ once the protesters took control of the streets or squares, the demonstrations were marked by hopefulness, non-violence, and camaraderie. The students in my classes in Doha at the time were gripped by excitement, more than anger. There was uncertainty and worry, of course, but it felt like a time of optimistic possibility. At least from my view, watching my students experience it and helping them analyze it, it felt more like a spring than a revolt. Quickly in some places, and over time in others, the mood turned. Bahrain caused divisions, Syria fell into civil war, early optimism xiii

Preface in Yemen and Libya were exhausted as the transitions turned into conflict and Egypt’s revolution stagnated and turned sour. Only in Tunisia did the outcome seem to be going well, and my students from Tunisia remained inquisitive and engaged, but Tunisia is a small country and they were outnumbered by the students from places that had seen less positive outcomes. I remain hopeful, however. The Arab Spring showed that a peaceful uprising could capture the regional imagination and spread like wildfire. It showed that autocrats in the Middle East were willing to go to great lengths to remain in power, but institutions like the military could act strategically and potentially push positive outcomes. It also showed the positive impact a strong civil society and media could have. It empowered the youth of the Middle East in ways that will be hard to undo, and it revealed the complexity of the region to people outside of the Middle East, challenging simplistic views many held. I  also take solace from the fact that sometimes democratization takes more than one try. Overthrowing a government creates a new competition between the contending groups in society. If they cannot manage their conflict and work toward democratic ends, military coup or fragmentation are possible. But it is possible for politicians and civil society actors to learn from their mistakes and do better the next time. It is in this vein that I wrote this book. At the time of the uprising I was working on a dissertation about non-democratic revolutions in the Middle East, including the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Ba’ath Revolutions in Syria and Iraq. However, I could not find the key to unlock the project. That came with the fall of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and the restraint of the Egyptian Army. It was always clear that military decisions were important in the outcome of democratization and revolution, but the outcomes in Tunisia and Egypt, compared to Iran in 1979, provided the key to understand exactly how. The book looks at this in detail. It looks at the role of the military in democratization and revolution and, while it comes to some disappointing conclusions, it shows that democracy is achievable in the region and gives insight into how political actors can make it more likely. It also serves as a primer on the Arab Spring for those unfamiliar with many of the cases. It provides historical background on the political development of the countries and looks at the six major Arab Spring cases throughout the uprising and transition process, into xiv

Preface mid-2017. The example of revolutionary Iran provides another path, one that did not occur during the Arab Spring, but which is essential to understanding the possible outcomes of popular uprisings. Despite the pitfalls of popular uprisings and transitions, and the many troubling outcomes of the Arab Spring, I remain hopeful about the future of democratization in the Middle East and hope this book provides insights and explanations that students, analysts, activists, and interested parties find valuable. Much of the work on this book was done with written sources, but I also did significant on-the-ground research in the region, particularly in Tunisia. My first trip was to Tunisia in late February 2011, only six weeks after Ben Ali fled the country. By coincidence, I was there when renewed protests drove the interim prime minister to step down. I interviewed protesters at a sit-in outside the parliament building where the transitional government was working, I attended counter-protests of more-moderate Tunisians who wanted to give the interim government a chance and I experienced teargas for the first time, on Avenue Bourguiba, when protests turned violent, which most blamed on old-regime provocateurs. Three protesters died and the interim prime minister resigned, but peace returned to the streets in a couple of days and the transition continued. I returned to Tunisia several times over the next few years. I was also in Egypt soon after the revolution, when protests resumed in May 2011, and later I was able to do some research in Bahrain. As the situation deteriorated, it became more difficult and dangerous to go to the other major Arab Spring countries, but I traveled widely in the Middle East during the period and spoke to people from most of the affected countries. I am grateful for the time, kindness, and insight that they all provided. There are many people to thank, but I would particularly like to thank the staff and faculty of the Mediterranean School of Business in Tunis, led by Mahmoud Triki, who hosted me on my first trip to Tunis. My guide and research assistant in Tunis, Mabrouk Salhi, was extremely helpful and engaged, and Professor Anouar Ben Hafsa of the University of Tunis provided insight on several visits to the country. I am deeply indebted to my students and colleagues at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) and Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMUQ). My primary appointment during this period was at NU-Q. They provided generous travel funds and time for me to do research in the affected countries xv

Preface as well as travel to the US and Europe for conferences. I also taught classes at CMU-Q and they provided additional funds at times. My colleagues, and particularly the students, provided encouragement and insight as the project developed. I taught classes on Democratization, Middle East Politics, and the Arab Spring that drew many interested students who were able to provide enthusiasm and insight into their countries. Three in particular come to mind: Shahd Dauleh, Mariem Fekih, and Ismaeel Naar, but there were many others. I also benefitted greatly from the knowledge of colleagues like Zachary Wright, Joe F. Khalil, Jocelyn Mitchell, and Khaled Al-Hroub. My supervisors and deans Sandra L. Richards, Richard J. Roth, Jeremy Cohen, John Margolis, and Everette E. Dennis also provided great support. This book grew out of my dissertation for Northwestern University, which I  completed while teaching at NU-Q. My primary adviser was William Reno. He read several drafts of the dissertation and the manuscript and has continued to provide insight on the book and the publication process well after I  graduated. I  cannot thank him enough. Wendy Pearlman and Rachel Beatty Riedl of Northwestern University were the other advisors on my dissertation and I would like to thank them for their time and their insight. This argument went through many drafts and has changed greatly over time. I would like to thank reviewers who looked at early versions of the argument, both as articles and as a book. All of them provided helpful feedback, even if some of the feedback was delivered rather harshly. I am particularly indebted to the reviewers chosen by I.B.Tauris, who provided valuable insight on the final version of the argument. I incorporated their insights as much as I could and the book is much better for it. I would also like to recognize all the fine scholarship that has contributed to this work. The general thrust of the argument was developed early on, but it has been deepened and expanded with the help of the excellent scholarship being done on the Arab Spring generally, and the military’s role particularly. I also need to thank Thomas Stottor at I.B.Tauris, who guided the book through the publication process. He dealt with delays and drastic changes and has been supportive and professional throughout. I would also like to thank Arub Ahmed my Production Editor at I.B.Tauris. xvi

Preface Friends and family were also a key part of this process. In particular, my friend and colleague from graduate school at Northwestern, Alisa Kaplan, provided much-needed support and encouragement. Colleagues and friends at NU-Q, like Mary Dedinsky, Geoff Harkness, and John Laprise, provided insight and support at various times. And my mother, Laurel Burns, read multiple drafts and was supportive and encouraging throughout. I am sure there are many more individuals to thank and I apologize for any oversights. As with the text itself, any errors or omissions are the fault of the author.



On the night of 28 January 2011, after chasing the hated police off the streets, protesters in Cairo cheered as the military rolled its tanks into the center of the city. Unlike the police, the Egyptian Army was respected by the population and, after seeing Tunisia’s army help to overthrow that country’s dictator, the Egyptian protesters hoped that theirs would do likewise. They climbed onto tanks to hug the soldiers and chanted, ‘the people and the army are one hand’. Several months later, protesters in Syria chanted the same phrase.1 They, however, must have known this was not true; their army had been firing on peaceful protesters for weeks. One imagines that it was more of a plea, a hope that – as in Tunisia and Egypt – the military would finally turn on the hated regime. In Bahrain, most protesters knew the police and army were not on their side: the ranks were filled mainly from that country’s Sunni elite and with soldiers hired from abroad. There, the crowds chanted, ‘there is no security when the police come from Pakistan’2 and, in Urdu, ‘the police are crazy.’3 They were correct to be suspicious; the army and police attacked them, and then arrested the doctors trying to help the wounded. The military’s behavior constituted the most important difference between the various outcomes in the series of revolts against authoritarian


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring regimes that came to be known as the ‘Arab Spring’. In six countries – Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and Yemen – the protesters overwhelmed the regular police and took significant public spaces, requiring the military to resolve the crisis one way or the other. Elsewhere, protests failed to reach a critical mass because of insufficient support, government concessions, or the preemptive deployment of repressive forces. In those cases, the military was not tested. In cases where the military was tested, its behavior, based upon its internal structure and relationship to the regime, determined whether there would be transformation, authoritarian continuity, or civil war. This book will examine the impact of military structures on the outcome of uprisings during the Arab Spring. Unlike many other books on the role of the military in the Arab Spring, this one is concerned with the role of the military throughout the process of uprising and transition. It focuses on outcomes, not only military behavior or decision making. It shows how military structure determined what the various militaries chose to do in the face of the popular uprisings and examines whether those actions were successful. In cases where the government was replaced, it shows how military structure affected the transition to a new system – whether democracy, renewed authoritarianism, fragmentation, or revolution. In cases of military split, it shows how international intervention and internal features determined the shape of the conflict that followed. To do so, it breaks down the concept of military professionalism into component features and shows how different configurations of those features determine military behavior in the face of popular uprisings and in the transitions that follow. The book presents a relatively complex analytical approach in order to advance a clear and simple argument. Faced with a popular revolt, the most important military characteristics are the military’s distance from the regime leadership and the strength of its internal structure. The former determines whether the military has an interest in defending the regime and will try to do so. The latter determines whether the repression or coup is successful, whether the military collapses, or whether it falls into civil war. In only one Arab Spring case was the military strongly tied to the regime and also possessed of a strong internal structure: Bahrain. In that instance, the military was successful in using massive repression on the 2

Introduction island nation’s small population. In Egypt and Tunisia, the military was organizationally distinct from the regime and had separate interests. When faced with a massive uprising, each military chose to defend its own interests rather than the leadership’s and refused to use massive violence against peaceful protesters. Their strong internal structures meant each was able to withdraw support from the leader as a single unit, and retain influence in the transition phase that decided the shape of the new government. Libya, Yemen, and Syria all had militaries with weak cohesion, some parts of which were strongly tied to the leadership and others that were not. Circumstances were different in each country, but in all three cases there was a major breakdown in the armed forces, with troops firing on one another and civil war as the ultimate result. Once the initial decision is made as to whether a military will successfully defend its regime, split or overthrow the leader, other issues become important. In cases where the military chose not to defend the regime, as in Egypt and Tunisia, its level of external focus determined whether democratization or a return to authoritarianism was more likely. In cases of military split, external intervention determined whether the leader would survive in the short term, with broad and complex forces deciding the ongoing outcome of the conflicts – which remain unresolved as this book nears completion in late 2017. This book will also look at Iran, to discuss outcomes that did not occur in the Arab Spring cases, including the military collapse that led to Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the successful repression that followed the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. Finally, the conclusion will briefly discuss what this analysis means for the future of the Middle East. Most importantly, factionalized militaries like Syria’s and Libya’s are the most common type in the Arab world, so if low oil prices combined with other regional factors lead to another Arab Spring, many other Middle Eastern regimes could be in danger of collapse and civil war.

Explaining the Arab Spring The Arab Spring was an unexpected and potentially world-changing event. Early reactions included grand and hopeful claims that the protests 3

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring represented a transformation of the Middle East, and perhaps the world. The uprisings were seen, alternately, as a final rejection of neo-liberal capitalism;4 the eradication of the particular mode of capitalism prevalent in the Middle East;5 the death knell of the postcolonial mindset;6 or the transformative effect of digital media and the rise of a revolutionary, cosmopolitan youth.7 Many commentators argued the protests occurring worldwide in this period – including those against government austerity measures in southern Europe, against attacks on unions in Wisconsin in the USA and the surge of the Occupy movement – were part of this global transformation, and pointed to its eventual triumph. In fact, some of these protests did cite the Arab Spring as an inspiration and borrowed some slogans. There were also limited protests, and government attempts to pre-empt them, as far away as China. These revolutionary writers mostly recognized that there would be setbacks and failures, but argued that the Arab Spring had unleashed a tide of transformation that was unstoppable,8 though their open-ended view often also meant that their theories were unverifiable. They generally had no strong arguments for why one country produced large protests and others did not, focusing on broader, regional dynamics as causes of the protests and internal dynamics as explanations for their failure. More pessimistic authors looked at the regional dynamics and, while seeing the protests as important indicators of change in the region, feared a replay of previous Middle Eastern uprisings that had ended in strengthened authoritarianism.9 Other writers saw even the most successful cases as a cause for concern, as the end of repressive regimes would empower Islamists, not democrats.10 In most cases, these authors agreed the outcomes of the individual uprisings had been heavily influenced by the military, whether acting on its own behalf or in the interests of some social group. As yet, there has been no global transformation, either towards a youth uprising or away from capitalism. There has been no democratic transformation in the Arab World, nor have Islamists come to dominate the Middle East. Instead, there has been one democratic success and several bloody wars, but the bulk of the region continues to struggle under the same rulers and regimes. Nor have many of the explanations for the uprising that were offered early on – such as economic dislocation, the rising 4

Introduction numbers of unemployed youth or the prevalence of digital media – been able to account for the variation across cases. Broad economic factors do not explain them: Tunisia was relatively well off compared with other Middle Eastern states, while Yemen is the poorest country in the region. Nor is the variation explained by ‘broader causal factors raised in traditional political economy literature, such as youth bulges and unemployment (especially of university-educated youth), rising prices of food, growing inequalities in income distribution, [or] the alienation of previously protected sectors such as public-sector labor and management.’11 Many commenters saw the revolts as a result of new social-media activity, but levels of connectivity and social-media activity do not explain the variation across cases. The places with the highest levels of internet and mobile-phone use, mostly in the GCC (the Gulf Cooperation Council alliance of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates [UAE], Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman), did not experience major protests, which did occur in some of the countries with the lowest levels of internet or mobile-phone penetration, including Libya and Yemen. The internet and mobile phones played important roles in some cases and may have been key to the start and spread of the uprisings, but they do not explain the variation in levels of mobilization across cases. An early book that focused on the role of digital technology found no simple correlation between digital technology, or a digitally connected civil society, and positive outcomes. The presence of a large number of internet and mobile-phone users, plus a minimum of online censorship and certain economic indicators, could interact in some cases to predict outcomes, but overall it found digital media did not in any simple way lead to or allow for uprisings or successful transformation.12 It was found to be more likely that ‘they provided the fundamental infrastructure for social movements and collective action,’ but the fundamentals of revolution were still necessary: alienation from the State, elite and military defection, and abandonment by foreign powers.13 So, while digital media was an important part of the Arab Spring as a large, regional movement it cannot explain it. Nor can it predict variations in mobilization or outcomes between cases. With the seeming failure of large, cross-national variables, other analysts have tried to look deeper into the institutional differences between 5

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring countries to explain the different outcomes. Clement M. Henry looks at the details of the economic system as reflected in banking, rather than broad economic indicators like unemployment and inequality. But, while he makes a compelling argument for why Tunisia and Egypt were primed for an uprising, he does not attempt to explain the full extent of regional variation.14 Vickie Langhohr focuses on organized labor, but finds no clear link between union strength and mobilization across cases.15 Quinn Mecham looks at Islamist movements and argues that their differing strengths did not have a strong effect on the levels of protest or the outcomes, either electoral openings or violence. Whether the regime transitioned to democracy or collapsed into civil war, Islamists only became prevalent after the initial uprising.16 Sean Yom and F. Gregory Gause III look into the surprising resilience of monarchies in the Arab Spring: most experienced only limited mobilization and demands. Only the Kingdom of Bahrain encountered major mobilization and radical demands. Yom and Gause argue that these regimes survived not because they were monarchies per se, but because they were likely to have two of the following three features: a crosscutting coalition, large hydrocarbon rents, or an external patron.17 This is a compelling argument within the context of their article, but does not say a great deal about the very different outcomes in the Arab republics. Ellen Lust focuses instead on elections and legislatures, and finds a connection between the Arab republics and protests. Aging leaders, in order to retain power and pass it on to their sons, had handicapped ruling parties that ‘were once developed to settle conflicts among elites or mobilize support against the opposition.’18 With ruling parties and legislatures weakened, there was no one else for the protesters to attack but the president. This scenario extended to Libya, which had staged no elections but which was being primed for a handover from father to son, and Syria, where the son had already inherited the leadership. It was in these one-party republics that mobilization was the quickest and most demanding. This argument has some value, but as formulated it does not explain the case of Bahrain. Nor does it offer an explanation of the successes and failures. Jason Brownlee, Tarek Masoud, and Andrew Reynolds look at regime types using several classification schemes and ‘find no structural preconditions for the emergence of uprisings.’19 6


A Regional Wave The best explanation for the Arab Spring is probably that the initial Tunisian revolt was the result of internal characteristics and an international economic downturn, and a diffusion effect within a shared cultural and political space expanded the protests into a regional phenomenon. Democratization often happens in waves, as success in one country shows the opposition in others that it is possible and provides strategies, slogans, and allies. David Patel, Valerie Bunce, and Sharon Wolchik argue that diffusion waves were most likely when the first mobilization was successful, entailed limited loss of life and ‘provided a transportable model’ that other activists could use, and when the region shared similar political and economic systems and ‘a common regional language that facilitated cross-national interactions among opposition communities and access to the same information.’20 It was also essential for the diffusion to succeed in a major regional power.21 Thus, for broader diffusion, it was more important that Egyptians be successful than Tunisians. Tunisia was a minor and idiosyncratic country in the Arab world; Egypt was a major power, a cultural touchstone and a bellwether for the region. It was also a key component of US power in the region, so if the United States abandoned its president, Hosni Mubarak, it would signal that the US might support (or at least not oppose) uprisings in other countries. If the strategy could work in Egypt, it could work elsewhere. The larger regional power also modifies the strategy, or, as in the case of the Arab Spring, shows which parts of it are important. The Tunisian revolt was followed by a wave of self-immolations inspired by that of Tunisian street-vendor Muhammed Bouazizi, particularly in Algeria and Egypt, but these did not result in the hoped-for reaction. The Egyptian Revolution showed that, rather than the inspiration of martyrdom, it was the ‘Tahrir model’ – the purposeful seizure of public spaces (in that case, of Cairo’s main Tahrir Square), creating an ongoing crisis that the government must resolve – that was the most important innovation. The Tunisian uprising set off the Egyptian uprising, but the latter spread the revolts to the rest of the Arab world. In the midst of such a wave of protests, the internal characteristics of countries may not fully explain the strength of the various uprisings. The


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring longer a diffusion wave continues, the more likely that protests will occur in countries that do not have the structural conditions for successful democratization – ‘indeed, that process itself tended to become a substitute for those conditions.’22 So, it is perhaps impossible to explain the variations in protest strength based solely on a comparison of internal variables. In fact, two diffusion waves were happening at the same time. While activists were sharing protest strategies and slogans, and learning from the success of their counterparts in previous revolts, authoritarian leaders were also learning from one another and, ‘as regimes adapted to the repertoires of contention developed by the protesters […] the advantage shifted in their direction’.23 Steven Heydemann and Reinoud Leenders focus on Syria, which was preparing for an uprising early on. The Syrian regime attempted to prevent the protesters from taking public spaces with large-scale violence, and once the uprising began to turn into civil war it did all in its power to prevent NATO or the UN from intervening as it had in Libya. Russia and China also learned from the Libya intervention that NATO could use the goal of protecting civilians as an excuse for overthrowing a regime, and withheld their support for such moves in Syria.24 This learning process could also be seen in the cases of Algeria and Saudi Arabia. Early on, Algeria experienced a few scattered immolations and protests. But following the Egyptian example, activists in Algeria, and later Saudi Arabia, began using social media to arrange ‘Days of Rage’, large protests in central locations, based on the Tahrir model. In both cases, the regime was able to monitor social media and pre-empt the protests with massive force. On these ‘Days of Rage’, it was common to find the protesters hugely outnumbered by the police and troops waiting for them.25 While there are many reasons that Algeria and Saudi Arabia were less vulnerable to revolt than elsewhere, leaders were able to learn from the experience of other regimes to design their strategies. This included pre-emptive repression; superficial political concessions; and, where possible, economic giveaways. Because of these dual diffusion effects, any cross-national study of social structure or institutions will struggle to explain the variation in the strength of mobilization across cases. The fact is that Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and Tunisia have very little in common besides a majority Muslim population, a shared Arab identity embedded in a shared cultural and media 8

Introduction space, and authoritarian governments. The most compelling argument is that the Arab Spring was a truly regional event and that ‘each incident of protest mobilization cannot be explained in terms of unique national conditions.’26 It ‘unfolded as a single, unified narrative of protest with shared heroes and villains, common stakes, and a deeply felt sense of shared destiny.’27 Even as outcomes have drastically diverged, ‘time has bolstered the sense of a shared narrative, along with the shared contagion of ISIS.’28 This book argues that the level of mobilization is best explained by regional dynamics, diffusion, and other idiosyncratic factors combining with internal characteristics, but that the outcomes were primarily driven by internal factors, particularly the military. Brownlee et al. may go too far when they say, ‘Because the role of human agency and chance looms large, seeking a parsimonious theory of where uprisings will occur may be a fool’s errand;’29 it is possible that a future analyst may find a compelling, multivariate explanation. However, even if a compelling explanation for different levels of mobilization is found, given regional dynamics and the conflicting demonstration effects it is unlikely that one theory will emerge that can explain both mobilization and outcomes. Acknowledging that it is putting the question of mobilization to one side, this book focus on outcomes – and the outcomes are best explained by looking at the military.

Military Behavior in the Arab Spring From the beginning, it was clear that variation in military structure and behavior would be a key variable in analysing the Arab Spring. The Tunisian military stood out for its professionalism; its defection and swift handover of power challenged years of analysis about the Arab world. Six months into the uprisings, F. Gregory Gause III argued that ‘Middle East Studies’ as a whole had missed the possibility of the Arab Spring because, after years of authoritarian continuity, writers on the region had ‘assumed that no daylight existed between the ruling regimes and their military and security services’ and stopped studying the military as a distinct institution.30 With a few important exceptions, he is correct. In an era of uncommon authoritarian resilience in the Middle East, what little writing there was about the subject focused mostly on the means rulers used 9

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring to control and placate their militaries, the lack of traditional professionalism within them, and the strategies regimes used to prevent their militaries from overthrowing them.31 However, even as they argued that these militaries had largely been neutralized, authors recognized that they were often the biggest threats to authoritarian rulers and that their structures of control were a key factor in regime continuity. In response to the key role of the military in determining outcomes in the Arab Spring, analysts once again looked closely at the military in the Arab world. The earliest analysts tended to use conditional or behavioral explanations for military decisions, ‘reading the generals’ attitudes from their actions’.32 As the theory advanced, analysts attempted more structural explanations, predicting military leaders’ decisions based on the organizational structure of the military and its relationship with the regime. All these studies have valuable insights to offer, but many suffer from a few similar problems. First, most look closely at only a few cases. That is largely unavoidable when writing a short article, but the analyses are often handicapped by case selection. Second, they are limited by their time frame. Many of the articles had been published by 2013, but even those written later mostly focus on the military’s initial reaction to the protests. Finally, almost all mischaracterize the situation in Syria. The last two issues in particular lead to a focus on whether the military tried to protect the regime rather than whether it was actually able to do so. Early versions of these military-structure arguments often focus only on one or two characteristics. Michael Makara argues that creating competition for resources between branches of the security forces, particularly between internal-security forces and the military, makes the military more likely to turn on a leader who had denied it resources. This can be mitigated if the regime uses a communal strategy to build a military that does not identify with the protesters. The stronger the communal strategy within the military and the more distinct it is from the opposition, the more loyal the military would be.33 Hicham Bou Nassif focuses on the ties between the top military leaders, who give the orders, and the mid-ranking and junior officers, who have to ensure they are carried out. Their different interests are determined by regimes’ ‘coup-proofing’ strategies, but the key question is whether senior and junior officers share interests in defending 10

Introduction the regime and are willing to shoot civilians in order to do so. If the leaders cannot count on rank-and-file officers to shoot protesters, they will not order them to do so – for fear that the military itself will break down.34 Brownlee, Masoud, and Reynolds use hereditary rule as a proxy variable for military loyalty. They argue, rightly, that it is necessary to find ways to predict military loyalty based on structure rather than – as some have done – infer the military’s interests from its actions. To be analytically useful, it is important to find clear indicators that could predict military behavior before the uprising.35 Brownlee et al. look at all the major Arab Spring cases and identify two primary variables that predict military loyalty: oil wealth and hereditary rule. If regimes have oil wealth, they can buy military loyalty; if they have survived a transfer of power from father to son, that proves they have gained control of the military. A country with either feature was likely to survive the uprisings, through either a lack of mobilized opposition or a successful crackdown.36 Later analysts proposed more complex variables. Rather than looking at one or two key structural features, they tried to use multiple indicators to create compound variables to predict military behavior. Th ese analyses share features with the one offered in this book, with key differences. Most importantly, this book looks not only at the military’s decisions but also at whether its actions were successful, and it has a very different view of the Syrian case. William Taylor focuses on military interests and restraints. Interests are determined by the military’s prestige, funding and autonomy in decision making, and whether siding with the protesters will improve its material and political position. Restraints are ‘any mechanism that limits the military’s power, freedom of movement, or decision-making ability’, which are a result of the various coup-proofing strategies discussed in Chapter 1.37 Aurel Croissant and Tobias Selge argue that military actions are based on military autonomy and what leaders believe about the internal cohesion of their military. Unlike Taylor, Croissant and Selge assume that the military think defensively as opposed to opportunistically. They argue that even autonomous militaries, with interests different from the regime, are predisposed to support the regime. They will only abandon the leadership if they believe shooting protesters is likely to cause the military itself to collapse. If the protests are small, or if military leaders believe they have 11

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring strong control over their troops, they will choose to defend the regime with violence.38 Eva Bellin offers a similar argument. Instead of autonomy, she uses the term ‘institutionalization.’ An institutionalized military is organized independently from the leadership; orders, internal structure, and career success are determined by rules and procedures, rather than the whim of the dictator or relationship with his family. When militaries are institutionalized, officers will see their interests as separate from the regime, and ‘the military elite will be able to imagine separation from the regime and life beyond the regime.’39 When faced with protests, such a military may have an interest in abandoning the regime. Whether it will do so is determined by the size of the protests and whether they are peaceful. As protests swell, the risk to the military grows. Shooting peaceful protesters could lead to desertion in the ranks. Even if repression is successful, shooting a large number of peaceful protesters may hurt the military’s prestige both internally and externally. However, if a military is not institutionalized, if key military elites are strongly dependent on the regime, it will always defend that regime because it fears what will happen to it should the regime fall.40

Decisions, Outcomes, and the Syrian Case Most of the authors cited above focus their theories on a military’s decision making rather than the ultimate outcome of an uprising or conflict. They tend to focus on whether the military leadership and its core units try to defend the regime, not whether the military as a whole is loyal or the defense is successful. As such, almost all the aforementioned analysts can argue Syria is a case of military loyalty or regime continuity despite the massive defections by lower-level soldiers and the resulting civil war. This does not necessarily constitute a failure of theorizing by any of these authors, just a different way of framing the question. This book is not only concerned with military decision making but also with the military structure’s impact on ultimate outcomes, both in the immediate aftermath of the uprisings and in the longer term. Syria is a divisive case. By focusing on the continued loyalty of the Alawi elite, as opposed to the actions of the whole military, many analysts 12

Introduction count Syria as a case of military loyalty or continuity rather than military breakdown. By concentrating on the loyalty of key Alawi units, Makara, Croissant and Selge, and Bou Nassif all downplay the implications for their theories of the significant number of Sunni defections.41 By focusing on the behavior of elite units, Taylor is able to characterize the Syrian case as one of military loyalty and ‘fervent support’ for Bashar al-Assad – despite the fact that he sees comparable loyalty from the elite, regime-protection units in Libya, but calls that a case of military fracture.42 It is certainly true that defections in Libya were more rapid, higher up the chain of command, and involved whole units instead of the individual defections that were the dominant form of breakdown in the Syrian military. However, this is a matter of degree of military breakdown, not a categorical difference. Both cases involved serious defections that prevented the militaries from quickly suppressing protests and led to civil war. And, as the final breakdown of the Libyan military only followed NATO intervention,43 it is possible to argue that the only reason the Syrian military remains intact is that NATO decided not to destroy it, for reasons outside of military structure. Brownlee et al. are more consistent in their treatment of Libya and Syria. Rather than military behavior, they define their dependent variable as authoritarian breakdown. In their view, an outcome does not count analytically as authoritarian breakdown if it is driven by military action from abroad, because ‘there is a clear counterfactual case to be made that had the foreign military not attacked, the regime would have persisted during the immediate period in question’.44 In this view, the Libyan military may have experienced serious defections but loyal forces were likely to have retained control had NATO not intervened. As such, theoretically, Libya belongs with Syria as a case of regime continuity. They distinguish these cases of loyalty in the core military elite from those of Yemen, which saw a split amongst its core military elite. A better reading of the situation is that in all the three cases – Syria, Libya, and Yemen – the military broke down in some significant way. The character of that breakdown differed in each case, which is interesting in itself and will be addressed in this book. In all three cases, loyal sections of the military could probably have kept the leader in power indefinitely, even if they lost territory and had to deal with a continuing insurgency. 13

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring However, the military breakdowns and civil wars opened up these countries to the possibility of international intervention, and it was the actions of the international community that decided the immediate fate of each regime. The Assad regime may regain full control after years of war and with extensive external support, but the defection of tens of thousands of soldiers; the massive urban destruction; the widespread internal displacements; the millions of refugees leaving the country and the abandonment of significant territory to Kurds and various Sunni groups, including ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), mean that Syria must be counted as a case of military split and civil war, not regime continuity.

Will and Capacity Bellin argues that military behavior in the face of protests is dictated by will and capacity. Will is determined by the military’s institutionalization and the size of the protests. In her 2012 article, she argues that capacity, defined as a sufficient number of tanks and troops, was not a concern; accordingly, she focuses on will.45 Like Bellin and others, this book treats military separation from the regime and the size of protests as a strong determinant of what militaries will choose to do. When faced with large, peaceful uprisings, militaries that are organizationally independent of the leadership will be reluctant to shoot protesters and will likely refuse to do so. However, this book defines capacity differently. Instead of focusing on material capacity, such as numbers of troops or whether have been paid, it focuses on internal cohesion as a determinant of success. This is not a completely new idea, but it does differ from what many other analysts are doing. For most of the analysts cited above, internal cohesion is a consideration for military decision making, not a determinant of success once the decision is made. Put another way, for many of these authors, capacity is viewed as the expected effect of an action on military cohesion. If leaders expect an action to break the cohesiveness of the military, if they believe it has low capacity, officers are expected not to order the action. So, for Bou Nassif, capacity is determined by whether senior officers believe junior officers share interests in defending the regime. If the senior officers do not believe their juniors will follow their orders to shoot, the senior 14

Introduction officers will not order them to do so for fear the military will break down.46 Croissant and Selge argue that only autonomous militaries have the ability to defect, but will only do so if defending the regime – by shooting protesters – is likely to threaten the military’s internal cohesion.47 Taylor’s concept of restraints is similar in many ways to that of internal cohesion, though it is reversed: high internal cohesion is a result of low restraints. In his view, high restraints affect decision making, and ‘will result in (1) more reactive and slower decision making and (2) a lower propensity to support the protesters.’48 This is not to say that expected internal cohesion is not sometimes an important determinant of military decision making. In cases where a military is already in charge of the government, internal cohesion may be its prime concern in whether to violently defend its rule.49 None of the major Arab Spring cases were military regimes, however. And for many officers in places like Syria, Yemen, and Libya the cohesion of the armed forces as a whole was not a concern. In fact, this book will argue that many of these militaries were designed to split in cases of massive uprisings. Instead, this book treats internal cohesion and the strength of the military’s internal structure as a predictor of success rather than of behavior. The analysis with which this book has most in common is a 2014 chapter by Phillipe Droz-Vincent. He concludes that a military’s relationship with the regime leadership and distance from society determines whether it will try to defend the regime or not. Cohesion determines whether the military will be able to successfully abandon the regime and affects whether democracy is a likely outcome. However, like many others, Droz-Vincent makes what this book argues is a problematic distinction between what he calls military ‘explosion’ in Libya, ‘fragmenting’ in Yemen, and loyalty in both Syria and Bahrain, despite the large-scale defections and civil war he describes in Syria. And since it was written before the 2013 Egyptian coup, there are some key differences on how to interpret the decisions of the Egyptian military.50 Gause hits on a similar logic as Droz-Vincent in an early article for Foreign Affairs. This was written in 2011, so he can only extrapolate some outcomes, and the section is brief, but Gause sees the way that a military’s distance from the leadership determines its sympathies and organizational strength determines its success.51 This book agrees with 15

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring the thrust of these two arguments, but it looks at the cases in greater depth; attempts to focus on structural features in a way that is transparent and comparable across regions, rather than the more impressionistic look possible in the short articles cited above; and it reaches different conclusions about some cases. The other key difference with those analyses is that this book adds a discussion of the 1979 Iranian Revolution to show a military type and outcome that did not occur in the Arab Spring – that of a sultanistic military that collapsed and led to a radical, revolutionary regime. The Iranian case also calls into question the predictive value of oil wealth, hereditary rule, and military loyalty. This analysis also has commonalities with Zoltan Barany’s 2016 book How Armies Respond to Revolutions and Why. Both disaggregate the features of civil–military relations and examine cases outside the Arab Spring for insight. Barany argues that attempts to predict military behavior with a simple set of variables is impossible; ‘there is no clever model that can tell us, once we “plug in” all the appropriate variables, what a military will do in a crisis.’52 His goal is to give policy makers tools to anticipate military reactions and thus the ability to shape their policies. Rather than proposing one or two major variables, he offers a host of issues that military leaders must consider before they decide what to do. These include the military’s internal cohesion, whether the military is made up of volunteers or conscripts, generals’ perception of regime legitimacy, the army’s past conduct towards society, the regime’s treatment of the military, the directions the leader gives to the military, the size and nature of the protests, the popularity of the uprising, fraternization with protesters, and foreign-affairs issues.53 By looking closely at these features, and their relative importance, policy makers can more accurately predict military action. This book also attempts to disaggregate the features of civil–military relations, but it looks at some different elements and focuses as much as possible on structural features rather than attitudes or perceptions, as some of Barany’s considerations do. It also disagrees with Barany on which factor is most important in determining behavior. Barany focuses on cohesion; this book argues that the military’s structural relationship with the leadership is the first factor to consider. And it differs with Barany on how to classify Syria. Unlike most of the above analyses, this book also looks deeply at 16

Introduction all the major Arab Spring cases, rather than deeply at a few or in a more cursory fashion at many cases. This allows it to focus not only on military structures and effects but also how the military structures in each country came about.

Military Structure and the Outcomes of Middle East Revolts The goal of this book is to explain the Arab Spring cases and to use those insights to create tools for looking at military reaction to uprisings in other regions and periods. To do so, it breaks down military structure and civil– military relations into seven key features of military professionalism that can then be used and combined in various ways to predict military behavior in different situations. The features are: ‘Representativeness’, ‘Cohesiveness’, ‘Distinctiveness’, ‘Bureaucratization’, ‘Subordination’, ‘Expertise’, and ‘External Focus’. In the Arab Spring cases, the analysis found that combining four of these features into two broad characteristics of civil–military structure explained the initial outcomes of the uprisings, whether coup, collapse, civil war, or successful repression. The two key characteristics are ‘Distinctiveness & Subordination’ and ‘Internal Structure’. The ‘Distinctiveness & Subordination’ characteristic is a combination of those two features, as will be shown in the next chapter. This is similar to the concept of autonomy or institutionalization, but not strictly the same. It describes whether the military is a distinct organization with its own command structure, interests, and identity, and whether it dominates or is an integral part of the regime leadership structure. If a military is distinct in interests and identity from the regime leadership, it is unlikely to risk its own position by shooting large numbers of peaceful protesters on the leader’s behalf. The second characteristic combines the Cohesiveness and Bureaucratization features to describe the strength of the military’s ‘Internal Structure’. This attribute determines whether the military can act as a single unit. As discussed above, internal structure will determine whether the military is likely to be successful in defending the regime or overthrowing it, rather than determining what it will choose to do. These broad characteristics of civil–military structure will determine not only 17

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring whether a military will attempt to defend the regime, but whether it will be able to do so. After this initial outcome, other features come into play. Some of the authors above, particularly those that look at non-Arab Spring cases, use the level of social mobilization as a variable. The size of protests is certainly a consideration for both military interests and the odds of success: even independently organized or divided militaries may be willing to repress protests that are small, violent, or composed of the more radical elements in society. Repressing a small or radical protest is not likely to be hugely detrimental to the military’s image, internal organization, or future; indeed, it can be politically risky for officers to defy the leadership when the stakes are small. However, since this book is focused on the Arab Spring and a few other cases displaying high mobilization, this is not an issue. As with other authors, this analysis controls for the level of mobilization by focusing on only cases where protesters overwhelmed the police at multiple sites and were demonstrating in large numbers.54 Each military had to decide whether to risk its reputation and its troops’ loyalty by killing large numbers of peaceful civilians. Non-Arab Spring countries were able to prevent demonstrations from going beyond police control with early political concessions, government giveaways, or judicious preemptive repression. This book briefly touches on one case, Iran in 2009, where loyal portions of divided militaries were able to successfully repress protests early on, before they became too large to deal with and tested the loyalty of the broader military. The primary argument, in its simplest form, says that, given large numbers of peaceful protesters, the combination of characteristics and outcomes will be as shown in Table I.1: Table I.1 Military Structure and Outcomes of Peaceful Uprisings Strong Internal Structure

Weak Internal Structure

High Distinctiveness & Subordination

Military Coup Tunisia Egypt

Military Collapse Iran (1979)

Low Distinctiveness & Subordination

Successful Repression Bahrain

Military Split Libya Syria Yemen


Introduction Tunisia and Egypt both had militaries that were independent from the regime leadership and had strong and distinct military identities. Because they were not dependent on regime leaders for their organizational survival, they were unwilling to risk the military’s loyalty, reputation, or future prospects by shooting large numbers of peaceful protesters. They were also cohesive enough to defect as a single unit and take control of the State. Bahrain’s military is a peculiar case because it is commanded by leaders of the minority Sunni regime and packed with mercenaries dependent on the regime for their jobs and citizenship. They identified not with the protesters but with the regime, so they were willing to shoot protesters to defend it, and the military had a strong enough internal structure to engage in massive repression of peaceful protesters without splitting. Bahrain is also a small island nation, which gave the leadership a strategic, geographical advantage that other countries lacked. Yemen, Libya, and Syria all had fragmented militaries, with some units strongly tied to the regime leaders and others packed with out-group soldiers or regime rivals. When faced with a massive uprising, they split along social and structural fault lines. Some soldiers sided with the leadership, some deserted and some began fighting loyal troops. Each military broke down differently, and this will be discussed in the case studies, but the divided nature of their militaries and the widespread nature of the protests meant that each of these three countries eventually slipped into civil war. Including the case of Iran in 1979 adds a further military type and outcome, and therefore expands and clarifies the argument. Iran’s military during the 1977–9 revolution was distinct from and subordinate to the Shah’s household, but was so shot through with sultanistic meddling that it was not unified enough to either overthrow the Shah or effectively repress the population. It engaged in enough repression to damage its internal cohesion, but not enough to stop the protests. In the end, it collapsed and left the streets and state vulnerable to revolutionary takeover. After the initial outcome, whether overthrow or military split, other issues come into play. The nature of domestic politics, including the level of development, the strength of trade unions and other civil-society organizations, and previous experience with democratization all affect whether a country will democratize after its regime falls. However, it is also necessary to have an intact military that is willing to accept democratization. If the 19

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring military collapses, the transition will devolve into fighting between various groups in the resulting security vacuum. If the military remains intact, its external-versus-internal orientation will determine whether it is willing to accept democratization. Tunisia’s military remained intact and, because it lacked business interests to protect, it handed over power to a civilian government and served as a moderating influence during that country’s transition. Egypt’s military helped to overthrow Mubarak but then took control of the government and guarded its own interests during the transition, eventually leading to a coup against the new, freely elected president. In Iran in 1979, the military collapsed, leaving a security vacuum that was exploited by radical groups to push for a utopian, revolutionary regime. Libya’s military was defeated in 2011, but its fragmented militias and weak state meant that democratization was unlikely and negotiations eventually collapsed into renewed civil war. In cases in which the military splits and its troops start fighting amongst themselves, international politics will have a strong impact on the outcome – as will the specific nature of the rift. Yemen’s military split was not initially a case of regime breakdown but largely a continuation of factional politics by other means, so it was amenable to international negotiation. In Libya and Syria, the factionalized militaries were designed to survive if they split: the core military elites and their loyal troops were prepared to fight defecting soldiers and, in a vacuum, would have had a strong chance of winning. However, international support for either the regime or opposition helped to determine the outcomes. In Libya, NATO and some Arab allies intervened militarily to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi. Conversely, Syria’s international allies blocked weak NATO pressure and intervened to defend the regime. In all three cases, military splits eventually led to civil war. The level of military expertise may also have some impact on the outcome once civil war has begun, as better-trained militaries with more sophisticated weapons are more destructive and may be more likely to believe they can eventually prevail. This is not a strong conclusion, because the level of destruction is no doubt affected by the country’s level of development, urbanization, international involvement, geography, extent of social divisions, and the length of the conflict, but the idea is suggestive. 20


The Plan of the Book This book will look at military variables all the way through the transition process, from the time the military must decide whether to shoot protesters to the installation of democracy or other outcome. Its focus will be the Arab Spring, but it will also look at Iran in order to fill out and clarify the analytical framework and argument. In particular, by looking at the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the Green Movement protests of 2009, the book is able to present further military types and trajectories, allowing for a more accurate portrayal of the role of the military in determining the outcomes of popular uprisings. The purpose of this study is to clarify the ways in which military structure strongly determines outcomes of popular uprisings, and to provide a framework to study the military that can work across time periods and regions. In order to understand military structure, it is important to look at the entire repressive apparatus, but the book’s focus is on the actions of the uniformed military. Whether that includes just the regular army, navy, and air force or also parallel regime-protection units, the study focuses on, to put it crudely, the troops with the tanks and planes. The cohesion of armed forces is affected by their penetration and monitoring by the internalsecurity forces; however, police, militias and internal-security forces are almost always willing to defend a regime, and are unlikely to be able to fight a unified army once it makes its decision. This study does not theorize as to why certain countries experienced significant mobilization and others did not. As such, it focuses only on cases where mass demonstrations had overwhelmed the police and seized significant public spaces. It discusses the role of the international community, but argues that international influence is largely felt through the military structure. International influences may have had some impact on military decisions whether to shoot or not, but the structural variables predict outcomes very well on their own. International influences were important in determining regime survival in cases of civil war, but only after the military had already split. This study offers predictions and regularities, but it does not argue that structural features will always lead to the same outcomes. As Guillermo


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring O’Donnell and Phillipe Schmitter argue, transitions are times when ‘insufficient information, hurried and audacious choices, confusion about motives and interest, plasticity, and even indefinition [sic] of political identities, as well as the talents of specific individuals are frequently decisive in determining the outcomes.’55 Would Iran be a democracy now if, in 1978, the Shah had just announced he was dying of cancer and would be gone in two years? Particularly in cases with a single, powerful leader, personal factors may come into play, but individuals act within institutional and political constraints that help determine their options. The book follows Michael Bratton’s and Nicolas van de Walle’s notion of structured contingency.56 Transitions are intensely political and grounded in a country’s inherited institutions. While there is a great deal of contingency in any transition, and actors may switch sides based on individual power seeking and limited information, decisions take place within a space constrained by previous institutions. As such, rulers and military leaders may behave in uncharacteristic and unpredictable ways – even against what appear to be their own interests – but, all else being equal, similar institutions seem to draw them towards similar behavior. In the confusion of an uprising, powerful people must make quick decisions, and personal qualities and relationships may matter, but in the Arab Spring cases there are strong regularities based on military structure, properly construed. This book has five goals. Firstly, it attempts to explain how military structure determined outcomes in the Arab Spring and other cases, both the military’s immediate behavior and the ultimate result. Secondly, it attempts to outline an analytical approach for studying military structure and civil–military relationships that can be used to study military behavior across regions and time periods, particularly with regard to democratization and revolution. The analysis is steeped in the civil–military relations and Middle East literatures, but also in the democratization and revolutions literatures, and attempts to contribute to all four. Thirdly, it shows how each country developed its distinct military structure and civil–military relations, demonstrating that military structure is not a simple reflection of social structure but a complex outcome based on social structure, colonial legacies, regional dynamics, and postcolonial state-building strategies. It will also show how governments undermine 22

Introduction military professionalism as a means of regime survival, and how these strategies may break down – as they did in Yemen, Libya, and Syria. Fourthly, it will briefly discuss what these findings mean for the long-term stability of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, particularly given the prevalence of factionalized militaries in the region. Finally, it attempts to do this in a way that is accessible to a broad, educated audience, but with a complexity and rigour that is useful to specialists. It hopes to serve the needs of students looking for a readable primer on military behavior during the Arab Spring, as well as providing a set of tools that can be used by political scientists and other analysts. The next chapter will present the bulk of the argument. It will discuss the key components of military professionalism and discuss the coupproofing strategies that Arab regimes have used to undermine it and reduce the risk from coups and uprisings. Finally, it will show how military structures, measured as the component parts of military professionalism, combine to predict military decision making in the face of mass mobilization, and then how they help predict ultimate outcomes. Because of the large number of in-depth case studies, and because this book is meant to be accessible to a wide audience – including undergraduate students and educated laypeople – it uses the minimum number of endnotes, focusing on direct quotations and what may be seen as controversial assertions. Due to space considerations, the bibliography will also be limited to works cited directly in the text. Chapters 2–7 discuss the Arab Spring cases, presented in a combined chronological and thematic order that best illustrates the arguments. These are opaque, authoritarian regimes, so it is impossible to use statistics or simple variables to judge the nuances of their military structures. An indepth historical and process-tracing methodology is necessary. Each chapter looks at history, social structure, colonial influence, and state formation to trace the development of military structure over time. The chapters are not all identical in weight or structure. Some have more direct information on the military than others. This is a result of the military’s varying role in each society and the amount of information available about it. The book has gone through several stages of development and the author is indebted to the primary research that many scholars have undertaken, 23

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring investigating the nuances and details of different countries’ militaries since the Arab Spring uprisings. Where there is less in-depth information about the military, usually because it is less central to the regime power structure, the chapter will focus on how history and regime decisions created the military structure that exists. Each historical section ends with a table describing where the military falls on each of the seven civil–military features outlined above, and what that should predict for the uprisings. The chapters then describe the Arab Spring uprisings and how military structure affected each country’s revolt and the outcomes that followed. Chapter  8 discusses Iran, focusing on the 1979 revolution but also touching on the 2009 Green Movement protests. Iran provides important insight into the book’s framework by showing a different military type and outcome – that of a sultanistic military that collapsed and allowed the creation of a radical, utopian regime: the Islamic Republic of Iran. The chapter then discusses the way the Islamic Revolution changed the military structure in Iran from a sultanistic to a factionalized one, and how that changed structure reacted to the 2009 Green Movement campaign against the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is a case in which a factionalized military was able to successfully suppress a peaceful uprising, and it offers other insights into the argument. The concluding chapter sums up the analysis. It discusses the key points of the framework, and how it might be used to study cases beyond the Middle East. It also briefly examines what the study might mean for the future stability of the region.


1 The Men with Guns

According to Michael Bratton and Nicolas van de Walle, even years after the transitions from authoritarian rule in Africa began, ‘the fate of democracy in the sub-Saharan continent continued to rest in the hands of the men with guns.’1 Understanding the behavior of the military is key to studying democratization, but the lack of variation in previous regional waves of democratic uprisings has made it difficult to make firm predictions about military behavior. The revolutions and democratization literature on Latin America showed a key role for the military, but there was not sufficient structural variation in the region’s militaries to fully explain differences in behavior: most countries had either a dictatorial military with some level of institutionalization or a dictator backed up by a patrimonially controlled military. Under certain circumstances, a ruling military could open up space for democratization,2 and patrimonial militaries were prone to collapse and could pave the way for revolution.3 However, South American countries, for all their variations, were mostly former settler colonies, with similar types of internal conflict and levels of US influence, resulting in relatively similar military structures. As such, they were studied intently, but it was hard to separate militaries by structure and thus predict their behavior.


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Nor did the Eastern European revolutions of 1989–91 provide a good testing ground for theories of military structure. For the most part, the Soviet satellite regimes had Soviet-style military structures imposed from outside. These were largely professional militaries and, for the most part, were not major actors in the uprisings. Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signaled that the Soviet military would not defend the Eastern European regimes, and in only two cases did their national militaries play a major or obvious role in the transitions: Romania, where Ceausescu refused to step down and was killed by his armed forces; and Russia itself, where Soviet military leaders attempted a coup to prevent the breakup of the USSR but were unable to get their rank-and-file to oblige. Africa did not prove a good place to study military structure either because, according to Bratton and van de Walle, ‘none of these armies […] acted as a unified force […] Soldiers’ alliances went unexpectedly either way’; they were largely a ‘wild card in the game of regime transition.’4 Nonetheless, the vast literature existing on democratization and revolution has made some key observations. It is generally true that the more a military identifies with protesters – either through ethnicity, sect, ideology, or social class – the less likely soldiers and junior officers will be to shoot. The more important a military is in an authoritarian regime – in ruling position, material benefits and responsibility for internal repression and brutality – the less likely it is to surrender power or abandon the regime. Militaries are more likely to experience defections or collapse if they have not been paid, have been involved in a damaging conflict, or have lost international support. Those that have legal status as defenders of a constitution against internal enemies are more likely to coup. Militaries that are institutionalized and have separate interests and command structures from a regime are more likely to abandon it. Many military officers view the internal cohesion of the armed forces as their primary concern and may sacrifice power and other interests in order to maintain the military as an institution. Finally, patrimonial militaries that are too close to a leader might be unable to break with the regime whilst being unable to fully defend it, leading to utopian revolution instead of democratization.5 The Arab Spring offers an opportunity to look anew at the role of the military in democratization and revolution. The regions’ military and social 26

The Men with Guns structures distinguish the Arab Spring from previous waves of revolt in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa in ways that highlight the role of military structure as a separate variable. Countries in the Arab world are more likely to have many politically salient ethnic, religious, or tribal divisions than those in previous democratizing regions like Latin America or southern Europe, while their states have, generally, been more secure and institutionalized than those in much of sub-Saharan Africa. They also tend to have much stronger armies than sub-Saharan nations, and ones that are much more varied in structure than in the Soviet-installed regimes in Eastern Europe. As such, some of the variables that did not stand out so starkly in the transitions in Africa, Eastern Europe, or Latin America are easier to see in the context of the Arab Spring. The goal of this chapter will be to use these insights from democratization and revolutions theory, combined with civil–military relations theory and the study of coup-proofing strategies in the Middle East, to build a set of features that will help categorize militaries along multiple dimensions. These features, properly construed, can predict military behavior in the face of a popular uprising, both the initial actions – repression, coup, military split, or military collapse – and the ultimate outcomes. In order to understand military structure, it is important to look at the whole repressive apparatus, but the focus is on the decisions of the uniformed military: the troops with the tanks, planes, and heavy weapons. Fred Lawson argues that internal-security forces should be studied more intently as determinants of military behavior.6 However, this study finds that the police, militias, and other internal-security forces are always willing to use deadly force to defend a regime. And while the power of internal-security forces can affect the cohesion and independence of the military, they are usually unable to resist the military when it chooses to act.

Civil–Military Relations and Military Professionalism According to Peter D. Feaver, the central challenge of civil–military relations ‘is to reconcile a military strong enough to do anything the civilians ask them to with a military subordinate enough to do only what civilians authorize them to do.’7 The military must be able to defend the State from 27

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring strong enemies, but not seek to overthrow the State or unduly influence its politics. The study of civil–military relations is essential for understanding how the military’s structure and identity affect its relationship with the State, and also how improper structures and ideas will encourage militaries to take power from civilian leaders or, in a positive move, overthrow dictators and cede power to democratic institutions. For the purposes of democratization, a fully professional military – as described below – is the best possibility. A professional military will be unlikely to intervene in the politics of a democracy, while nonetheless being willing to overthrow an unpopular, authoritarian regime in response to a popular uprising. The concept of professionalism is the basis of Samuel Huntington’s foundational The Soldier and the State. Huntington argues that the ‘management of violence’ has all the characteristics of a profession: a high degree of expertise honed through education and research, a sense of responsibility to the society the soldier serves through the exercise of their profession, and a sense of corporate identity between officers created through common bonds formed in training and the separate social and work circles they frequent.8 Huntington argues the modern soldier is a professional in the same sense as a doctor or lawyer, and requires just as much time and freedom to develop the expertise to do the job well. In exchange, the soldier asks only for autonomy over their sphere, the internal organization and management of the military. As long as the government does not ask the soldier to assume a political role, they will not do so. According to Huntington, the officer is limited ‘by an awareness that his skill can only be utilized for purposes approved by society through its political agent, the state.’9 Huntington does not question the legitimacy of the government itself; the Kaiser’s Imperial German Government is not seen as different from American democracy on the question of legitimacy. For S. E. Finer, Huntington’s notion of professionalism can be a danger to the regime, rather than protection. He writes, ‘The military’s consciousness of themselves as a profession may lead them to see themselves as servants of the state rather than of the government in power.’10 The military’s claim to represent the authority of the State, or the nation, over that of the government is the standard call of coup plotters and military revolutionaries. In this view, a professional officer’s duty is to the government only as far 28

The Men with Guns as it is the legitimate authority for the nation. The more dubious legitimacy of an unelected government – or a weak, unpopular democratic one – may encourage a professional officer to see the government as the enemy of the nation and their professional duty as overthrowing it. This view may also have legal force. Some constitutions include clauses identifying the military as a defender of the constitution against enemies both internal and external, giving military leaders an excuse to intervene in domestic politics. For Finer, ‘firm acceptance of civilian supremacy, not just professionalism, is the truly effective check.’ This ‘principle of the supremacy of the civil power’ does not give the military the problem of deciding whether the government truly represents the nation but simply subordinates it to the civil power, however that power is justified.11 This is a good feature for democracies and stable autocracies because it will prevent coups. But it is problematic during peaceful uprisings against authoritarian regimes, when citizens might rightly expect the military not to shoot them even if the civil authority demands it. In this study, subordination is most important as a measure of separation from a regime. If the military is subordinate to the regime, it will not necessarily share interests with that regime, nor care who leads it. Professionalism and subordination are particularly fragile when the military’s responsibility goes beyond external protection and includes domestic issues. Without an external focus, a military concentrates on internal problems and is more likely to intervene in politics. Civilian elites will also be tempted to call for support from that military, or parts of it, in elite political conflicts.12 Alfred Stepan argues that during the 1950s, a ‘new professionalism’ developed in places like Brazil and Peru. Their militaries continued to be institutionalized and professionalized in Huntington’s sense, but their focus on internal conflict seemed to require that they become educated in economics and political theory so that they could understand, destroy, or prevent the rise of revolutionary movements.13 This expanded political education, outside of the technical education that Huntington saw as necessary for managing armies in combat, created a new class of professional military officer. They not only viewed themselves as having the discipline and organization necessary for tackling societal problems, but also the knowledge to see what should be done. When they believed the regime was unable to make the necessary changes and sacrifices to defeat 29

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring the revolutionary movements that they saw threatening their nations, their institutional, corporate identity allowed them to act in concert to take over the government.14 Externally focused militaries, by contrast, will be more concerned with external defense than internal politics. Eva Bellin argues that the military need not even be professional in Huntington’s sense to be a danger to the regime when faced with protests. Institutionalized militaries are not necessarily apolitical, but may still largely follow the rules of Weberian bureaucracy, stressing rule-driven and meritocratic behavior. This is distinguished from patrimonial organizations, in which ‘staffing decisions are ruled by cronyism [and] the distinction between public and private [is] blurred, leading to widespread corruption and abuse of power’. An institutionalized military, even if it is politicized, will have a coherent identity separate from the State with ‘a distinct mission, identity and career path [where] officers can imagine separation from the state’,15 which might make it more willing and able to turn on a regime that threatens its influence. In the most highly institutionalized militaries, this also means that internal cohesion is the most important goal. As Hicham Bou Nassif argues, there is ‘consensus in the literature that officers typically prioritize maintaining hierarchy, discipline, and cohesiveness within the military over any other goal.’16 To fail to do so would risk them being a less effective fighting force; losing prestige and power; being vulnerable to internal meddling and, potentially, arrest; and – at worst – ending up fighting former comrades. Combining the insights of these authors yields the qualities that are required for a professional military and the seven key features that will be used to distinguish different countries’ military structures in this book: ‘Representativeness’, ‘Cohesiveness’, ‘Distinctiveness’, ‘Bureaucratization’, ‘Subordination’, ‘Expertise’, and ‘External Focus’. A fully professional military, which demonstrates all seven qualities, is likely to protect a democratic regime in all circumstances and protect an authoritarian regime in the course of normal politics. However, it will pose a real danger to authoritarian regimes when faced with massive, peaceful protests. A professional military will not only be able to imagine its place in a new regime, and be reluctant to shoot peaceful protesters, but will also have the unity and expertise to block other regime-protection forces from defending the regime. 30

The Men with Guns For the authoritarian ruler, a lack of professionalism is not necessarily better, however. If a professional military is often unwilling to protect an authoritarian regime against popular uprisings, a highly politicized military might contain multiple competing groups all interested in overthrowing the regime for their own reasons. In this, as in other areas, it is not necessarily in the interests of authoritarian leaders to create strong, independent institutions that may rival them for power. In fact, it may be in their best interest to create weaker but more loyal institutions.17

Coup-Proofing and Military Structure If the central problem in civil–military relations is creating a military strong enough to protect a regime from attack but subordinate enough not to try overthrowing it, the bulk of Arab regimes have erred on the side of subordination at the expense of military effectiveness, ‘in part because the methods regimes use to ensure [military] loyalty often conflict with the principles of efficient military organization.’18 This is not a problem of funding or lack of access to training and weapons: ‘Middle Eastern armed forces are the world’s largest, as measured by size in proportion to population and by spending as a percentage of gross domestic product’, according to the World Bank.19 And they have had access to the most advanced Soviet and US weaponry and training. Their reduced external effectiveness is, rather, a deliberate strategy for retaining regime control. Most Arab regimes rely on the US security guarantee for external protection, and many Arab armies, particularly in the Gulf, are primarily of symbolic value against external enemies. Their main purpose is internal regime protection.20 In the larger states, armies are large but not necessarily effective for their size, even with external training and support. The Soviets found most of their Arab allies were not particularly successful at adopting Soviet warfare doctrine but did show ‘a great deal of sophistication in modifying conventional unit frameworks’ for the unique role of regime defense when designing their presidential guard and regime-protection units.21 That is, they did not set up their militaries very well to fight foreign wars but they were well prepared to defend their regimes – from their own troops, if necessary. 31

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring There were myriad coups in Arab countries between their independence from European control and the end of the Arab Cold War, a contest of subversion and popular mobilization that pitted the more radical Arab republics against the conservative Arab monarchies for dominance of the Arab world between 1956 and 1970.22 Because of internal and regional changes, and the surge in oil wealth, Arab regimes began to gain greater control over their militaries in the 1970s. By 1999, James Quinlivan could argue that several Arab regimes had become ‘coup-proofed’, sacrificing external military capability for internal stability by heavily politicizing and dividing their militaries.23 Coup-proofing is, however, a disputed concept. Holgar Albrecht addressed the issue in two separate articles published in 2015. In the first, he argues that coup-proofing is a myth: it reduces the number of coup attempts, and can lengthen a leader’s tenure in office, but does not ultimately prevent a leader being removed by a coup.24 A better way to conceive of it is that coup-proofing works, just not perfectly; it reduces the danger without fully eliminating it. Moreover, different coup-proofing strategies may reduce different types of threats and work differently in different regimes. In a second article, Albrecht addresses the value of various coup-proofing strategies. He argues that there is a ‘paradox of authoritarian coup-proofing.’25 In normal times it may seem a good strategy to build an autonomous military that is detached from day-to-day politics. In a crisis, however, a military that does not identify with the leadership might find it easier to abandon a regime. In fact, it might be a better strategy to closely intertwine the military with the leadership. Politicized officers may present a greater coup risk in times of peace, but are more likely to defend the regime against public uprisings. As will be shown throughout this book, different coup-proofing strategies will lead to different military reactions to protests and different outcomes. Autonomous militaries like Egypt’s are more likely to overthrow a leader but preserve the State and perhaps the bulk of the regime. Factionalized militaries like Syria’s are more likely to try to protect a leader, but can do serious damage to the State by causing it to fall into civil war and sectarian or ethnic conflict.26 Sultanistic militaries organized around loyalty to a single leader, as in 1970s Iran, will protect that leader in times 32

The Men with Guns of calm but are prone to collapse and the fall of the leader and the entire regime, opening the country up to utopian revolution. Albrecht argues that, given the relative success of the Syrian military in protecting its leaders, more regimes will pursue that strategy.27 In fact, the factionalized Syrian system is already the dominant coup-proofing strategy in the Middle East. Secondly, authoritarian leaders are not free to choose any coup-proofing strategy they wish. Kevin Koehler may go too far in saying that ‘[a]uthoritarian incumbents do not choose coup-proofing strategies’, but rightly argues that coup-proofing strategies are strongly pathdependent and that ‘the management of political-military relations is intimately linked to larger dynamics of regime development.’28 The coup-proofing strategies available to leaders are limited by social structure, resources, history, regime dynamics, and external influences. Authoritarian regimes make decisions about what they value and what they fear. Are they more afraid of external invasion or internal overthrow; are they more concerned with uprisings from below or coups from within the leadership; will the leadership prioritize the survival of the regime, broadly construed, or the person of the president?29 These decisions take place within constraints of social structure and history, but are also influenced by decisions by powerful leaders, unpredictable events, and conflict between regime elites. The remainder of this section describes some of the key strategies leaders use to coup-proof their militaries. Each strategy affects one or more of the seven features of military structure outlined above. Each will help lead to different outcomes when regimes are confronted with mass mobilization, but because of a country’s history, regime type, or social structure not all strategies are available or effective in all regimes. Several common, overlapping strategies are identified throughout the coup-proofing literature, and other authors use different terms. Albrecht, for instance, identifies two broad strategies: integration with or segregation from the political leadership.30 This study groups the strategies into three broad areas: (1) ‘mirroring the State,’31 wherein the goal is to create a military that has interests synonymous with the State, so that it has little interest in changing the nature of the State; (2) fragmentation and surveillance, wherein the military is prevented from acting in concert because of heavy monitoring and breaking up the military into discrete and overlapping 33

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring institutions that will block one another in any coup attempt; (3) distraction, whereby the leadership gives the military high-tech weaponry to train with, non-military tasks to keep it occupied, and perks to keep it happy, in the hope that it will be content with its material situation and focus on something besides politics. These strategies, plus external protection and oil wealth, have made Arab regimes increasingly resistant to coups and external invasion since the 1970s (see Chart 1.1). Chart 1.1 MENA Coups by Decade 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 1940s







Decade Successful Coups

Failed Coups

Taken from the Center for Systemic Peace ‘Coup d’Etat Events, 1946–2010’ and including all states in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region: Syria, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Iraq, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, Algeria, Northern Yemen, Morocco, Southern Yemen, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.32 It does not include the Arab Spring coups of the 2010s, as it is those outcomes that the book is trying to explain.

These coup-proofing strategies also created particular types of militaries, which affected how those militaries would act when faced with mass protests.

Special Loyalties33 In regimes in which a minority group rules over a majority, it is common to rely on tribal or ethnic allies to staff the military – or, at the very least, its most well-equipped and trusted elements. This may involve a small, tribal group, like Tikritis in Iraq or the Qadhadhfa tribe and its allies in Libya. Family members 34

The Men with Guns often serve in the highest and most sensitive positions. Quinlivan calls these ‘communities of trust’, as ideally kinship and other tight bonds will minimize tensions and rivalries within such a coalition. Risa Brooks calls this ‘stacking the deck’,34 while Makara terms it a ‘communal strategy’ and argues that the more a military is made to match the communal identity of the regime, the more likely it will remain loyal.35 Bou Nassif calls this ‘fostering shared aversions’, which can not only be done when conflicts exist between communities but may also be indoctrinated into militaries through training, such as the Egyptian regime’s fostering of a military aversion to the Muslim Brotherhood.36 This strategy affects the military’s representativeness and distinctiveness, and may affect its cohesiveness if people from different groups are separated into different units rather than being completely excluded from the military, as they are in Bahrain. Albrecht makes an interesting observation about coup-proofing strategies that use strong family or group ties to bind the military to the leadership, arguing that ‘the patrimonial organization of a military apparatus increases the likelihood of coups and mutinies within the family or ethnic or religious community’, such as palace coups.37 However, it might be more accurate to say that such strategies limit the likelihood of coups to mutinies within a family or ruling community.

Dual Militaries Trust only goes so far, even with family and allies, so many authoritarian regimes rely on multiple military organizations to serve the needs of internal repression and for protection against a coup by the regular military. Often, these units enjoy better pay and greater prestige than others, and they are almost always drawn from more loyal groups. In regimes with a revolutionary ideology, these are often the ‘guardians of the revolution’ and are self-selected for loyalty and then heavily indoctrinated into the regime. Some of these dual militaries may be militias, but some are full-blown armies in themselves. In Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Basiji militia are heavily involved in defending the regime against internal enemies. This strategy affects the cohesiveness of the military as it has no single organizational structure but is separated into competing organizations. If these separate military organizations come from 35

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring different communities, it affects the representativeness of the military – and also its external focus, broadly construed. The regular military may largely be focused on external protection, but the best-equipped troops will be focused on internal enemies.

Presidential-protection Units Often, regimes will have special units dedicated to regime protection stationed near the capital. Quinlivan argues that these must be ground units – to protect against other ground units – and must be fully equipped with the same, or better, weaponry than the regular army, including tanks and armoured vehicles: they ‘must be large enough, loyal enough, and deployed so that [they] can engage and perhaps defeat any disloyal forces in the immediate vicinity of the critical points of the regime.’38 Dual militaries and presidential-guard units are examples of fragmentation strategies, relying on multiple institutions to balance one another. These strategies limit the cohesiveness, distinctiveness, and external focus of the military. As with dual-military strategies, if presidential-protection units come from different communities than the military as a whole they also affect the representativeness of the military. In the Shah’s Iran, the Imperial Guard was a specially selected unit reserved for regime protection, but because it was not ideologically or communally distinct from the military it affected the military’s cohesion without strongly affecting the representativeness of the military as a whole.

Multiple Security Services Having multiple, overlapping intelligence and security agencies is a fragmentation-and-surveillance strategy common amongst authoritarian regimes worldwide, but it is often a central part of the Middle Eastern mukhabarat (security/intelligence) state. These multiple agencies compete for influence and funding, spending much of their time spying on each other. They balance and monitor one another, ensuring that no single leader or group has enough power to overcome the others, and prevent the creation of conspiracies by constant monitoring. The internal-security services, in particular, become tied to the regime’s survival. They are 36

The Men with Guns usually responsible for most of the day-to-day repression, and often have good reason to fear the end of the regime that rewards and – perhaps more significantly – protects them.39 The Ba’ath regimes were known to use political officers to monitor troops, in the Soviet fashion. ‘During the early phases of the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam [Hussein] attached Ba’ath Party commissars to military units sent into battle in order to monitor their activities […] In Syria, an Alawi officer may act as a “shadow commander” in pivotal units led by non-Alawis.’40 Muammar Qaddafi encouraged the creation of ‘committees everywhere’, including in the army. Libya’s Revolutionary Committees reported directly to Qaddafi as an additional monitor for the regime.41 In Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and other Gulf monarchies, members of the royal family serve throughout the military and security services and can report on problems or dissent.42 This can affect the military’s cohesiveness, distinctiveness, and bureaucratization as there is functional overlap between military and security services, and various forces are continually interfering in one another’s activities and command structures.

Internal vs. External Security Forces Bou Nassif and Makara both argue that creating competition for resources between the military and the internal-security services can reduce the risk of spontaneous coups but also compromise the military as a tool of regime defense. If rulers lavish funds on their internal-security services and assign them the primary duty of protecting the regime, the military may not have the resources or strength to overthrow the regime but will also have no interest in protecting the regime against mass protests.43 This makes it dubious as a coup-proofing strategy. An external focus is also an important aspect of professionalism. A firm external focus will reduce military interest in regime politics and increase the military’s unity and distinctiveness, making it more able to defeat the internal-security services should it need to. For this kind of counterbalancing and resource competition to truly work as regime protection, the military and internal-security services must have overlapping responsibilities and capabilities, tying them into a complex web of monitoring and competition. 37

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring

Centralization and Shuffling Another fragmentation-and-surveillance strategy is the constant shuffling of officers to prevent them from developing an independent power base or too much popularity. This ‘big shuffle’ is part of what Joel Migdal calls ‘the politics of survival.’44 Large-scale purges of military officers are common when a new regime takes power or when a particular challenger and their allies need weeding out. These purges remove what could become a troubling faction and can deter potential plotters.45 Regular rotation of officers is a standard bureaucratic practice in professional militaries; politically motivated shuffling is a means of undercutting military bureaucratization and distinctiveness. In some cases, there is intense centralization or personalization of command whereby lower-echelon officers report directly to the palace rather than through their commanders or ministries, and parallel command and reporting structures are common. The Shah of Iran was known to concern himself with the movements of individual units and to personally oversee all arms purchases.46 Also, while many observers have noted a greater institutionalization in many Arab militaries over time, political loyalty often still trumps qualifications and competence in the politics of promotion.47 This will affect the cohesiveness, distinctiveness, and bureaucratization of the military. On the other hand, too much internal meddling in an already institutionalized military may cause it to contemplate a coup to protect its cohesiveness.

Buying Off the Military In addition to mirroring and fragmentation and surveillance, one way to keep the military out of politics is to keep it occupied with other tasks and give it enough resources and prestige to keep it satisfied. According to Brooks, ‘military “toys” help to maintain loyalty.’48 High-tech weaponry serves as a status symbol, and keeps the military focused on training with the new technology and out of politics. Egypt and Jordan also ‘buy off ’ their militaries with special clubs and subsidies, enhancing officers’ prestige and buffering them from the economic stress experienced by so much 38

The Men with Guns of the civilian population. In Egypt, in particular, the military has a lot to do besides fight. It is involved in myriad businesses, both related and unrelated to defense, and has large numbers of conscripts involved in infrastructure and other projects. Bou Nassif and Makara both focus on the competition for resources between the military and the internal-security services, arguing that lavishing money on the internal-security services at the expense of the military will reduce the latter’s loyalty to a regime.49 In many countries, the military serves as a means of inculcating loyalty to the regime, and sometimes to a national identity. It also functions as a means of upward mobility and a jobs programme to employ groups that might otherwise be a problem for the regime. As such, many Arab regimes maintain significantly larger militaries than they need. Large militaries may also make plotting a coup more difficult; it is harder for a small, secret group to take control of such a large and diverse entity.50 Buying off the military with high-tech equipment may increase its expertise and potentially its cohesiveness and distinctiveness, as soldiers become accustomed to training with complex technology and military doctrine. But using special military perks or allowing militaries to become businesses will turn their focus inward, making officers more interested in internal politics, and damage those militaries’ bureaucratization and cohesiveness if their chiefs are given special perks or if officers are dispersed amongst non-military institutions.

Increasing Expertise While rarely apolitical, many Arab militaries have improved their technical competence and institutionalization over the years, which may also have reduced their likelihood to coup under normal circumstances. ‘In the Middle East […] military professionalization has not necessarily meant subordination to civilian leaders. Instead, it has meant the introduction into the armed forces of modern equipment and technology, upgrading training facilities and procedures, making recruitment and promotions less arbitrary, and having “professional” cadres of specialist officers and military experts at various levels and branches of the armed forces.’51 Quinlivan argues that this increased expertise makes educated officers less likely to coup because they appreciate the low possibilities for success. Officers 39

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring trained in proper military schools require plans, resources, and timetables and want to minimize losses and risk. When expert officers contemplate a convoluted system of overlapping agencies and multiple militaries, and the difficulty of keeping a plan secret within a large and suspicious security establishment, they are likely to see a coup as impossible and stay out of politics.52 Increasing expertise may also affect cohesiveness and distinctiveness, as soldiers focus on training instead of politics. However, more expertise and caution mean that when a military does coup it is more likely to be successful.

External Patrons Having the support of an external patron may also serve as a check on coups. If the military relies on funding from an external source, it may be less willing to risk that funding by staging a coup. And if an external power has the capability to intervene in internal politics, it might be able to preempt a coup. In Eastern Europe before 1989, the Red Army was always nearby in case a national military – or local population – tried to break free from the Soviet orbit. The Soviet Union also seemed to be adept at preventing coups against its allies in the Third World, mostly through lending the services of its intelligence agencies to client regimes.53 Reliance on a foreign patron can backfire, however. While a reluctant patron may dissuade a military from staging a coup, a frustrated patron may give the green light to coup plotters and may even help. The history of the modern Middle East is filled with coups against allied regimes that the US did not interfere with or actively aided, and instances when friendly leaders were challenged and the US encouraged the military to coup to forestall revolution. Thus, international patronage can be double-edged. External influences may also affect how militaries view civil–military relations, and increase their desire for distinctiveness, unity, and bureaucratization; however, any external ideological influence will be limited by domestic military structures. One early argument about the Arab Spring was that American training of officers from Egypt and Tunisia made them less likely to shoot protesters and more likely to support democratization. However, William C. Taylor makes a strong argument that this is not the 40

The Men with Guns case and that it is possible that US-based military education does not make foreign officers attracted to democracy or accepting of American influence.54 Like Taylor, this book argues that American influence on military decision making was limited during the Arab Spring, and that officers’ behavior was driven more by their interests and their countries’ internal military structures. Since the 1970s, these coup-proofing strategies have been very successful. After a period of significant coup activity in the 1950s and ’60s, Arab rulers were able to maintain a strong hold on their militaries, and usually their populations. Key military elites and units are bound to the rulers, often by blood. Out-groups, when they are allowed to serve in the military, are placed in under-strength and underequipped units, or in technical divisions that do not have the ability to fight ground units. Then everyone is given a mandate to watch and block everyone else, assuring that even if some group did get up the nerve to stage a coup, someone would either stop it before it started or be able to block it on the streets. There have been coup plots since the 1970s, but usually they have been caught before they could take control or even launch.55

Identifying Military Structure The above discussion of civil–military relations identified seven key features that denote military professionalism and distinguish different countries’ military structures. They are ‘Representativeness’, ‘Cohesiveness’, ‘Distinctiveness’, ‘Bureaucratization’, ‘Subordination’, ‘Expertise’, and ‘External Focus’. The examination of coup-proofing showed the strategies that Middle Eastern regimes use to shape these features. This section will discuss how those features will be measured and identified in the context of this study. It is important to reduce the number of features to the minimum necessary to advance a clear argument and to render them useful for future analysis of other regions. However, it is also important to distinguish them from one another as much as possible, which requires more than other analysts may use. As such, there are seven general features and each will be measured as ‘low’, ‘moderate,’ or ‘high.’ This requires looking deeply into each country’s history and social and military structure. 41

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring As Barany says, ‘[o]ne of the principal reasons why recent Middle Eastern and North African events took so many observers by surprise was the sheer opacity of these countries, especially their military establishments.’56 These regimes do not offer reliable statistics, and the complex nature of the coup-proofing structures described above make it difficult to separate out command structures, organizational boundaries, budgets, and the true loyalty of personnel. The mutual leverage that the military and the leadership have over one another in authoritarian regimes may even make it difficult to separate the two and determine who is actually in charge.57 As such, the only way to understand such military structures is with a detailed look at each country. In most cases, there are no simple and available variables that can do the work; it requires historical research and process tracing. The case studies will show how historical, social, external, and regime factors led to the various Arab military structures, and how those military structures led to the different outcomes in the face of broadbased uprisings. Military structures are deeply influenced by history, but they change over time. Syria went from having a deeply factional military after independence to one purposely structured to be dominated by Alawi allies of the Assad family. Iranian military structure changed drastically after the revolution. Identifying such features requires looking deeply at the cases, making some judgement calls, and sometimes relying on impressions. Other features are more easily discerned. This study will use a three-step scale for each feature of military structure: ‘low’, ‘moderate,’ and ‘high’. These are relative measures. As this set of tools expands to look at other regions or time periods, some of these categories might require additional levels. For instance, five levels might be needed to account for the very high expertise of the US or Soviet militaries versus the exceptionally low expertise of some very weak armies. To make the conclusions as compelling as possible, coding is conservative. When there is a question of whether a feature should be described as high or moderate, it is coded as moderate to minimize potential unconscious bias. For instance, the Egyptian military is largely distinct from the regime, except at the highest levels and for the most powerful retired officers taking on civilian positions. Even so, it is coded with moderate distinctiveness. 42

The Men with Guns The analysis tries to make the features and categorization as clear as possible, but in some cases different analysts might see them differently. The seven features and their criteria for measurement are:

Representativeness If the military is to represent a nation, it should reflect that nation. As Huntington argues, a military is less likely to shoot if it identifies with protesters.58 In diverse societies, the major social groups should be represented throughout the military structure, not in separate units. Representativeness will refer to different sets of divisions in different societies: whatever is most politically salient, whether that be race, ethnicity, religion, region, or some combination. Some commenters have suggested that class might matter as well. There may also be identity and generational differences between senior officers and junior officers – or between officers, who view the military as a career, and enlisted conscripts.59 However, militaries with otherwise strong cohesiveness have often been able to overcome these differences through indoctrination, propaganda, and control strategies.60 The author remains open to the possibility of using class and other features as an identifier in some cases, but this study focuses on more ascriptive features of identity, like region, tribe, sect, and ethnicity. If a military is largely representative of a national population throughout its chain of command, it is called highly representative. Moderate representativeness can mean that most major social groups are represented, but that they are separated into mostly distinct units. It may also be used if the dominant group comprises a supermajority in the country even if it excludes some minorities, such as the US before the military was racially integrated following World War II. A military that excludes a large portion of the population, particularly if it is the majority, has low representativeness.

Cohesiveness Is the heavy military a single, unified organization or broken into competing organizations or factions? If units align by ethnicity or religion, or political groupings supersede military identity, then that military is not 43

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring cohesive. Cohesiveness, however, does not necessarily mean a military is committed to the national good – it may use its unity to push for military power instead – but that it is a largely unified interest group. As stated above, many authors argue that military leaders’ first goal is to retain the internal cohesion of the military. This is often true but is not a general rule. Some militaries lack cohesiveness in the first place and may be specifically designed to separate in times of crisis rather than break completely from a regime. Cohesiveness will also determine how important officers feel it is to defend the military institution as a whole, over other concerns. Officers in a cohesive military will attempt to defend that cohesiveness, as undermining it will dilute the military’s power as an interest group. The less cohesive a military, the more likely it is to split and the less likely it will be able to effectively either repress an uprising or overthrow a leader. If a military is heavily penetrated by competing internal-security services, this will also affect cohesion as soldiers will not know who to trust or be able to coordinate or communicate well. Dorothy Ohl argues that the concept of military cohesion is often slippery and unspecified, combining organizational, identity, and ideological factors.61 That is true, and this book tries to remedy the problem by focusing only on larger structural factors as much as possible and by separating the concept of military cohesion from that of representativeness and distinctiveness from the regime. A system with a single, national military will be identified as highly cohesive. Moderate cohesiveness will mean that there is a single, national military containing multiple groupings within it, which compete for a leader’s favor or represent different political factions. If a military is heavily penetrated by internal-security forces, it will also be considered only moderately cohesive. If it is officially monitored but largely immune from internal-security forces’ pressure, it will remain in the highly cohesive category. Low cohesion would signify a military structure that includes parallel militaries in competition with each other.

Distinctiveness Are military officers mostly separate from other parts of the government in their career paths and responsibilities? A military may be unified as an 44

The Men with Guns interest group but not fully distinct from a regime leadership, such as when its members move in and out of government positions. Distinctiveness is key to whether military officers will feel obliged to protect a regime in order to protect their own interests. The more distinct in its career path, the more likely the military will be to view its interests differently from the leadership. There may seem to be some overlap with cohesion, but cohesiveness is focused on whether the heavy armed forces are a single unit or made up of competing bodies with separate organization and interests. Distinctiveness attempts to measure the separation of personnel between the military and other areas of the government, particularly the regime leadership. If military personnel spend their whole careers in a separate military hierarchy, the military has high distinctiveness. If officers move back and forth into civilian government, its identity becomes at best moderately distinctive. If military leaders are drawn from the same families as the leadership and regularly have both civilian and military duties, then that military has low distinctiveness.

Bureaucratization Rule-bound and hierarchical organization denotes high levels of bureaucratic structure and heightened capacity to act as a unified group in the face of an uprising. This requires that an identifiable group of superiors issues orders and that these are reliably followed. This is contrasted with politicized militaries. Some of these feature combinations are possible, but some are not. For instance, it is possible for a military to be internally cohesive but not bureaucratic, but it is unlikely that a military could be functionally bureaucratic but not internally cohesive. Highly bureaucratic militaries regularly rotate officers and promote based on seniority and rule-bound, merit-based procedures. Moderately bureaucratic militaries have some of these features but may deal with occasional political meddling, particularly at the top of the military hierarchy. Militaries with low bureaucratization promote officers based on personal loyalty or identity. Any military containing a high 45

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring proportion of the ruler’s family members will be considered to have low bureaucratization.

Subordination Subordination measures the extent to which the military serves the State or directs the civilian state. Subordination and bureaucratization are difficult to measure objectively. ‘Classic indicators used to gauge relative power (control over appointments, political succession, budgets, and policy) often do not yield a clear-cut picture,’62 so this feature must be judged impressionistically. However, it attempts to capture structural and historical relationships rather than attitudes. If a military loses most of the conflicts it has with the government, it will be considered subordinate. If the constitution gives the military a legal right to intervene in politics to protect the country from internal enemies, it can usually be considered equal to the regime – but a history of effective subordination may counter that. If the key military leadership comes from the same family as, or is in other ways part of the central core of, the regime, it will also be considered equal, or of moderate subordination. If a military chooses the president or can regularly override civilian decisions, it will be considered dominant, or of low subordination.

Expertise Expertise measures the complexity of military training, equipment, and doctrine. As Quinlivan’s argument shows, it is important not to confuse technical expertise with apolitical professionalism.63 Expertise is a secondary issue in this study and other scholars might have more concrete ways to measure comparative expertise, but this study will rely on a sense of the overall competence of the military, separate from manpower levels. This feature attempts to capture the character of the military as a whole. So if there are pockets of excellence, like well-trained and equipped regimeprotection units, but a military as a whole is poor, it will be coded as having 46

The Men with Guns moderate expertise. If a military generally has up-to-date equipment, is well trained, and uses complex military doctrine, it will be considered of high expertise. Even if it has a few key units with up-to-date equipment, if a military relies heavily on mercenaries, part-time tribal combatants and militias, or has a history of poor performance in combat, it will be considered of low expertise.

External Focus This attribute measures degrees of military focus on external war fighting versus internal suppression or non-military tasks. A military that is focused internally can display all the other features of professionalism and still view it as in its interests to take over the State in times of crisis. At the same time, once a transition begins an internally focused military is less likely to accept democratization, because it has internal interests to protect. A high external focus represents a military geared almost completely towards external defense. A low external focus would include militaries with more focus on business interests than external defense, or those focused on containing mass uprisings or coups by other military units. A moderate level of external focus would signify a military that has minimal economic interests and is not focused on wide-scale repression, but is focused on battling active insurgencies rather than external enemies.

Measuring Structural Features and Identifying Military Types Based on the criteria described above, and informed by the case studies that follow, the features of each military are ranked below. A term is included for each military type, which may serve as a useful shorthand for remembering the general structure and comparing ideas with other analyses. The military types are explained in more detail in the case studies. The structural features for each military are shown in Table 1.1: 47

Table 1.1 Structural Features and Military Types Representativeness





Expertise External Focus

Military Type


















Institutionalized/ Corporate





































Iran (1979)









The Men with Guns Tunisia’s military is the only case in this study with strong scores on all the features of professionalism at the time of the uprising, though its expertise could have been higher. It was representative of the nation, distinct in interests from the regime leadership, cohesive and bureaucratic, and focused on external defense. Its expertise was only moderate. Egypt’s military was representative, but the military leadership was not quite as distinct from the regime leadership as it could have been. It was a cohesive unit with mostly bureaucratic structures, but its focus on its internal businesses over fighting wars meant that it was institutionalized but not professional. Bahrain has an unusual military made up of regime elites and foreign soldiers. That makes it a special type that has almost none of the features of professionalism, but is unusually unified in effect. Iran’s military in 1979 was professional in some areas but had too many internal responsibilities, and its cohesiveness and bureaucratization were damaged by sultanistic control. Libya, Syria, and Yemen all had militaries that were broken into competing camps. They had low cohesiveness and only moderate representativeness because soldiers from different backgrounds went into different units. Military units were led by the children and family of the leadership, so the military as a whole was not distinct from the regime or bureaucratic. And all three were more focused on internal repression than fighting external wars. However, the Libyan and Syrian militaries were purposely designed to operate that way, so they are termed factionalized. The Yemeni military was that way because the weak Yemeni state was unable to gain control of all the military forces in the country, so it is termed factional. All three could be expected to split in the face of protests, but the nature of those splits would differ. It is important to note that factionalized militaries are the most common type in the Arab world, and include those of Libya and Syria as well as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq under Saddam Hussein and probably now, as well as contemporary Iran. Thus, if the argument in this book holds, many regimes in the Middle East are much less secure than they appear. If a future uprising coincides with a downturn in oil prices, reducing the ability of states like Saudi Arabia to buy off internal opposition and bolster regional allies, many regimes may become prone to infighting and civil war. 49

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring

Features, Methodology, and Other Variables The discussed military types provide a useful shorthand, but this study focuses on structural features individually and in combination to provide the most compelling explanation. This means looking at military decision making and outcomes during two phases. The first is the uprising and the questions are whether a military will try to use violence to defend a regime or coup and whether it is able to do so successfully in the short term. That will determine whether there is a successful coup, successful repression, a military collapse, or civil war. The second phase concerns what happens after a government is overthrown, collapses, or slips into civil war. In cases where a military overthrows the president or collapses, will there be democratization, utopian revolution, or a return to authoritarianism? If the military splits into factions, which is likely to win? Different features of military structure matter in different phases. In order to find the appropriate relationships, this study uses a combined Method of Agreement/Method of Difference research design, choosing cases based on shared characteristics and both similar and differing outcomes. Initially, the study focused on only the significant revolts from 2011, but the fact that there were only two representative militaries in that subset, Egypt and Tunisia, demanded more variation. Including the Iranian Revolution of 1977–9 added another potential outcome, revolutionary overthrow, and another military structure, the sultanistic. The Iranian Revolution was also an important precursor to the 2011 Arab Spring revolts: the US feared military collapse, particularly in Egypt, could lead to an Islamist revolution like the one in Iran in 1979. As this project developed, various combinations of features were tested against the outcomes in an ongoing process of refinement. The most robust predictions for the uprising phase came when combining two sets of features into two broad characteristics of civil–military structure: ‘Distinctiveness & Subordination’ and ‘Internal Structure’. The term ‘characteristic’ is used here deliberately to denote a cluster of shared features that identify overall patterns of civil–military structure and relationships. Given the opacity of these regimes and the impossibility of a firm weighting of the effect of different coup-proofing strategies, this is the clearest and most transparent


The Men with Guns analytical approach that the author could conceive of. So, these features and characteristics provide a strong representation of civil–military structure, and a clear way to distinguish cases, without claiming numerical precision. As stated above, one goal of this study is to create an analytical framework that is transportable to other regions and time periods. So, the features and characteristics that are most important in the Arab Spring cases, where militaries were tied to a regime but did not rule, might be less important in cases where the military itself rules. It is likely that in some other circumstances or for some other questions, different features might be more important than in the Arab Spring cases or might combine in different ways. It is also possible that some features will be found to be important in more than one phase. As stated in the Introduction, the level of mobilization is held relatively constant by only including cases where protesters had already come out in large numbers or captured large public spaces. The focus is on what a military does when it is called to save a regime. However, lower levels of mobilization and the nature of the opposition may make even professional militaries more likely to defend a regime. A small uprising or one led by Islamists, disorganized youth or other radical groups will reduce the internal and external costs of engaging in repression. The other major variable that many authors have focused on is international support. The democratization and revolutions literature broadly recognizes that regimes become more vulnerable if they lose the support of external allies. In the Arab Spring cases, the international variable was much more important in cases of civil war than in the initial actions of the military. Instead, the impact of international pressure was largely dependent on military structure. During major protests, ‘every ruler ordered his military and/or security agencies to suppress protests by force (including lethal force).’64 So international pressure does not explain which rulers were willing to shoot. While in most cases military structure on its own is sufficient to explain military behavior during the Arab Spring, differences in military structure may have an impact on whether the military is open to international pressure in some cases. If the military is a separate and distinct organization, the international community might be able to influence it through promises or threats. This was tried with Egypt, because US 51

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring military leaders could speak directly to their Egyptian counterparts, but their influence does not appear determinative.65 Where a military does not have interests distinct from the regime, like Bahrain, international pressure and communication, if that is even possible, will not stop the military from shooting protesters if the regime orders it. Finally, this study treats the military as a unitary actor. It looks at the entire military in the uprising phase, and asks if the military as a whole will attempt to defend the regime or defect, and whether it can do so successfully. If the military splits and breaks into competing camps in the second phase, then each faction may be looked at separately.

Military Characteristics and Outcomes in the Uprising Phase The two most important characteristics in determining the outcome of the uprising phase were ‘Distinctiveness & Subordination’ and ‘Internal Structure’. When faced with large, mostly peaceful protests, these characteristics of civil–military structure determined whether there would be a successful military coup, successful repression, military collapse or military split. The first characteristic combines the ‘Distinctiveness’ and ‘Subordination’ features and represents a military’s distance from the regime in identification and interests. If a military is characterized by high distinctiveness and subordination, it will view its interests as different from the regime leadership. Put another way, because it is a separate organization that can survive or fall separately from the leadership, its interests are objectively different. This study does not assume that the military is a wholly rational actor; leaders may not always be able to clearly see where their collective best interests lie, but the greater their institutional distance from the regime the more likely military leaders are to look after their own rational interests. Shooting large numbers of peaceful civilians will affect military cohesion, international support, and the military’s national and self-image. And there is a risk that, once begun, the repression will be unsuccessful and the military could collapse, destroying the military institution and leaving individual officers open to prosecution and execution. 52

The Men with Guns Even if repression is successful in the short term, military leaders may be open to prosecution at some future point if the regime is eventually overthrown or the leader replaced. Faced with the prospect of shooting a large number of peaceful protesters, distinct and subordinate militaries should be inclined to protect their own interests instead of the leader’s and refuse to open fire. The values for each individual feature are the same as described in Table 1.1, and will be explained in detail in the case-study chapters. The ‘Distinctiveness & Subordination’ characteristic is a combination of those two features, as shown in Table 1.2:

Table 1.2 Distinctiveness & Subordination Characteristic High Distinctiveness & Subordination

High Moderate Low Subordination Subordination Subordination

High Tunisia Distinctiveness Moderate Egypt Distinctiveness Iran (1979) Low Distinctiveness

Low Distinctiveness & Subordination Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Syria

As can be seen here, the cases fall fairly cleanly within either ‘High’ or ‘Low Distinctiveness & Subordination’. There will be cases in which militaries fall on the dividing line and require additional analysis, but in the Arab Spring cases and Iran the differences are clear. The ‘Internal Structure’ characteristic combines the ‘Bureaucratization’ and ‘Cohesiveness’ features and denotes the military’s ability to act as a single unit and successfully carry out its decisions, whatever these may be. As stated above, in this study internal structure is treated as a measure of the military’s capacity to secure its preferred outcome rather than a determinant of what it will choose to do. A military with a weak internal structure might realize it is in its best interests not to shoot protesters and instead overthrow the leadership, but be unable to muster the necessary agreement 53

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring among officers to do so. The ‘Internal Structure’ characteristic is presented in Table 1.3: Table 1.3 Internal Structure Characteristic Strong Internal Structure

High Moderate Low Bureaucratization Bureaucratization Bureaucratization

High Tunisia Cohesiveness Moderate Cohesiveness Low Cohesiveness


Bahrain (special case) Iran (1979) Libya Syria Yemen

Weak Internal Structure

While most of the cases fall firmly into the categories of ‘Weak’ or ‘Strong Internal Structure’, Bahrain is a special case. It has a low level of bureaucratization due to the heavy presence of members of the extremely large royal family. However, those family connections – combined with the fact that the rank-and-file soldiery comprises foreign recruits dependent on the royal family for their jobs, protection, and citizenship – means that the military does in fact have a strong internal structure. Some may question why ‘Representativeness’ is included as a feature of military structure if it is not used in the final analysis. This is for three reasons. Firstly, given the intense sectarian and tribal politics of the Arab Spring, when starting the project the author assumed that the representativeness of the militaries would be a strong determining factor. That representativeness was not a more powerful predictor was a surprising finding, though given the number of times that national armies have been willing to shoot their own people, it probably should not have been. Secondly, the analysis tries to distinguish between the social make-up of a military and its internal cohesion, so it includes both as separate features. Thirdly, one of the book’s goals is to provide a framework that is applicable to other regions. On other questions, the structural features may need to be studied in different combinations and the representativeness feature 54

The Men with Guns may hold more power. However, in its simplest form, the structural characteristics as conceived paint a compelling picture on their own, as seen in Table 1.4:

Table 1.4 Military Response to Mass Mobilization Strong Internal Structure

Weak Internal Structure

High Distinctiveness & Subordination

Military Coup Tunisia Egypt

Military Collapse Iran (1979)

Low Distinctiveness & Subordination

Successful Repression Bahrain

Military Split Libya Syria Yemen

As will be shown in the case-study chapters, Tunisia and Egypt had distinct and cohesive militaries that could overthrow their presidents and begin a transition to a new form of rule. Bahrain’s military was fully integrated into the regime leadership and had the cohesiveness to engage in massive repression, so the regime survived intact despite challenges. In Yemen, Libya, and Syria, parts of the military tried to defend the regime but others defected. International intervention determined whether the regime would survive the initial split. Iran’s military was not cohesive enough to break with the regime or defend it, so it collapsed, opening up a revolutionary situation.

Democratization, Revolution, and Civil War Military structures are also key once a government is overthrown or a civil war begins, though which features are most important changes from the uprising phase. In cases of military coup, the level of ‘External Focus’ is the most important feature for whether a military is willing to allow democratization or will try to retain power for itself. It is also necessary for a military to retain its cohesion in the transition phase. If the military collapses, democratization is very unlikely and fragmentation or violent, utopian revolution 55

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring become possible. In cases of civil war, the role of the international community is the most important determinant of whether the regime survives or not, though the level of ‘Expertise’ may affect the brutality of that war. Many of the authors cited in the Introduction focus on military behavior in the uprising phase, not the role of the military in the ultimate outcomes. Some have ad hoc explanations for why Tunisia has moved down the path to democracy while Egypt has returned to authoritarianism, but these do not usually form part of their central theory about military decision making. Brownlee et al. do look at ultimate outcomes, but largely abandon the military variable. They recognize that military behavior may be key to eventual democratization, but argue that: (1) military coups during transitions are caused by discord amongst the opposition; and (2) that while there are indications in the colonial legacies about how military history might predict outcomes, they do not have enough evidence to predict military behavior based on structure.66 Instead, they focus on political and economic development and the balance of power between secular and Islamist opposition groups. Interestingly, while many studies hand much of the credit for Tunisia’s success to the relative moderation of its Islamist party, Brownlee et al. point to the strength of its moderate opposition as the key factor. In their view, Tunisia is more urbanized and educated than its neighbors, which led to a more pluralized and less outwardly religious society. This made the moderate opposition more powerful than it was in Egypt and forced the Islamist Ennahda Party to negotiate on a more even footing with secular and secular groups.67 Egypt is a less developed society, so the liberal opposition was weaker and Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, were overwhelmingly strong. This may ‘have given Islamists the delusions of a mandate and sent non-Islamists in search of extra-institutional means of redress.’68 This study generally agrees with Brownlee et al. that a more developed society is more likely to democratize. This could either be a generally lessdeveloped society with a strong civil society or a more educated and urbanized society that may have more moderate political views, even if it does not have a developed civil society. But military structure remains key. It is necessary, though not sufficient, to have a military that is largely intact and willing to accept democratization. In the aftermath of civil war or military 56

The Men with Guns defeat it is possible for an occupying power, external enforcer, or peacekeeping force to provide the necessary security for democratic bargaining between mobilized groups, but some sort of guarantor of stability is usually necessary.69 The most important factor for whether a military will be willing to accept democratization is its level of external versus internal focus. The more a military focuses on internal issues – whether business interests, combatting internal conflict, or promoting an ideological agenda – the more likely it will resist attempts by moderates to fully democratize. If the moderates are able to control the political space during the transition and there is strong external support for democratization, even a reluctant military may be forced to accept democracy.70 However, in the absence of overwhelming external pressure or extremely talented moderate politicians, a military can influence the course of a transition in such a way as to usually justify a coup. Table 1.5 shows one way to visualize that set of outcomes: Table 1.5 Post-breakdown Trajectories I – Overthrow Military Structure



Higher External Focus

Democracy Tunisia

Utopian Revolution Iran (1979)

Low External Focus

Renewed Authoritarianism Egypt

Fragmentation Libya (special case)

Tunisia’s military did not have strong business interests to protect, so it quickly handed over power to a civilian transitional government and was not unduly involved in shaping the constitution or elections. At the same time, it was strong enough to maintain law and order, preventing radical Islamists or old-regime authoritarians from breaking down public order, radicalizing the citizenry, and marginalizing moderates. In Egypt, the military was able to keep the State intact but because it had important economic and political interests to protect, it took power for itself rather than handing it over to a civilian transitional government. It also took the lead in rewriting the constitution and electoral rules. It allowed a freely elected president from the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammed Morsi, to 57

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring take office, but undermined his rule and overthrew him at the first opportunity. Additionally, while the Egyptian military was unwilling to use violence on behalf of Mubarak or Morsi, it was willing to shoot protesters in large numbers when it was in power itself. In Iran in 1979, the military was chased from the streets and radicals were allowed to take control of security and law enforcement, leading to brutal revolutionary courts, attacks on moderate protesters, and street fighting between various radical organizations. Ayatollah Khomeini and his Islamist allies were the largest and most organized of the violent, radical factions and were able to eventually take control of the streets and the State, leading to a utopian revolution. Libya is included both as a case of military split and of overthrow, because the military split led to Qaddafi’s overthrow and attempts at democratization before fragmenting again into conflict. It is marked as ‘special’ in Table 1.5 because it was not the internal focus of the military that led to fragmentation per se – it was the civil war, and the absence of a functioning state. On the other hand, the military defeat in Libya did make democratization unlikely. It led to a proliferation of militias, each pushing its own interests and unwilling to cede authority to the weak state, perpetuating the conflict, discrediting the government, and leading to renewed civil war. It remains possible that these conflicting groups can come to a semi-democratic bargain, though full democracy is unlikely in the medium term because a functioning state is a necessary requirement for a functioning democracy.71 In cases of military split, international involvement and, potentially, the level of military sophistication determined the course and scope of the conflict. In Libya, NATO and some Arab allies intervened militarily to overthrow Qaddafi. In Syria, the Arab League, Russia, and China blocked an already reluctant US and NATO from getting involved militarily as the conflict turned violent. Foreign fighters and local insurgent groups were backed by individual Sunni donors as well as Turkey and the Gulf states, but the most visible interventions were on the side of the regime, as Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah backed the Syrian Government and helped keep it afloat. In Yemen, the US and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led by Saudi Arabia, negotiated the president’s withdrawal but left much of the regime in place. There were insurgencies from Al Qaeda, southern separatists, and the Houthi movement, but the State did not fall into full-fledged 58

The Men with Guns civil war until the ousted president and his sons aligned with the Houthi movement and took the capital. The GCC entered the civil war when the Houthi–Saleh alliance tried to take Aden in the south, and prevented it from taking full control of the country. Yemen remains mired in a damaging, but largely low-intensity, internationalized civil war. This book does not theorize on how the level of secret and private charitable support has impacted the various conflicts, but some indications are included in Table 1.6. The Sunni states and rich GCC citizens seemed to be heavily involved in subsidizing the Islamist insurgency against Shi’a power Syria, though Qatar also continued to support Islamist militias in Libya well after the Qaddafi regime fell. There was also a strong Al Qaeda branch in Yemen prior to the conflict, which probably receives some international support. These groups matter, but the actions of the larger powers do the most to determine whether a regime survives after its military splits. The level of military expertise may have some impact on the intensity of the civil wars as well. In Libya, the low level of military expertise and the US destruction of much of Qaddafi’s most advanced equipment may have contributed to the relatively low intensity of the ongoing conflict. The fighting is fierce, but does not involve heavy air power. The Yemeni military also had a relatively low level of expertise, and that conflict has been much less destructive than the Syrian civil war despite Yemen’s larger population. The Yemen conflict turned into a full-fledged civil war when the Houthi took over the capital in September 2014. After two and half years, the death toll was around 10,000 with 3.1 million displaced and 17 million needing humanitarian assistance.72 After roughly the same amount of time, in June 2013, the Syrian conflict had killed almost 93,000 people.73 This is despite the fact that Yemen had a population of 23.8 million in 2011, while Syria had a population of 22.5 million.74 By May 2017, the death toll in Syria was 465,000, half the population was displaced from their homes and over 4 million refugees had fled the country.75 Libya is a much smaller country, with only 6.4 million people in 2011, and the ongoing conflict there killed somewhere in the region of 27,500 people between 2011 and 2016, but that is about one-fifth the number of casualties in the Syria conflict, adjusted for population.76 The relative expertise of their militaries may have something to do with these death tolls, with the Syrian military bombing cities and using tanks and heavy 59

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring weapons from the beginning. In addition, the core of the Syrian military is still intact, with its most loyal and well-trained Alawi units continuing to defend the regime. The hypothesized impact of the ‘Expertise’ feature is mostly a spur for future research, not a firm prediction. Differences in levels of development, urbanization, international support, foreign fighters, and the length of the war also matter. One way to view the outcomes is shown in Table 1.6: Table 1.6 Post-breakdown Trajectories II – Military Split Bulk of International Support

Initial Outcome

Scale of Military Non-state Expertise Support for Islamists

Six-year Outcome



Regime survival/ No regime victory



Highintensity civil war



Regime replacement/ Elections



Lowintensity civil war



Negotiated Low? abdication/ Some regime continuity


Lowintensity civil war

The relative strength of Syria’s remaining military and its international support may have made the regime believe that it can eventually retake the country, which could mean that the Syrian civil war will not end until one side wins outright. The government seemed to be regaining control of many of the cities, including Aleppo, in 2016 and early 2017, but pockets of resistance remain. The Kurdish region has declared independence and there have been massive population transfers between Sunni and Alawi areas. Full regime victory, some sort of partition, or a federal bargain leaving the Alawi dominant but not in full control are all still possible outcomes. On the other hand, the relative weakness of all sides in Libya may encourage some negotiation. Because of the low level of state authority in 60

The Men with Guns Libya, functioning democracy is unlikely – in the medium term – and liberal democracy is for the most part impossible, but it is possible that parties could reach a semi-democratic power-sharing agreement. In Yemen, the situation is in flux. As this book was going to press, the Saleh-Houthi alliance was broken and Saleh killed. The outcome is unclear, but will be heavily determined by what intervening GCC powers Saudi Arabia and the UAE are willing to accept.

Conclusion This chapter reviewed the civil–military relations literature and identified seven features of military professionalism. It then looked at the coupproofing literature to show how Middle Eastern leaders undermine the professionalization of their militaries in order to defend their regimes from uprisings and military coups. This provided a set of tools with which to examine each country’s history and discern the features that dictate its military structure. It then showed how combining those features into broad characteristics of military structure can predict military behavior and outcomes at different stages of an uprising and transition. In the initial decision phase, military independence from the regime and the strength of its internal structure determine whether the military will coup, defend the regime, collapse, or split. Different factors come into play once the initial decision is made. If a military overthrows the regime, its level of external focus will determine whether it can accept democratization. If a military collapses, either fragmentation or a utopian, revolutionary outcome is possible as different groups use the absence of authority to fight for control. If a military splits, international intervention will determine whether the regime survives, but it is possible civil war will be the outcome no matter what. The level of military expertise might also have some impact on the intensity of the civil war that follows. The case studies that demonstrate this logic begin with the next chapter.


2 Tunisia: A Professional Military

In retrospect, it seems that if any major democratization wave were to occur in the Arab world it would have to start in Tunisia. It was unique among Arab countries for its combination of strong national identity, high levels of education, economic openness, state capacity, and military professionalism – all topped by an idiosyncratically stifling and visibly corrupt regime. It is where the Arab Spring began, and will serve as the benchmark against which to judge the remaining cases. Tunisia has a strong sense of national identity, a strong state, and a military that was not heavily invested in the regime. Tunisia has few internal divisions and, unlike Egypt, it gained its independence through a broad-based struggle led by an inclusive political party, not a military coup. The dominance of the Neo-Destour Party and founding President Habib Bourguiba’s mistrust of the military encouraged Tunisia to create a small, professional army that was never a strong political player. While the military’s professionalism would probably have never caused it to coup on its own, when faced with orders to shoot peaceful protesters on behalf of the despised and corrupt President Ben Ali, the military chose to look after its own interests and overthrow him instead. It then quickly handed power to a civilian transitional government, and Tunisia is now on its way to becoming a democratic society even as it faces challenges from within and without.


Tunisia: A Professional Military In this study, the Tunisian military is the only one that meets all seven requirements of professionalism and serves as the baseline scenario for what protesters and democrats would like the military to do in the face of a broad-based uprising against an unpopular dictator. The Tunisian military has a distinct identity and a culture of subordination to the civilian power, which meant that it did not share interests with the regime and would be reluctant to defend it. It also had high cohesiveness; it was a single military structure with a firm chain of command and a bureaucratic culture. Under Bourguiba, the military was occasionally used to suppress internal revolts, but it always did so reluctantly and quickly returned to barracks. When faced with a massive uprising against the more corrupt Ben Ali, it was unwilling to defend the regime and had the strong internal structure needed to effectively overthrow it. It did not have the myriad business interests of the Egyptian Army, meaning that it had little to lose if the regime fell and little to fear from a democratic regime. It was thus willing to hand over power to a civilian transitional government and remained a stabilizing but largely apolitical force in the transition, which allowed moderate political leaders to forge a democratic path. The military continues to focus on terrorist threats, both foreign and internal, but it has largely stayed out of the political process. Political forces are consolidating and moderating, with Ennahda renouncing political Islam and separating its proselytizing arm from the political party in the hope of appealing to the relatively moderate and secular Tunisian electorate. Challenges persist, but Tunisia remains on a path to consolidating full democracy.

Historical Development Tunisia is a small country with few social divisions. It has roughly 10 million people, 98 percent of whom are Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslims. It does not have the Berber/Arab divide of Algeria, Morocco, or Libya, or the linguistic and sectarian divisions characteristic of the Levant. At times, the leadership has not controlled much beyond the city of Tunis, but some go so far as to say, ‘Despite nearly 3,000 years of occupation by various foreign forces, empires, and civilizations, the country has remained 63

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring culturally integrated and politically unified.’1 Tunisia has a long maritime tradition, and amongst the coastal, educated classes there is a strong belief in a Tunisian personality of cosmopolitanism and tolerance.2 Tribal influence was already low at independence, due to nineteenth-century statebuilding efforts and the impact of French colonialism. The first president of independent Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, pushed the party and the State out to the rural areas, made the State the dominant source of authority and eliminated the last bastions of tribal power.3 So, Tunisian society had fewer divisions that could result in a divided military. There are important regional, rural/urban divisions, but these are primarily economic and fairly normal in democracies. Like most of North Africa in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Tunisia was officially under Ottoman suzerainty, but was independent in most areas. The Tunisian Beys took control of their own succession under the Husaymid dynasty in 1710, and ruled with the help of a foreign-born Mamluk slave military. Tunis was a major base for Barbary pirates, and much of the Beys’ revenue came from piracy. Until the nineteenth century, the Bey did not have much control outside of the capital, Tunis. The Ottomans recognized regional borders, but the Beys had only nominal control over the tribes in their jurisdiction. They were reliant on the revenue from piracy and sea trade, and focused on controlling Tunis. They did not need or want to pay the cost of subduing and taxing the hinterland, and ruled lightly through treaties and divide-and-rule strategies. Lisa Anderson writes, ‘The governments of eighteen-century North Africa may best be interpreted as approaching city states.’4 European power in the Mediterranean became a real challenge in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Where the Barbary states had previously preyed on European shipping and extracted tribute for safe passage, now the Europeans (and Americans) were destroying pirate bases and invading North African territory. The old military and social structures were proving too weak to counter these modern European states. Under successive Beys from 1811 until 1869, ‘Tunisia was to see its government transformed from a garrison to a state, and its population into subjects.’5 The Beys had to expand their ability to tax the hinterlands, as sea trade and piracy grew less viable. They also needed to 64

Tunisia: A Professional Military create a modern army. Across the Ottoman world, the old slave militaries were proving unable to defeat the new European national armies. To increase military capacity, the Beys needed to increase their ability to tax and begin recruiting Tunisian soldiers. To do so, they needed to expand their control into the hinterland, which ‘could only be accomplished at the expense of the independent military capabilities of the tribes.’6 Tunis finally subdued the bulk of the countryside following an 1864 revolt against conscription and unpaid salaries in the new army. ‘The extreme severity with which the 1864 revolt was quelled served to reduce most of the rural population to such a state of penury that the government gained, if only by default, control of the use of force in the countryside.’7 The State spread its influence and began to directly tax the hinterland. It also began to incorporate many tribes and regions into the state structure. As the State expanded its capacity, tribal and community leaders had to negotiate with it for protection, ownership of resources, taxation policies, and other favors.8 Tunisia was the first Arab country to enact a written constitution, in 1861. The Bey created a 60-member parliamentary council with power over taxation and expenditure that could appoint and dismiss high officials, though the Bey appointed the council.9 It was not a democratic constitution, but it was a sign of the rapid changes in Tunisia, which was far ahead of its North African neighbors in state-building. But modernization was costly, and the Bey ran up huge international debts and had already been forced to sign a capitulation treaty giving special rights to French citizens. France had invested heavily in Tunisia and did not want to see the government collapse from debt, ruining its investments. In 1869, an International Financial Commission headed by France, Italy, and Britain took over Tunisia’s budget. By 1880, France had massive investments in Tunisia, including telegraph and rail lines, and owned a significant amount of farmland. Other European countries were also beginning to colonize the rest of North Africa. Finally, unrest in Algeria – the colony that France cared most about – spilled over the border into the mountains of Tunisia. In 1881, France demanded that the Bey sign a treaty of protection. Since the Ottoman Government could not answer Tunis’s call for help, the Bey was forced to comply.10 65

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Compared with the brutal colonizations in Algeria and Libya, the Tunisian protectorate was relatively benign. Tunisia was never intended as a settler colony, and the French sent relatively few immigrants there. Their stated goal was to build up the Tunisian state and social capacity so that they could eventually leave. Even if they did not mean it, this gave Tunisians rhetorical ammunition to press for more native-friendly policies. Much of the State was already in place when the French took control, and Tunisia’s later success was significantly due to the fact that the French did not destroy what they found, as they did in Algeria and as the Italians did in Libya. In fact, a protectorate official in 1896 said, ‘We found in Tunisia all the elements of a complete, solid, and durable administration.’11 The tribes had been dealt a serious blow in the 1864 revolt and the bureaucracy was spreading. Much more than elsewhere, the French allowed Tunisians to take part in the administration and made a place for some Tunisians to advance socially. The French ruled relatively indirectly, and used many of Tunisia’s previous laws and institutions. It proved ‘ironic that France’s major contribution was to re-enforce the pre-existing […] centralized bureaucracy.’12 Christopher Alexander argues that France was more concerned about ‘what it did not want to see happen’ in Tunisia than what did happen.13 As such, France had a less proactive policy in Tunisia than elsewhere. It wanted Tunisia to serve as a buffer for Algeria, it did not want another power to take control, and it did not want to spend a lot of money or effort. ‘As long as France controlled Tunisia’s foreign and defense policy, and as long as French administrators wielded ultimate power behind the throne, the Bey’s administration could provide the public face for France’s presence in Tunisia.’14 The Bey remained on the throne, and Tunisian officials remained in place, but now there was a French supervisor above them. France allowed the ancient Zatouna Mosque school to expand, and it built additional French schools. Tunisians with a French education were able to advance within the bureaucracy and professions. The French expanded the power of municipal governments and infrastructure in order to ease governing and taxation, but allowed many Tunisians to participate in these organizations. They strengthened the armed forces, using conscription laws passed before colonization, and reorganized them along French lines. 66

Tunisia: A Professional Military In World War I, Tunisians served as proportionately the largest contingent from the French Muslim colonies. France did not, however, leave the country to the Tunisians. Through force, changing land-rights laws, and purchasing, French investors took control of large tracts of the best farmland, pushing tribes into less viable areas or turning them into sharecroppers and agricultural laborers. This did serious damage to already weakened tribal structures.15 Staying together as tribes in the less productive land could hurt the welfare of tribal members, so more and more moved off the land or became rural laborers. The French also invested in industrial development, including railroads, mining, and other industries. Mounira Charrad says, ‘The pattern of economic exploitation in Tunisia resulted in the formation of an agricultural and industrial Tunisian proletariat, made up mostly of the agricultural laborers and industrial workers employed by French landowners with extensive property and by companies.’16 Tunisian laborers were at a disadvantage, but engaged with a modern state and relatively modern economy. Urban workers were even able to form unions, which became an important part of the independence movement. The continued bureaucratization of the State and consolidation of landholdings further disrupted tribal solidarity.17 Control of state largesse began to gravitate towards bureaucrats and professionals. Over time, these new French-educated and urban Tunisians began to press for greater control of the State.

Nationalism and Independence The first major nationalist movement – the Jeunes Tunisiens, or Young Tunisians – primarily comprised French-educated gradualists. They were elitists and religious reformists who did not press for national independence, but equality in opportunity and rights with French bureaucrats. The Young Tunisians did not involve the masses in their movement or push for mass protests. They were granted a few extra seats on the local consultative council, but the movement stagnated. Conflict was largely suspended during World War I, when many Tunisians served in the French Army. Following US President Woodrow Wilson’s call for national selfdetermination, they hoped their service to France would be rewarded with 67

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring greater independence, but the French were not willing to make concessions. After the war, members of the Young Tunisians combined with new activists to form the Destour (Constitution) Party, and began pressing for greater control of the State. They were still gradualists, hoping that a new constitution, enshrining greater rights for Tunisians, would eventually lead to independence without breaking their relationship with France.18 The Destour Party largely came from the Tunisian urban elite and, like the Young Tunisians, its concerns were mainly expanding the rights and influence of the local elite, ‘The party expressed little interest in reforms that would alter Tunisia’s basic social and political hierarchy […] the Destour never tried to unite intellectuals, traditional elites, workers, students, [or] farmers behind a coherent strategy.’19 The French were unwilling to make major changes, however, and repression eventually demoralized the Destour Party. Habib Bourguiba revitalized the movement by including urban labor unions and the remains of the organized tribal structures. Alexander says, ‘No matter how strongly one may reject the study of history through great lives, it is impossible to separate Tunisia’s modern development from the life and work of one man – Habib Bourguiba.’20 This may go too far. The existence of a state to be captured and limited social divisions made national identity and independence less problematic in Tunisia than elsewhere, but Bourguiba was an excellent politician and organizer with charisma and a nationalist vision that matched his country’s endowments and limitations. Bourguiba came from a middle-class family in the Sahel, the coastal region south of Tunis, and had a European education. That placed him outside the Tunis elite, but able to speak their language. His rural ties gave him a fiercer nationalism than that of the urban elite and the ability to speak the language of the masses. Bourguiba and his allies sought to bring all groups in Tunisian society into one nationalist organization. This threatened the interests of the old Destour Party, which wanted more political independence but did not want to significantly change the economic or social structure. ‘Many Destour leaders who believed passionately in independence could not fathom a government run by the sons of small farmers and petty shopkeepers.’21 With a series of speeches and meetings 68

Tunisia: A Professional Military throughout the country in 1934, Bourguiba built a support base to challenge and take control of the nationalist movement, which he called the Neo-Destour Party. It included rural groups for the first time. As stated above, Tunisia had a small but significant urban proletariat, which had begun to unionize in the early part of the century; this population was ready to be organized as well. Bourguiba also brought in more traditional groups, with Islamic rather than French educations. It was a broad-based, civilian movement and he was able to hold it together over years of marches and repression, even as he was jailed and exiled abroad. Compared to other independence battles, Neo-Destour’s struggle was relatively bloodless. It engaged in sabotage and strikes, rather than fullscale war. Bourguiba was a moderate nationalist and a pragmatist. He wanted independence, but not a radical transformation of society. He also knew that his small country would need to retain ties with France and the West if it were to prosper.22 Rather than a war, the independence struggle was led mainly by an educated, urban, coastal middle class, and union allies, in a party structure. Bourguiba’s Neo-Destour Party spread throughout the country and gained support from other more traditional groupings, like religious leaders and the rural tribes, but Bourguiba led it as an urban, moderate party. He was interested in Tunisian nationalism and negotiation, not the pan-Arab or pan-Islamic project, and was willing to put off independence if that allowed it to happen more smoothly.23 As such, he supported France in World War II, when many suggested it would be best for Tunisia if Germany won. When he was in prison and then exile, the movement continued without him. It gained a more radical tinge, but Bourguiba remained the dominant voice. After the war, the conflict picked up again. Bourguiba, ever the pragmatist, pressed for autonomy first rather than full independence. A powerful radical wing had developed in the party under Saleh Ben Youssef when Bourguiba was in exile. Ben Youssef had been educated at the Zatouna Mosque and wished to move Tunisia towards the more radical, pan-Arab camp. The Youssefist branch wanted to ally with the independence movement in Algeria, but Bourguiba’s group was focused on Tunisia. The wings of the party maintained an ‘uneasy truce’, however, knowing that they needed unity to deal with the French.24 Soon, France became bogged down 69

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring in the bloody Algerian war of independence. The French felt that they did not have the resources necessary to fight both movements, and they preferred Bourguiba to his more radical allies. So, after crushing the rural, tribal allies of the Ben Yousef faction, the French handed over power to Bourguiba. There was still some internal conflict to be dealt with. Ben Youssef ’s group pressed for a more radical stance, and the remaining tribal groups resisted the new government’s control. The tribes were weaker than the new State, however, and were defeated. After a post-independence conflict that cost up to 1,000 lives, twice as many as the independence battle had, Bourguiba controlled a strong state and a relatively unified society.25 Unlike in Libya, where the local population was excluded from the colonial administration, Tunisia had an educated bureaucratic class and a Frenchtrained military. The battle for independence had been organized by a unified political party rather than an army, and was not violent enough to do great damage to the State. With power in his hands, Bourguiba’s first actions were to extend the authority of the party and the State out to the countryside and eliminate the last vestiges of independent tribal power. He ended collective tribal holding of land and adopted family-reform laws that undercut the traditional tribal structure.26

Bourguibism Bourguiba controlled Tunisia through the Neo-Destour Party and a corporatist structure that included local development organizations and a national labor union, the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, or UGTT. ‘Party cells were established in every village, a massive machine was built for the purposes of mobilization, indoctrination, patronage and recruitment.’27 Over time, the party atrophied as an independent entity as Bourguiba took greater personal control. He fought off several challenges from the UGTT and various factions within the party to maintain power, finally having himself named President for Life in 1974. ‘Until his final years in power, Habib Bourguiba owed much of his success to a potent combination of clear-eyed pragmatism, a healthy sense of his own historical significance, and powerful personal charisma.’28 70

Tunisia: A Professional Military Bourguiba had at his disposal a strong state, which he strengthened, and a relatively unified society, which he further homogenized by destroying the last bastions of tribal power. He had a cautious and moderate foreign policy, which made him a common target of more radical Arab nationalists. And he kept the army small, and did not give it the perks or state-building and commercial responsibilities that were common in other regimes. When the rest of the Arab world was following Egypt’s Nasser (at least publicly), Bourguiba kept Tunisia out of the Arab Cold War. He said all the right things about the Arab–Israeli conflict, but kept his country out of it and retained strong ties to the US. He allowed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to set up in Tunisia after it was expelled from Lebanon, but did no more than protest when Israel bombed the PLO headquarters outside Tunis in 1985. He was obsessed with national development and modernization. Bourguiba was an economic pragmatist and was willing to switch developmental plans quickly when most of the Arab world was bogged down in deteriorating import-substitution policies. He allowed a short experiment in collective farming and a more socialist industrial policy, but quickly dismantled it when it proved unsuccessful. He then moved Tunisia’s economy in a more globalized direction, investing in certain industries but also encouraging offshoring and tourism from Europe. He also challenged Islam’s place in society. While he claimed to be a devout Muslim, he was harsh with practices that he viewed as holding back national development. He changed the working week to the European one, he spoke out against the headscarf as ‘an odious rag’ and once drank orange juice on television during Ramadan to bolster his argument that a month of fasting was hurting national productivity. Tunisia became one of the Arab world’s most liberal states for women’s rights. Charrad argues that the strong Tunisian state and weak tribes allowed Bourguiba the freedom to introduce a family law that encouraged nuclear families over tribal kinship structures.29 In the 1980s, he grew increasingly erratic, and potentially senile, but until then he maintained much of his personal power and style. He was known as a man of modest appetites and, while he was dictatorial, many Tunisians shared his vision and still do. 71

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring

Bourguibism and the Military Bourguiba inherited a relatively strong state, and the independence struggle did it little damage. The military was not a major part of the independence struggle and was given its current form only after independence. As James Gelvin puts it, ‘the Tunisian army is the product of independence, not the progenitor of independence.’30 As such, once in power, Bourguiba was able to subordinate the military using the tactics of a strong state (professionalism) rather than a weak state (coup-proofing). Bourguiba did not trust the military, which did attempt a coup early on, and wanted it to be completely subordinate, limited, and separate from day-to-day politics. Risa Brooks calls this ‘control by marginalization and exclusion.’31 He did not allow soldiers to join the Neo-Destour Party or vote.32 He kept the military small and gave it few internal-security duties. William C. Taylor argues that Bourguiba wanted to minimize the military’s external security duties as well. Tunisia was small and a large army would be a political problem and an economic drain, so ‘President Bourguiba’s solution was to rely on others for Tunisia’s external security and focus the preponderance of Tunisia’s resources on internal development.’33 The military trained with the French first, but primarily with the Americans. They received American equipment and engaged in joint training exercises with the US. Those exercises were limited under Ben Ali, however. Officers may have internalized some American ideas about military professionalism, but not all the officers went through such training and a military’s structure is more important than education abroad in determining officers’ behavior. In a situation in which social structure causes a leader to factionalize and undercut their military, or where the military is more a business than an army, training in civil–military relations will have minimal impact. Structure will overcome ideology. But where social divisions are limited and the army’s sole task is external defense, training with Western armies may help encourage a more professional attitude towards civil–military relations. While most authors argue that the Tunisian military was distinctive for its focus on external protection and low level of internal focus, like most militaries, it had some internal duties. It was not seen as part of any


Tunisia: A Professional Military domestic repressive apparatus, though it was used as a tool of last resort against internal uprisings on two occasions. For the most part, the military was excluded from modernization schemes and economic activities, but Bourguiba did want it to have symbolic value and serve as a school of citizenship and Tunisian nationalism for conscripts.34 Zoltan Barany argues that the Tunisian military, ‘had never been a “nation-building” instrument, and had never joined in economic-development schemes,’35 but Taylor describes development projects in the Sahara that use conscripted soldiers as labor, and which brought the army public accolades.36 Until the 1970s, Bourguiba seems to have intervened in officer promotions but for the most part chose officers loyal to the ruling party who would then be apolitical.37 While there are instances of disagreement, most authors looking at the Tunisian military under Bourguiba would agree with Lewis B. Ware’s 1986 assessment: Among the military establishments in the Arab world, the Tunisian military is perhaps unique. It is a nonpraetorian, highly professional body that has never mounted a coup nor fomented revolution against the state, has never involved itself directly in the Arab-Israeli confrontation, has never been the instrument of national independence except as an adjunctive arm of civilian policy, and has always answered to the authority of the state through the intermediary of a civilian minister of defense.38

The military did take part in internal suppression twice, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By the late 1970s, economic stagnation was setting in, the government was under pressure and Bourguiba was in conflict with the UGTT. In 1978, a series of strikes turned to more general disorder, ‘attacking ministries and businesses in the heart of Tunis.’ Bourguiba called in the army and between 40 and 200 people died in the clashes, the first time the military had been used internally since the initial days of independence.39 It was unhappy about being asked to engage in internal repression, but the army was devoted to Bourguiba’s state. The protests were also destructive rather than completely peaceful, thus minimizing the risk to military cohesion. This was also the case during ‘bread riots’ in 1984. In 73

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring both cases, the military quelled the demonstrations and quickly returned to barracks. Bourguiba was able to regain control of the UGTT through internal manoeuvering, but political and economic stagnation had begun to take hold. At the same time, an Islamist movement was developing. As in much of the Arab world, there was a resurgence of public Islamic practice beginning in the 1970s, and the Iranian Revolution of 1979 gave many Islamist political activists a sense that it was time to assert themselves. There were also groups pushing to democratize the political system by challenging Bourguiba’s one-party rule. The MTI, or Islamic Tendency Movement (later ‘Ennahda’), first gained prominence in 1981 with a series of student strikes and the repression that followed.40 Bourguiba was particularly hostile to political Islam, and was apparently losing his faculties. He called for harsh repression of the MTI. The government brought several members to trial for attempting to overthrow the State, including the leader, Rachid Ghannouchi. The trial looked suspect to observers, including many Bourguiba allies. When the court gave relatively lenient sentences, Bourguiba refused to accept the verdict and demanded a retrial that would give Ghannouchi the death penalty. This frightened many Tunisians, who feared Bourguiba had finally lost control of himself. According to one former member of the MTI, an Islamist plot within the military was also ready to launch.41 Supposedly to pre-empt that coup, and to prevent the chaos that might follow a retrial, Bourguiba’s new prime minister, General Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, brought in several doctors to declare Bourguiba incompetent in a well-received ‘medical coup’ in November 1987.

The Ben Ali Regime There was a short-lived liberalization under Ben Ali’s rule. He revised the constitution to limit the number of presidential terms, opened up the country to limited multi-party elections, and set free many Islamist political prisoners. The opening did not last, however. By the early 1990s, he had begun to crack down on the Islamists and other political enemies. Ben Ali was reacting to his own concerns, but a bloody insurgency in neighboring Algeria 74

Tunisia: A Professional Military encouraged fear of Islamists and justified drastic policies in the region. Alexander says, There was a healthy rowdiness to Tunisian politics in the 1970s and the early 1980s. Unions struck; respected political leaders left the ruling party and established opposition parties […] By the mid-1990s, however, the rowdiness was gone. The government deftly hijacked the opposition’s democratic rhetoric while it waged open war against anyone who dared to criticize the president and the ruling party.42

In this environment, Ben Ali created an oppressive police state while attempting to build a cult of personality around himself. Ben Ali, who had built most of his career in military intelligence and the Ministry of the Interior rather than the regular armed forces, did not make the military a central feature of his repressive apparatus. He relied on internal-security services instead. As did Bourguiba, Ben Ali exercised ‘control by marginalization and exclusion’, but to an even greater extent. This left the military a relatively independent actor that was both separate from and resentful of the regime. In fact, a faked coup plot was used as an excuse to purge the military and humiliate officers in 1991, and some believe that Ben Ali was responsible for the crash of a military helicopter in 2002, which killed the Army Chief of Staff and 12 other high-ranking officers.43 Tunisian military spending was very low, particularly for the Arab world, and the military was small at only 35,000–37,000 troops. Instead, Ben Ali spent on internal-security forces housed in the Ministry of the Interior, including the National Guard, which was responsible for much of the internal security – particularly patrolling the border and the more rural areas. There were also several specialized internal-security forces like riot police and secret police, which were well equipped and trained. By some accounts, the internal-security services increased fourfold under Ben Ali to as many as 120,000–200,000 members. There was also a significant Presidential Guard of 5,000–6,000 troops.44 The latter were part of the Interior Ministry, not the military, so they did not affect the military’s cohesiveness. And while they had armoured vehicles and good equipment, there is no indication they had tanks or the kind of heavy weaponry that 75

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring would make them able to act as a significant coup-protection force. This stifling internal-security apparatus created a resentful population; however, the military was not asked to take part in regular internal repression, so it was not tainted by the regime. Instead, the military was underfunded and marginalized and it resented the Interior Ministry’s greater funding and encroachment on the military’s traditional external-defense responsibilities.45 Brooks argues that ‘the relegation of the military to the periphery of the regime effectively granted the military significant organizational autonomy. As a result, the military was able to sustain a corporate ethos that prioritized the cohesion and meritocratic traditions of the institution and its officer corps.’46 Ben Ali had control at the top of the hierarchy, but overall the military was organized bureaucratically. As commander-in-chief of the military, Ben Ali legally chose the highest-ranking officers, but rather than promoting and rewarding allies to bolster his control he only had two commanding generals, for the army and air force, and was stingy with promotions. He also limited communication between the army, navy, and air force, and there was no joint chief of staff to oversee all the branches. This opens up the possibility of conflict between branches in a coup situation, but the small navy and air force do not seem to have played any significant, independent role in the uprising. Below the command level, promotion was slow, but ‘most officers and noncommissioned officers earn their positions based upon merit’ and officers were moved on regular rotations rather than by surprise transfers, a sign of bureaucratic control. At the operational level, the Tunisian military is highly bureaucratic, with officers reporting up the chain of command to the commanding general, ‘making communications and decision making relatively fast and efficient in times of social unrest.’47 This meant that when the military decided what it would do, it was likely to act as a single coherent body. Demographically, the army was representative of the nation. Officers were drawn primarily from the more affluent coastal areas, but conscription meant that the whole country was represented among the rank and file. According to Barany, ‘Tunisia’s army has been remarkably free of internal divisions of any sort.’48 While it was not a particularly prestigious career – promotions were rare and the army was poorly funded – it was 76

Tunisia: A Professional Military a respectable one; ‘the military was not identified by Tunisians as part of Ben Ali’s coercive apparatus.’49 Unlike in most Arab regimes, it was led by a civilian minister of defense, giving it a tradition of civilian control even if it ignored the civilian leadership when asked to suppress protesters. As Brooks says, separation from day-to-day politics did not make the military apolitical. Deciding not to follow the president’s orders to repress protesters is a political decision. Instead, the military should be thought of as distinct in interest and organization from the regime, with a ‘corporate ethos that supports republican institutions.’50 As the Arab Spring approached, the Tunisian military was underfunded and its capabilities were deteriorating despite a relatively well-trained officer corps. Historically, the military had sent officers abroad for professional training, engaged in joint training exercises with the US, and participated in UN peacekeeping missions. But due to lack of funding, its equipment was deteriorating and was not being replaced, it could not engage in the same amount of joint exercises and training as hitherto – and it needed force modernization.51 In addition, Ben Ali restricted and monitored military contacts with foreign officers.52 However, it was certainly better trained than the armies of many of its neighbors, including Libya. Tunisia was thus an odd case. It was culturally and economically open, with an educated, relatively wealthy society; a strong state; and a professional military, but it was more repressive, in some ways, than less-developed regimes. While Tunisia did not engage in the heavy-handed repression of an Egypt or a Syria, the political realm was closed off, with a particularly stifling internetsecurity apparatus. At the same time, the country was run well. There was law and order, most of the population was educated, and the State had firm control over the country, unlike in much of the Arab world. Tunisia was described to the author as a ‘dual state:’ a corrupt leadership, with a corrupt shadow cabinet in the presidential palace, set atop a largely well-run state.53 Even the US State Department found Tunisia under Ben Ali frustrating. In an internal State Department document released by the Wikileaks organization, they wrote, ‘By many measures, Tunisia should be a close US ally. But it is not.’54 They note all the aspects of Tunisian society that should make it more democratic and open, but lament the corruption and repression under Ben Ali. It was a police state, with firm control of the public sphere and strict control of the internet. 77

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring There was much less physical repression than in most Arab dictatorships, and there was something of a bargain with the Tunisian middle class,55 but Ben Ali refused to step gracefully from power or allow Tunisia to develop politically. He changed the constitution to allow himself to keep running for office and tried to create a cult of personality. His wife and her family were particularly hated, and viewed as incredibly corrupt and vulgar.56 Tunisia in 2010 was a relatively open, educated, modernizing society with a strong state, ruled by a corrupt, personalistic leader remaining in power through silencing dissent. In retrospect, it was bound to crack. The revolutions literature suggests that such personalistic leaders can fall to radical revolutions because their militaries are so corrupted and tied to the regime that they are unable to muster the will or ability to fight to save the leader or the State. As will be shown in the Iran chapter, the Shah’s military was such an organization and could not save itself or the regime. In Tunisia, there was a mismatch: a personalistic leader with a professional military that was known to hate the ostentatious corruption of the president and his ruling clique.57 Under Ben Ali, the Tunisian military was ‘highly representative’, ‘cohesive’, ‘distinct’, ‘bureaucratic’, ‘subordinate’, and ‘externally oriented’, though its deteriorating equipment and training made it only ‘moderately expert’. This made the Tunisian military unwilling to defend the regime but strong enough to save the State, eventually allowing for a democratic transition. The features of the Tunisian military, as defined in this study, are described in Table 2.1. The Tunisian military was professional, so it was unlikely to ever coup on in its own. However, as shown in Table 2.2, because of its ‘High Distinctiveness & Subordination’ from the regime, it had little incentive to risk its own interests and reputation by shooting peaceful protesters to defend the hated Ben Ali. Because of its ‘Strong Internal Structure’, it could confidently refuse to follow Ben Ali’s orders to shoot and maintain its internal cohesion as it kicked him out of the country, disarmed his personal bodyguards, and quickly reestablished order in the streets: the hallmarks of a successful coup. After the president fled, its lack of internal business interests and strong external focus meant that the military was willing to quickly hand over power to a transitional government and serve as a relatively impartial stabilizing force for the transition towards democracy. 78

Table 2.1 Tunisia’s Military Structure Representativeness


Tunisia is a relatively homogeneous society, and the army is representative of the population.



There is a single, national military operating under a single minister of defense. However, the different branches did not have joint military command under Ben Ali.



The military is organizationally distinct from the leadership, with its own career path. On rare occasions, officers might move into Ministry of Interior positions, but this ‘was not indicative of a larger systematic pattern.’113



Except for the highest-echelon officers, who were chosen by the president, the military has strong bureaucratic organization with regularized command structures and promotion criteria.



The military is legally and in actuality subordinate to civilian leadership, reporting to the president through a civilian minister of defense.



While many officers have received Western military training and have, in the past, been considered a competent force, deteriorating equipment and training mean they are not a strongly capable force.

External Focus


The military is externally oriented, with few domestic security or development responsibilities and without internal business interests.

Table 2.2 Tunisian Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Strong Internal Structure High Distinctiveness & Subordination Low Distinctiveness & Subordination

Military Coup Tunisia

Weak Internal Structure

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring

The Uprising On 17 December 2010, Muhammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old fruit seller, set himself on fire in front of the municipal building in the town of Sidi Bouzid. He was protesting against police abuse and the desperate economic situation in Tunisia’s poor interior towns. Tunisia had a significant problem with youth unemployment, particularly amongst college graduates. Only two years previously, in 2008, a strike against hiring practices at a mine in Gafsa led to months of unrest that went largely unnoticed by the outside world. The Gafsa revolts of 2008, which some claim is when the Arab Spring really started,58 were sparked by corrupt hiring practices in the local mines and the frustration of many of these unemployed graduates. Those protests were contained by the regime, but they laid the groundwork for the 2010–11 uprising that overthrew Ben Ali. The Gafsa mining basin is, like Sidi Bouzid, one of the poor interior areas of Tunisia. Its main industry was the state-owned phosphate-mining company. The 2008 protests began because the Regional Union of the UGTT, which was supposed to privilege locals and take into account ‘social considerations,’ instead hired cronies of the regional union boss for new mining jobs.59 The UGTT – which had served as an ally of, and sometimes counterweight to, Bourguiba’s government – was, by the 1980s, largely controlled by the regime. It did advocate for workers but was primarily a means of corporatist control, limiting union activity rather than encouraging it. However, there was some internal conflict between the national and regional leadership and the local branches, which were closer to the workers. During the Gafsa revolts, the UGTT regional boss hired relatives and friends rather than the poor graduates who felt they deserved the positions. This led to months of unrest and sit-ins. The protesters included local high-school students; widows; members of the Union of Unemployed Graduates, formed in 2007; and some leaders of the local UGTT branches willing to challenge the more powerful regional union. Protests, riots, and negotiations continued for months without spreading beyond the region. In June 2008, six months after the protests began, Ben Ali’s police began a decisive crackdown, firing without warning on protesters and breaking


Tunisia: A Professional Military up their sit-in. The military was not directly involved in the shooting, but it did help cut off the town and helped search the mountains for activists who escaped from the protests,60 perhaps fearful they would begin an insurgency. In the end, Ben Ali made a few rhetorical concessions and did not punish the rank-and-file demonstrators too harshly. Otherwise, the protests remained local despite the length of the revolt and deaths at the hands of the police. Eric Gobe argues that independent civil-society organizations had been so crippled under Ben Ali that they could not help expand the protests. The state-dominated media was also silent. A few semi-independent groups did publish press releases and tried to break the government media blockade, primarily on the internet, but support was limited and the protests were contained.61 Conditions were somewhat different two years later. Years of international economic recession had taken their toll and internet use had expanded in Tunisia, as it had throughout the Arab world. That meant that any online strategies would be more effective than they had been in 2008. Tunisia had some of the most stifling internet and media laws in the region, but after the government shut down Facebook in 2008, proxy servers and other tricks to get around government control of social media had become widespread.62 Finally, the Wikileaks organization released a set of US Embassy cables that described in detail the corruption of the Ben Ali regime and American frustration with the president. Marc Lynch argues that the Tunisians did not need reminding of the corruption of Ben Ali and his hated wife, but John Bradley believes that the documentation and extent of the corruption at a time of economic weakness significantly enhanced the sense of betrayal by the government.63 Michael Willis suggests that learning of the private American disapproval of Ben Ali may have signaled to activists that the US was not as firmly behind the regime as suspected, making it more vulnerable.64 On the other hand, it is possible that the combination of simmering discontent and growing internet interconnectedness meant that it was just a matter of time before one of Tunisia’s rural protests caught national attention. Bouazizi’s suicide was a catalyst in a country ready to explode. His cousin recorded the aftermath of Bouazizi’s self-immolation on his mobile phone. That he was able to send out video, rather than a simple 81

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring description, added to the immediacy of the message. ‘On the same day Mohammed set himself on fire, hundreds and then thousands saw stark evidence of the brutality of the regime and for many, a reflection of their own sense of despair.’65 The internet should not get too much credit for the spread of the Arab uprisings. Many Arab Spring countries have limited internet penetration, and Arab satellite television – Al Jazeera, in particular – probably played as large a role in the spread of the protests as social media.66 Nonetheless, the internet was essential in the Tunisian uprisings. People told the author that without Facebook and Twitter they would never have heard about the uprising and regime violence that began 200 km from Tunis in Sidi Bouzid. In Tunis in March 2011, the words ‘Thank You Facebook’ were sprayed on walls on Avenue Bourguiba. In the new digital public sphere, in the wired country of Tunisia, the news of the protests and the brutal regime response (including the use of snipers) catalyzed the protests. The misinformation that passed through the internet was important as well. For the first few weeks, reports identified Bouazizi as a college graduate who had to work as a fruit seller.67 This turned out later to be untrue; he had not been to college. But it was a particularly potent image in Tunisia, where many young people have college degrees but are unable to find jobs that use that education, or any jobs at all. The tale of an underemployed college graduate driven to suicide by police disdain hit a chord with many people, including movements like the Union of Unemployed Graduates and youths in the capital city who might otherwise not identify with a poor young man from the interior. Early stories also claimed that a female police officer slapped Bouazizi, giving a gendered tinge to the protests, but the slap probably never happened.68 Protests started immediately after Bouazizi’s self-immolation on 17 December 2010. Protesters demonstrated outside the police station in Sidi Bouzid. The police responded with tear gas and violence, which led to more protests and riots in the town. Protests then spread quickly throughout the region. On 28 December, the local UGTT joined the protests in Gafsa. As discussed above, the local unions were often more militant than the national body. Police attacked and dispersed the Gafsa protests, but it was the beginning of the UGTT break with the regime. The internet was a 82

Tunisia: A Professional Military large factor at this point, by spreading the news among the protesters but also by sending it out to Al Jazeera, which would beam it back to those who might not use social media.69 The international press was still largely absent; the first major story in the New York Times was dated 10 January 2011.70 On 27 December 2010, the protests reached Tunis. Tunisia had a co-opted, corporatist system of unions and non-government organizations (NGOs). Groups could form, such as teachers’ unions and the Bar Association, but they were usually ‘captured’ by the State and their independence reduced. The government either forced workers into its own version of an organization or it would take over the organization by offering it funding in exchange for access. As with the UGTT, this meant that Tunisia had organizations of professionals and some independent parties, but they were largely depoliticized by state control. However, in this time of crisis – whether from fear of their membership, honest sentiment, or calculation – these bodies joined the protests.71 The pre-existing organizations, even if initially intended as means of regime control, allowed people to work as a group to challenge the regime. On 28 and 31 December, lawyers, one of the best-organized professional groups in the country, joined the protests and were ‘savagely beaten.’72 On 6 January, 8,000 lawyers from the Tunisian Bar Association went on strike. Teachers and other professionals also struck and began protesting around this time. In the countryside, the regime cracked down severely on protesters. In the interior cities of Kasserine and Thala, snipers shot to kill demonstrators. These snipers appeared to be from special militias that may have been recruited by Ben Ali’s presidential-guard commander, Ali Seriati, and the First Lady, Leila Ben Ali.73 The army was not involved in the shooting, though they were in Kasserine to guard government buildings. According to a later analysis by Al Jazeera, it could have been the fighting in Kasserine that led most directly to Ben Ali’s downfall. Under pressure from the military after four days of shooting by his police and militias, Ben Ali finally called for an end to firing ‘real bullets’ on 13 January. The next day, 14  January, saw the first mass, cross-class protest on Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis. According to a high-school teacher in Kasserine, ‘Mohamed Bouazizi broke the wall of fear. But the real center of this revolution is Kasserine.’74 83

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring In his 13 January speech, Ben Ali said he would not seek re-election, offered concessions and appealed for calm. With the population emboldened the protests in Tunis on 14 January were the largest yet. They included many unaffiliated middle-class people as well as organized groups and the young. The national leadership of the UGTT finally broke with the regime and called for a general strike. The 14 January protests immediately turned violent, however, with police attacking protesters. Protesters in turn attacked the Ministry of the Interior and the Central Bank.75 In response, Ben Ali sacked the government and declared a state of emergency, but by the end of the day he was on a plane out of the country. The final straw was when the military leadership refused his orders to back up the internal-security forces. Willis argues that the military was initially unsure what to do, but was careful not to get involved in the violent repression by the internal-security forces.76 The military had stood by in Kasserine and watched presidential militias shoot protesters, and it pressured Ben Ali to denounce the use of live ammunition on 13 January, but initially it was unwilling or unable to choose sides. However, the 14 January protests were out of control and the internalsecurity services were proving both excessively violent and unable to control the situation. As the protests grew, Army Chief of Staff Rachid Ammar made clear the army would not attack the demonstrators, essentially ending Ben Ali’s regime. The leader then fled the country. The exact sequence of events is unclear. One story says that General Ammar told Ben Ali he had three hours to leave the country or be arrested. Another is that Ben Ali’s chief of personal security, General Ali Seriati, suggested that Ben Ali leave the country until he could gain control, perhaps hoping to take power himself.77 Ben Ali later claimed that he was just planning to drop off his wife somewhere safe and then return.78 He tried going to Malta and then France, both of whom denied him permission to land, and the Tunisian military refused to allow him to return to the country. He then flew to Saudi Arabia, where he remained. Whatever the chain of events, the military closed the airport after Ben Ali left and began to take control. After fighting a small battle with the remaining presidential guard, the army arrested Seriati, began apprehending Ben Ali’s relatives and key supporters, and announced the end of the regime. On the international front, Ben Ali was allowed to fall, rather than being pushed. Tunisia was highly dependent on the West, but was not central 84

Tunisia: A Professional Military to Western power calculations. The US wanted Tunisian cooperation in its counterterrorism efforts and wanted to be sure it did not move into the radical camp, but Tunisia was a relatively minor actor on the international stage. It was highly dependent on Europe for exports and tourism and relied on the US for military aid and weaponry. In terms used by Steven Levitsky and Lucien Way, the West had high levels of linkage and significant leverage.79 Interestingly, then, the US does not seem to have played a significant part in the uprising, and the French role was initially negative. The Obama Administration did not publicly support the protests until after Ben Ali had fled, and the French Foreign Minister made the mistake of offering support for the regime early on. Arab leaders did not publicly back Ben Ali either, probably because they did not see how threatening the problem could become for them.80 US and Western involvement was not as important or direct as in many of the other cases in this study. The overthrow happened so quickly that they barely had time to react. If the US and Europe had a significant impact on the Tunisian uprising, it was through their long-term contacts with the Tunisian military. However, Tunisia’s military structure was the most important factor. The military was independent of the regime and highly cohesive, and because it had few internal interests, it was willing to quickly hand power to a civilian transitional government and remain a moderating force on the transition.

The Transition At the time of writing, Tunisia has written a constitution, has experienced a peaceful handover of power from one ruling coalition to another, and has replaced a prime minister and cabinet without new elections. The Islamist Ennahda Party won the first election of the transition period. After overseeing the writing of a new constitution, it lost the founding election and handed over power to a secular, nationalist party with connections to the old regime. It then joined with the nationalist-party coalition as part of the cabinet. It is still too early to say if democracy will hold, but Tunisia is the only Arab Spring case still on a democratic road. It has not been easy or free of violence but, unlike in Egypt, the military did not end the democratization process, despite the rise of an Islamist party and both external 85

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring and internal political violence. This is partly due to the differences in Tunisian political culture and the Ennahda Party, but an important difference between Egypt and Tunisia in 2013 lay in their militaries. The Tunisian Army swiftly handed power over to a transitional government and then remained focused on military defense, not becoming visibly engaged in the transition process even when there was internal violence, but providing the stability necessary for bargaining amongst the political parties. This contrasts with Iran in 1979, where the army and state collapsed leaving the contending political groups to fight it out amongst themselves in the streets, and with Egypt’s army, which remained in control through much of the transition period and took power from the democratically elected president at the first opportunity. Many authors argue that either the moderation of Ennahda or its leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, was the most important factor in Tunisia’s transition.81 On the other hand, Brownlee et al. claim it was the strength of the secular moderates that kept Ennahda in check.82 Others argue Tunisia’s culture of moderation and legality allowed the transition to democracy.83 It is fair to say that all of these issues had an impact, but it is also necessary to have a military that is intact and willing to accept democratization. Brooks argues that the Tunisian military has a history of civilian control and a republican orientation that makes it more willing to accept democratization.84 While this is true, this book argues the most important factor is the Tunisian Army’s primarily external focus. A military with large business interests or a focus on internal conflicts is less likely to hand over to a democratic regime for fear of losing resources or control. A military focused on external defense is less interested in the specific balance of power in government and will be less likely to be looking for an opportunity to coup to protect its interests. William Taylor argues that the Tunisian military turned on Ben Ali because it was marginalized and underfunded by his regime even more so than under Bourguiba. The uprisings provided the officers an opportunity to overthrow Ben Ali and ‘promote their corporate interests.’85 While the Tunisian military has certainly increased its social status, political power, and economic position, the fact that it quickly handed over power suggests that while the military did benefit, its decision to revolt against Ben Ali 86

Tunisia: A Professional Military should be considered more defensive in orientation than offensive. General Ammar was extremely popular after the coup, and according to talk at the time could probably have become president.86 Instead, the military immediately handed power to a civilian transitional government and Ammar refused opportunities to run for office. During the transition, the military was able to improve its material and social position, but remained focused on external defense and did not become a major player in the transition, except as a guarantor of stability. For democratization, it is necessary for a military to remain intact to serve as a moderating force. If the military and police collapse, like they did in Iran in 1979, radical actors are likely to use violence to gain control of the streets and the State. An intact military can provide the necessary stability to allow moderate forces to work out a democratic bargain. More radical Islamists, as well as old-regime thugs, did use violence and tested the bounds of what they could get away with during the Tunisian transition. With the Tunisian state intact, however, backed by the army and moderate political actors on both sides, they were unable to derail the transition through radicalization or provoking a military crackdown. After Ben Ali left, the police – discredited during the protests – fled the streets, leading to a few days of insecurity, but the military was able to regain control fairly quickly. A Tunisian told the author that two days after Ben Ali fled, a person could go and get a driver’s licence – attesting to the resilience of the State. The military then quickly handed over power to a civilian transitional government that contained many old-regime figures. Many middle-class people the author spoke to were comfortable with the transitional parliament because it contained Bourguiba-era stalwarts and technocrats that served under Ben Ali but were not necessarily personally corrupt. Many of the protesters did not agree, however. A ‘Liberation Caravan,’ of people from the interior arrived a week after Ben Ali’s flight to demand the transitional parliament step down in favor of one without oldregime figures. They wanted more radical change. However, there were also counter-protests in other areas of the city to denounce the influence of the UGTT leader and other more radical actors, and demand that the interim government be allowed to work.87 87

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring At the end of February 2011, protests briefly turned violent again. Many blamed this violence on old-regime provocateurs, and several people were killed in the clashes. In response, the interim Prime Minister stepped down and a new transitional government was formed. Another round of protests followed in May, when the interim Interior Minister claimed that the military would coup if Ennahda, the main Islamist party, won the election.88 Ennahda dismissed the claim, and there was no coup when it won a plurality in the election. There were occasional destructive protests and violence later on; however, by this time the police were back on the streets and the violence was mostly contained, though there were also complaints of renewed censorship.89 Ennahda was not publicly involved in the January 2011 protests but Ghannouchi was allowed to return from exile following the uprising, and immediately his party became a frontrunner for the first election. Ennahda is commonly described as ‘moderate,’ and it is compared with other Islamist parties in the region. But like any large organization, it has both radical and pragmatic supporters. Ennahda was part of an ongoing process of engagement with opposition parties throughout the 2000s, which led it to denounce violence and commit to democracy, and Ghannouchi is often celebrated for his personal moderation.90 On the other hand, a prominent former member argues that the party’s roots are violent and opportunist, and many of its supporters would have preferred sharia law to have prominent placement in the constitution.91 Much of the Tunisian middle class mistrusted the party. They knew that Ennahda would be an electoral force but feared that it was engaged in ‘double discourse,’ saying one thing to Western audiences and something else to its supporters. They feared that an empowered Ennahda would try to make drastic changes to Tunisia’s open and secular society.92 Tunisia designed its transition well, however, and its strong civil society and hands-off military helped to protect and moderate the process. In Tunisia, the first elections were for a Constituent Assembly that would write a new constitution. The assembly would run the country while the constitution was being written, but would have to step aside once it was ratified. Tunisia also used a proportional-representation electoral system, which ensured that no one party would gain a disproportionate share of 88

Tunisia: A Professional Military seats. According to Alfred Stepan, in a single-member district scheme, Ennahda would have gained 90 percent of the seats in the first election. With the PR system, it only gained 40 percent.93 This meant that Ennahda had to form a coalition government and bargain to get its preferred constitution. In fact, many of Ennahda’s favored policies did not make it into the final document. The constitution does not name sharia law as a source of legislation, for instance, and an initial attempt to have women classified as ‘complementary’ to men was changed to recognize their equality. It was not an easy path, however. The constitution was supposed to be completed by October 2012, but it was not approved until January 2014. Significant disagreement, sometimes leading to outright boycotts, slowed the drafting process. Some blamed self-serving politicians, recalcitrant old-regime figures, or media elites. There was also significant Islamist violence that called Ennahda’s moderation into question. Almost immediately after Ben Ali’s fall, Islamist youth began asserting themselves in the public sphere. The headscarf had been discouraged and outright banned in Tunisia, and Tunisian women often dressed more like French women than their counterparts in more conservative parts of the Arab world. During the transition, Islamists began to accost women on the street who were not dressed to their taste.94 Islamist mobs attacked the legal brothels in Tunis, a cinema, and secular protesters and leaders. They also attacked a television station for airing the animated film Persepolis, because it shows the young female protagonist conversing with Allah. It is probably no coincidence that the movie depicts the dismay of a middle-class family after a broad-based revolution is taken over by radical Islamists.95 Islamist students staged a month-long sit-in at Manouba University to demand that the face veil, the niqab, be allowed in classes. Many secularists condemned the Ennahda-led government for not cracking down on Islamist violence and disruption. Others believed Ennahda was supporting the more radical Islamists, or at least allowing outside groups to support them. According to one Tunisian I spoke to, protesting students were receiving hot meals from somewhere; he thought Ennahda or its allies were the likely source.96 There was a deadly attack on the US Embassy in Tunis in response to a crude antiIslam video produced in the United States, the beginnings of an insurgency along the border with Algeria, the start of a Salafist takeover of state-run 89

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring mosques, and the departure of large numbers of Tunisians to Syria and Libya to fight with the jihadists there. Robert Worth blames much of the disruption on a group called Ansar Sharia, which ‘saw Ennahda as a convenient umbrella under which it could launch a cultural jihad.’ However, ‘Like any political party, Ennahda was reluctant to alienate its ideological base, which included many harder-line Islamists. They thought they could control them […] it worked the other way around: their radical cousins dragged them down.’97 Ennahda argued that it was necessary to engage with the more hardline Islamists, like Ansar Sharia, rather than excluding them, which might radicalize them further. This became untenable after two leftist politicians, both prominent critics of Ennahda, were assassinated in 2013. It was the work of Ansar Sharia, but many, especially early on, blamed Ennahda directly. Others, more persuasively, blamed the permissive environment Ennahda had created for Islamist provocations.98 This led to a political crisis in July 2013. In the preceding months, opposition to the Ennahda Government had been increasing, the economy was poor, there were conflicts with Salafists, the Constituent Assembly had missed its October 2012 deadline, and the coup in Egypt had emboldened anti-Ennahda forces. Protesters called for the Ennahda-led cabinet to step down in favor of a ‘government of national salvation,’ opposition politicians began to boycott constitutional negotiations, and pro- and anti-Ennahda protesters faced off in the streets. There were demonstrations throughout the country, which the police broke up with tear gas, and the UGTT called for strikes.99 According to news reports, the military did not take part in crowd control; it was involved in fighting an insurgency in the hills bordering Algeria. It remained an important factor, however; the military’s presence served as a reminder that it could act if disorder increased. The second assassination took place only weeks after the Egyptian military overthrew the elected Islamist president there. In response, some anti-Ennahda groups directly called for a coup in Tunisia as well, while hardline Ennahda partisans wanted a violent resistance to ‘coup makers.’ Ghannouchi – recognizing the danger, and his party’s failure to restrain Islamist violence – pushed Ennahda towards a moderate strategy. The leader of the secularist Nidaa Tounes Party, Beji 90

Tunisia: A Professional Military Caid Essebsi, who might have preferred a coup against the Islamists under other circumstances, feared that a military coup would lead to civil war. This made him, like Ghannouchi, more open to negotiations.100 Also, while it is difficult to know what was going on inside their barracks, there is no indication in contemporary accounts that the military was interested in or prepared to launch a coup. Mutual fear that escalation could lead to civil war led Ghannouchi and Essebsi to negotiate. Like most political parties, Ennahda is ‘not a homogenous political entity,’101 and it should not be defined as exclusively moderate. It contains hardliners and moderates, as did the secularist opposition, which included old-regime authoritarians and radical anti-Islamists. Any large organization has multiple strains within it, and different circumstances can make the same organization take very different actions. However, the presence and behavior of the Tunisian military encouraged a moderate strategy on both sides. If the military had collapsed, as it did in Iran in 1979, it is easy to imagine the more radical Islamists dominating what was left of Ennahda. In a vacuum of authority, the groups most willing and able to use violence will win out over moderate voices – both between social groups and within organizations. With a military in place that is not focused on taking power, moderates will have the upper hand. The Tunisian military was never overtly threatening, but it remained in place. At the same time, unlike its Egyptian counterpart, it was focused on external defense and had no business interests to defend. As such, it was never a party to the negotiations and was not waiting for an excuse to take control. In this environment, parties knew that a military crackdown was possible if conflict got out of hand, but it also allowed space for them to negotiate. Ennahda’s leaders were mostly moderate, but the party also tried to gain and hold the support of the most radical elements in Tunisia. When violence threatened to get out of control and potentially lead to a crisis or coup, Ghannouchi chose to cut ties with the more radical elements and both sides worked to negotiate a way out of the situation. This required Ghannouchi to take the lead in calling for negotiation, stand up to the more demanding elements in Ennahda, and even threaten to resign. Kasper Netterstrøm argues that Ghannouchi was a dominant leader and 91

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Ennahda a well-disciplined party, so any sense that he was risking his position is probably overblown. He also argues that Ennahda feared not only the military and remnants of the Ben Ali regime but also the popularity and mobilization capacity of the UGTT – which was secularist and leftist, and could paralyze the country if Ennahda tried to take control of the constitutional process.102 Ghannouchi’s actions represented real concessions and required genuine effort to convince his party to accept them, but they should be understood as the actions of a knowledgeable politician trying to keep his party active and viable in a challenging political environment where it was popular but not dominant, rather than signaling inherent political moderation103 or being celebrated as a brave, moral act. In response to Ghannouchi’s moves, Essebsi announced he would not attend a provocative opposition rally, leading the rally to fizzle, calming the situation and opening up space for negotiations between the parties and civil-society groups.104 After some discussions, Ennahda and the secularist opposition agreed that once the constitution was approved the Ennahda cabinet would step down in favor of a technocratic cabinet that would run the country until the new elections. This focused the constitutional negotiations and allowed space for reconciliation. A quartet of civil-society groups – the UGTT, the lawyers’ syndicate, the employee institute, and the Tunisian human-rights league – set up a ‘national dialogue’ wherein the public could air their grievances, worries, and hopes. Essebsi and Ghannouchi were present at most of the meetings, signaling the big parties’ commitment to the process. Negotiations also continued privately between them.105 The Quartet received the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its role in diffusing the conflict, and the parties were able to come to an agreement and vote on a constitution six months later, in January 2014. Tunisia got a very liberal constitution that Ennahda may not have been happy about, but which it could live with, and which guaranteed it would continue as a political force and be able to compete in the future.106 Founding elections were scheduled for October 2014. Nidaa Tounes was primarily an anti-Islamist coalition, representing nostalgia for Bourguibism and a fear of Islamist dominance rather than a positive platform, so enthusiasm for the party itself was not high.107 92

Tunisia: A Professional Military However, Ennahda had been hurt by the actions of radicals and its own failures to fix the economy, so Nidaa Tounes won a plurality in the parliamentary elections in October of 2014 and Ennahda came in second. Essebsi was elected president in November with Ghannouchi’s support. After Nidaa Tounes failed to form a government in January 2015, Ennahda joined the coalition. It has since further moderated its politics. In 2016, Ennahda officially separated its social-welfare and religious activity from the political party, declaring itself a secular, democratic political party.108 Ghannouchi is given much of the credit for moderating Ennahda’s politics and encouraging negotiation, and this is deserved – but it is also essential to note that Tunisia’s strong civil society and the hands-off presence of the military provided both space and pressure for moderation and negotiation on both sides. This stands in contrast to the security breakdown and radicalization that will be shown in the case of revolutionary Iran, or the military manipulation that will be shown to have happened in Egypt. Politics in Tunisia remains contentious: there are significant levels of mistrust, the economic situation is poor, and the original protesters from the interior of the county say that their interests have been ignored. Unemployment remains high, and there were significant protests in economically distressed rural regions to mark the 2017 anniversary of the revolution.109 There are growing numbers of radical youths, many of whom have joined Jihadist groups abroad. There have been brutal terrorist attacks and attempts to take over border towns by jihadists trained in Libya and Algeria. The country has been under emergency law since November 2015 to deal with terrorism and is bracing for an influx of radicalized youths returning from fighting in Syria and Libya.110 However, Tunisia has overcome significant crises thus far and it continues to consolidate its democracy. The ruling coalition replaced the prime minister and cabinet in August 2016 without holding new elections. The security situation seems to be improving but remains challenging. There have been significant advances in women's rights, but many issues remain contentious. Perceptions of corruption have increased since the revolution, but citizens are attacking the issue through NGOs.111 Journalists struggle to get access to information and criticism of the army is deemed out of bounds, but the there are no 93

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring journalists in prison for reporting. There are serious problems, but in many cases Tunisians are turning to democratic and civil-society solutions to solve them rather than attacking the government as a whole. According to Amira Yahyoaui, a Tunisian film-maker and activist, the political situation in Tunisia is complicated, ‘but what’s interesting is that it’s complicated because of democracy.’112

Conclusion Tunisia serves as an ideal case for a democratizing revolution. It is a unified nation with an educated populace and a professional military. While there are many pitfalls ahead, it can serve as an excellent model when examining the subsequent Arab Spring uprisings. The Tunisian military was distinct from and subordinate to the regime. As such, it had nothing to lose when the regime fell, as long as the State did not fall as well. It also had the cohesiveness and bureaucratic strength to act as a single unit in order to overthrow the leader and his internal-security forces. During the transition period, the military remained in place but aloof from political bargaining, which helped to moderate the actions of the political groups on the ground and encourage negotiation. Finally, it had few internal interests to protect, and thus was willing to quickly hand over power to a transitional government, and had little to fear from a democratic government. In the end, Tunisia enacted a democratic constitution and its transition continues. All the other militaries in this study fell short of this professional ideal in some way, and their military structures explain much of the variation in the outcome of those countries’ revolts.


3 Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military

Egypt presents a strong case for the distinct behavior of an institutionalized but internally focused military. As in Tunisia, its armed forces turned on the president when faced with massive protests. Unlike Tunisia, the Egyptian military did not hand over power to a transitional government for over a year and then quickly took back control. Egypt has a long history as a political entity but – again, unlike Tunisia – it gained de facto independence in a military coup and its independent state was built by military men. After the 1952 coup, Gamal Abdel Nasser built a military structure that was separate from the regime leadership, but not professional. And while it has become more institutionalized and expert over the years, Egypt’s military is still strongly focused on its business interests and internal economy. The military was a beneficiary and key pillar of the Egyptian regime, but when the Tunisian uprising prompted a broad-based challenge from the Egyptian public, the military abandoned the leadership and looked after its own interests. The Egyptian military is involved in a wide variety of non-military tasks and had an interest in its strong relationship with the US, the Camp David Accords with Israel, and maintaining control of its vast business interests. These would have been put in danger by unleashing massive repression against the peaceful protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring The army is representative, so its soldiers might have baulked at repressing protesters, leading it to collapse. Even if repression was successful, it might have soured relations with the population and the international community. The military was mostly distinct in identity and interests from Mubarak, and his family and political allies at the top of the regime, making it willing to overthrow the president to defend its own interests. It was also unified and bureaucratic enough to do so, despite some strong, highlevel ties to the regime. However, unlike in Tunisia, the military was more oriented towards internal economic interests than external conflict and was unwilling to hand over power quickly and act as a relatively neutral arbiter during the transition. Rather than relinquish power immediately, the military oversaw a temporary electoral opening that allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to gain control of parliament and its candidate, Muhammed Morsi, to take the presidency. But the military, judiciary, and bureaucracy undercut the Muslim Brotherhood’s ability to rule, which, combined with Brotherhood mistakes, alienated a large part of the Egyptian population. On the anniversary of the first freely elected president’s inauguration, the military encouraged massive protests that served to justify a coup. It then took control under the presidency of the army commander, Abdel Fattah elSisi, who has instituted a renewed, dictatorial regime with strong army control. Predictably, because of its changing position relative to the government, the military was unwilling to use massive force to defend either Morsi or Mubarak, but was prepared to use heavy repression to defend its own control. Egypt has returned to repressive, authoritarian rule, but its military has proven willing to be strategic about defending its interests and, if civil and political groups can learn from the failures of the transition period, perhaps the next time Egypt rises up the outcome will be democracy.

Historical Development Egypt is large, populous, historically important, geographically strategic, and central to the politics and culture of the Arab world. It has a long history as a political entity and a strong national identity. Egypt is more 96

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military divided than Tunisia, however. Roughly 10 percent of the population is Coptic Christian, and the divide between Christians and Muslims is politically consequential and often erupts into violence. So, while Egypt is demographically dominated by Muslims it has a significant ethnic/sectarian divide that must be accounted for in any analysis of its politics. Muhammed Ali Pasha was one of the first Muslim rulers to begin the process of modern state building in the Arab world, beginning with his ascent to power in Egypt in 1805. Not Egyptian, he was an Albanian Ottoman officer attempting to carve out a kingdom for himself, and to do so he began a process of modernization that was to form the basis of the modern Egyptian state. He and his descendants would be the nominal rulers of Egypt until Nasser’s coup in 1952. During the first half of the nineteenth century, Muhammed Ali and his descendants engaged in a crash programme of modernization. He reorganized the army along European lines, replacing the slave Mamluk army with conscripted Egyptians. He rationalized the bureaucracy, often using Europeans and Christians from Ottoman territories. He paid many of these bureaucrats with grants of land, often by confiscating waqf, property endowed to the control of the religious classes for charitable purposes under Islamic law. This helped create a politically powerful landlord class that dominated Egyptian politics and economics into the contemporary period. He opened Egypt to the international market and it became ‘a virtual plantation economy, exporting raw materials, most notably cotton, and importing European manufactured goods.’1 With the growth in trade and treaties signed by the Ottomans that gave special rights to Europeans, there was an influx of foreigners. Ismail the Magnificent, the grandson of Muhammed Ali, engaged Egypt in a transformative project to integrate it with the Mediterranean and European world.2 In recognition of his independent status, the Ottoman Sultan allowed Egypt to issue its own currency, enlarge its army, and take out loans without the Sultan’s approval. Those loans would help build the Suez Canal, but would prove disastrous for Egyptian independence. Ismail’s vast expenditure, high-interest loans, and the collapse in the price of cotton after the end of the American Civil War put Egypt deep in debt and forced him to sell Egypt’s stake in the Suez Canal. 97

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Nationalist challenges also arose at this time. The royal family was Albanian, there were many foreign and Christian advisors and a continued reliance on descendants of Circassian slaves, separating government from much of the local Muslim, Arab population.3 When the government decreed that Egyptian peasants could no longer become army officers, a locally trained Egyptian colonel from a peasant background, Ahmed Urabi, started a revolt. Urabi gained support from peasants, the army, and some local notables. However, when the movement began to push for a true parliamentary system and local control over the economy and political affairs, the British – afraid of losing access to the Suez Canal – backed the royal family and invaded Egypt. The intervention was meant to be brief, simply to defeat Urabi’s revolt; but in the imperial politics of the time, once the British were there they stayed. It was not until World War I that Egypt officially became a protectorate of the UK, but the British dominated Egyptian politics and administration through a debt commission, beginning in 1882. The first major administrator, Lord Cromer, opposed developing Egypt’s industrial base and focused the economy on agriculture. He also cut funding to most other modernization and educational projects. There was some improvement in peasant living standards, but the biggest beneficiaries were the large landowners. As in Tunisia, Egyptians joined the civil service and Egypt developed a significant middle class of professionals and business people, but they were not in charge of the most important decisions.4 There was a great deal of friction between the British and the Egyptians, and education was neglected, but there were some improvements to material life. A vibrant press developed that, amongst other intellectual currents, began to express the beginnings of modern Egyptian nationalism.5 The liberal, nationalist elements in Egypt came together to press for independence at the Paris Peace Conference after World War I. A group of Egyptian lawyers and notables asked to be allowed to attend the peace conference as a delegation, or wafd. The British refused and exiled the leader of the movement, setting off a wave of riots and unrest known as the Revolution of 1919. Muslim scholars from Al-Azhar University, women, students, government workers, lawyers, and industrial workers went on strike, ripped up train tracks, and killed British soldiers. To stem the unrest, 98

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military the British allowed the delegation, soon to be known as the Wafd Party, to attend the peace conference. The negotiations were contentious, with the Egyptians demanding full independence and the British insisting on guarantees, centered on their desire to control the Suez Canal, which would impinge on Egyptian sovereignty. Finally, the British simply declared Egypt independent on British terms. The ruler was elevated to king and the protectorate abolished, but Britain retained the right to defend Egypt and the canal, the special rights for foreigners remained in place, British troops would remain, and Egypt would have no control over its foreign policy. It was a ‘false independence.’6 There would be voting, but the British would remain, making a mockery of parliamentary politics. The Wafd Party, unable to harness its vast popularity to gain independence, would fall into corruption and privilege, discrediting the liberal and monarchic order and making way for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Free Officers. Had the Wafd gone the way of the Tunisian Neo-Destour, Egypt might have eventually gained its independence under the auspices of a popular, nationalist political party. Instead, Egypt’s nationalist parties were discredited by their participation in the British-installed parliamentary regime. This is often called the ‘liberal’ era of Egyptian politics. The Wafd Party dominated parliament, but it was a middle- and upper-class party, ‘not prepared to mobilize the people for uncompromising struggle for national liberation.’7 The elite was attuned to European styles of life and promoted European theories and ideas in the popular press, often denigrating Islamic traditions as backward. The Wafd Party – and the liberal, nationalist parties more generally – became caught up in internal politicking and conflict with the palace, eventually succumbing to increasing corruption and further cooperation with the British.8 At the same time, the focus on nationalist goals meant that they ignored many domestic and social issues.9 The corruption and disappointment of the Egyptian parliamentary era instead discredited the political parties and paved the way for a military coup as the path to real independence. During this period, the Muslim Brotherhood began to take shape under Hassan al-Banna, and Nasser’s Free Officers entered the military academy. The Brotherhood was a reaction to British domination and the liberalization of Egyptian life. It was dedicated to a new understanding of Islam 99

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring that could compete with modern, Western ideas while retaining Islamic values. Al-Banna emphasized social justice and land redistribution and found a great deal of support amongst labor unions and the poor. Today’s Brotherhood is recognized as much more favorable to capitalists, however, even as its charitable works reinforce its support amongst the poor.10 Al-Banna imagined a bottom-up movement of social transformation that would lead to a takeover of government, but soon the Brotherhood became a revolutionary group, with 500,000 members and even more supporters, secret military cells, and a corps of assassins called the ‘secret apparatus.’11 At the same time, the Egyptian Military Academy opened its doors to the lower classes in 1936. As will be shown in the cases of Libya and Syria, in a fragile and unequal system allowing excluded or marginalized groups into the officer corps can prove disastrous for the old order, as middle-class officers lead revolts against the old regime. Nasser and many of his future Free Officers enrolled in this initial class. The Brotherhood had support amongst much of the urban lower class, and the Free Officers were largely members of the rural middle and lower classes hoping for advancement in the modern state. The Brotherhood would ally with the Free Officers after the latters’ coup but would quickly turn on Nasser, who then mercilessly repressed them. These contradictions led to a great deal of anti-British activity in the late 1930s and ’40s. When World War II began, many Egyptians hoped for an Axis victory, expecting to be freed from British domination. Germany’s early successes in French North Africa made this seem possible, but the UK was determined to hold the canal and thus Egypt. The country filled with British troops and the UK invested in industrial development, but there was rampant inflation, food shortages, and occasional air raids. The British also continued their high-handed behavior, discrediting Egypt’s parliament and monarchy when they surrounded the royal palace with tanks to prevent the King from appointing an Axis sympathizer as prime minister. The King was humiliated, and the Wafd Party, which formed a new government on British insistence, was tainted. The monarchy also took the blame for the failures in the 1948 war over the foundation of Israel. Its soldiers were ill-equipped and felt abandoned and betrayed by the government. In an attempt to 100

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military salvage some legitimacy, in 1951 the Wafd Government voted to abrogate the 1936 treaty with Britain, mandating that the British troops leave. The British resisted and the public revolted. On ‘Black Saturday,’ 26 January 1952, Cairo rioted, attacking British property as well as Western symbols of the liberal Egyptian upper class. A few months later, the Free Officers overthrew the government and ended the monarchy.

Nasser’s Revolution and the Egyptian Military The Free Officers, sons of peasants and the rural middle classes, had experienced the domination of rural landlords and notables and were determined to end both their influence and British domination. After being embarrassed by the British during World War II and the debacle of the 1948 war with newly formed Israel, the King was a fading symbol and the population welcomed his overthrow. The Free Officers tried to brand their coup as a revolution, for which they were the instruments, but it was a coup by a small group that became smaller over time.12 The charismatic Gamal Abdel Nasser soon became the dominant voice in the Free Officers, and took control of the State. As in many coups, the Free Officers first tried to rule as a committee and used a moderate, senior officer as the figurehead. Nasser was exceptionally charismatic, however, and over time he was able to gain control of the movement. Nasser, no doubt, had grand dreams for modernization, and he was able to distribute land to many peasants and jump-start the industrialization process, but he was not able to institutionalize a strong regime. He was always cautious about mass mobilization and afraid to let others challenge his power. Unable to fully disempower the rural power structures that he believed were a major cause of Egypt’s problems, he created a centralized state over which he had great control, but it was not strong state that was able to act decisively over time to institute a widespread modernization programme. He shuffled office holders, and made and remade his mobilization party, but was always afraid of competing power centers and was determined to keep a strong hand on all aspects of the State.13 All, that is, except for the army. Early on, Nasser relied on his allies in the army to staff many of the branches of government, constantly shuffling officers and bureaucrats to 101

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring maintain control. Within the army, he gave his friend, Hakim Amer, a free hand.14 Because of Egypt’s sense of historical unity, the sectarian or tribal cabals that made up the Syrian and Libyan armies were absent. As such, Nasser did not engage in the kind of coup-proofing strategies that were prevalent in Syria and Libya. But because the army was relatively unified, it also had to be placated. The military was more likely to be paid off and encouraged to think of other things besides controlling the government. Nasser tried to build up other institutions to counterbalance the military, such as political parties, and he built a cult of personality around himself that served as something of a shield. Said Aburish, in a sympathetic but damning biography, writes that Nasser may have wanted some sort of democratic system, and may have wanted to reduce the power of the military, but he never felt secure enough to empower other institutions to truly counterbalance military influence. ‘The only governmental system he could conceive of was a democracy supervised by the army,’ with a personality cult around himself.15 All the while, the military remained a dangerous, if subordinate, player in the Egyptian regime. It could occasionally use its power to demand concessions of the president, and it was well taken care of, but between 1952 and 2011 it tended to back the regime rather than challenge it. Nasser created a centralized state, with the president at the top. The military served as a bastion of regime power, but was always subordinate to the leader. It was a primary beneficiary of he regime and a strong pillar of support, but in conflicts between the president and the military (at least until 2011) the military always seemed to lose. For most of the Nasser period, the Egyptian Army was not nearly as institutionalized as it is today. Since opening its academy doors to the lower classes, the Egyptian military has been highly representative of the population. There is conscription, which encompasses all Egyptians – including Coptic Christians. The latter have served in the Egyptian military since the time of Muhammed Ali, and serve throughout the military structure rather than in segregated units. However, there was apparently a ‘glass ceiling’ for Christians, which prevents them rising above the rank of colonel.16 Under Nasser, the military was representative and subordinate, but it was not bureaucratic, cohesive, distinct, expert, or externally focused. ‘Politically motivated convolutions in the chain of command,’ introduced by Amer and 102

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military Nasser to control the military, led to ‘competing commands with overlapping responsibilities functioning in an atmosphere of little mutual cooperation.’17 This did not threaten Nasser, however, as the military remained subordinate to him and sought his favor.18 Nasser attempted to create various mobilizational parties, such as the Arab Socialist Union and National Union, but during his lifetime he never allowed them enough independence to act as a real counterweight to the military. Nasser’s successors, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, would both try to counterbalance the military with controlled political parties and rigged elections, leading eventually to the formation of the National Democratic Party (NDP). Sadat and Mubarak lacked Nasser’s charisma but they both ran the State much as he did. The bureaucracy was corrupt but centralized, the political elite was co-opted into a weak but lucrative parliament, and the military was pampered and allowed to remain independent. Prior to the 1967 Six-Day War, the Egyptian military was damaged by bloody fighting in Yemen, contributing to its massive defeat by Israel. As will be shown in Chapter 7, Nasser tried to bolster a Nasserist coup against the traditional leadership backed by Saudi Arabia. The Yemen quagmire hurt the army’s already-poor organization, exhausted and demoralized its troops, and reduced their ability to prepare for fighting Israel. To bolster morale and control in Yemen, General Amer ‘ “bribed” Egyptian army officers by not subjecting them to the rigors of army life and by allowing them to line their pockets.’19 He encouraged corruption and ill-discipline, and reduced the amount of training. The conflict also meant that many of the Egyptian Army’s best troops were in Yemen in the run-up to the Six-Day War. Egypt’s army was unprepared, Amer was a poor commander, and most accounts say Nasser did not want war with Israel but was mostly posturing for his Arab audience.20 Israel viewed the situation differently, however, and attacked first. The Egyptian Army was woefully unprepared. In the initial attack, Israel destroyed 85 percent of Egypt’s combat aircraft on the ground. Some 10,000 Egyptian troops died, with another 5,000 captured, and Israel was able to seize or destroy 80 percent of the Egyptian Army’s vehicles and equipment, including capturing a fleet of Soviet tanks.21 Israel also captured the Sinai Peninsula and the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. 103

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring After this stinging defeat, the Egyptian Army was discredited. Amer was arrested and allegedly committed suicide. Desperate to retake the Sinai, Nasser began the long War of Attrition across the Suez Canal and turned to the Soviet Union to modernize his military. After his death in 1970, Sadat became president and continued Nasser’s late-career push to professionalize the military, firing many of Nasser’s allies and pressuring the Soviets by threatening their position in Egypt. Using its improved military and a limited battle plan, Egypt was able to capture a piece of the Sinai Peninsula back from Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur/October War. With Soviet and American political intervention, Sadat was able to arrange a ceasefire with Israel and regain the lost Sinai territory. Military accounts suggest that it was primarily Egypt’s limited aims and meticulous planning, rather than genuine military expertise, that allowed that limited victory. The Egyptian Army proved (and, by more recent accounts, remains) too wedded to battle plans and inadaptable on the battlefield. Despite the surprise attack and vast numerical superiority, it was still unable to reach as far as its initial objective.22 The military had improved its organization and competence, but was still not fully expert or professional. Riding high on that perceived victory, and with a military that had been able to exorcise some of the demons of 1967, Sadat gained the political capital necessary to rid himself of many of his Nasserist rivals and reduce the military’s role in society.

The Military Under Sadat and Mubarak Following the 1973 war, Sadat significantly reduced the military’s role in politics. He had been a member of the 1952 Free Officers, but only a minor figure in the Nasser era. He held high positions, but had little influence and never had much of a power base in the military. Sadat had few allies amongst the leadership, and he spent his first years in power trying to push his Nasserist rivals out of government and reduce the military’s role in politics. Sadat ‘detested’ the militarism that had dominated Egyptian life in the 1950s and ’60s, and ‘believed that the just concluded war had to be the last between Egypt and Israel.’23 He was determined to base his regime on a platform of peace, religion, and economic reform, rather than aggressive, militarized Arab nationalism. 104

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military Sadat moved away from the Soviet camp and towards the United States, accepting a separate peace with Israel (the 1978 Camp David Accords) that made him a pariah in the Arab world. No longer feeling the political necessity to retake the Sinai, and having restored some of the army’s lost glory, he pushed for troop and budget reductions. Hundreds of thousands of troops were demobilized, and Sadat was careful not to let cults of personality develop around the ‘heroes of October’ or allow other centers of power and popularity to form outside of the presidency.24 Between 1971 and 1980, he had seven defense ministers. Following the war, he also initiated a demilitarization of the cabinet that endured through much of Mubarak’s reign. Those ministerial posts that did continue to go to military figures ‘were technical in nature and directly related to the military.’25 The peace treaty with Israel further reduced the need for a large military. By the end of the 1970s, the army had gone from a wartime high of perhaps 800,000 to the roughly 450,000 troops it has maintained since. This is still a far larger force than is necessary, particularly given the modernization of forces in the 1980s. This large force serves economic and socialization functions as well as military ones, however. In his final three years, Sadat reduced defense spending, as a total of government expenditures, by 60 percent.26 Sadat was able to significantly reduce the military’s influence in government and, according to some, ‘this policy of sidelining and dismissals finally made the Egyptian military totally subordinate to the civilianized leadership of the President.’27 By most accounts, the military accepted a reduced role but it was not spent as a political force. Phillipe Droz-Vincent calls this ‘agreed subservience rather than total submission.’28 While the military did not normally press its political role, it was still an important bastion of the regime and the president often needed its support to make bold or contentious moves. Sadat could fly to Jerusalem in 1977 only after the Minister of War ‘bid him farewell at the tarmac at Cairo Airport and offered the support of the armed forces for the president’s bold peace initiative.’29 The military proved to be limited in its political ambitions, but tried to guard its honor. It agreed to intervene in widespread ‘bread riots’ in 1977 only after food subsidies were restored, then quelled the unrest professionally and quickly returned to barracks.30 105

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Instead of the secular, expansive Arab nationalism of Nasser, Sadat played up his Islamic credentials and transformed ‘the country from a stalwart of the Arab “solidarity front” into a regional investment destination open for business, trade, commerce, and high finance.’31 He freed many members of the Muslim Brotherhood in order to use Islamic symbols and politics against the leftism of Nasser supporters. Throughout the Sadat and Mubarak periods, the Muslim Brotherhood was allowed to operate more openly as a welfare organization, though it remained technically illegal and was subject to brutal repression. The Brotherhood was unable to register officially as a political party, but its candidates gained control of many student groups and professional organizations starting in the 1980s, and it ran individual candidates for parliament and gained significant numbers of seats at times. It also took responsibility for providing social welfare and organization in some of the country’s poorest areas and gained a great deal of support in some circles for its charitable work. The Brotherhood was organized in small, secretive, and highly disciplined cells throughout the country, and though it eventually denounced violence some of its members drifted into more violent groups.32 Growing Islamist sentiment in the 1970s, and the unpopular treaty with Israel, led a small group of Islamist sympathizers in the army to assassinate Sadat in 1980. Under Mubarak’s rule, the military’s role leveled out. It became a bastion of the regime, playing a strong role in national identity and socialization but acting in a less overtly political way than previously. It also became a massive economic enterprise. Beginning in the 1980s, Mubarak encouraged the military to take on an economic role to distract it from politics, justify its high troop levels, and ‘buy’ its loyalty.33 The army mostly comprises conscripts, with less-educated soldiers having longer mandatory commitments. Many of these conscripts are primarily workers in economic projects, not soldiers.34 The Egyptian military is a major construction contractor, and is responsible for most of the public-works projects in the country. It is also involved in arms production and sales, agriculture and food processing, heavy industry, tourism, and manufacturing of retail items. The military consumes much of this production itself, feeding and outfitting 106

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military its soldiers, and selling goods to army personal at subsided rates – but surpluses go on the market and bring in large sums. The military has used this economic power to bolster control over its forces and tie officers to the institution. Fearing growing Islamist influence on its troops, in the 1980s the military sold many of its urban bases and built new ones on less expensive land farther from population centers. This allowed it to separate its soldiers physically and ideologically from the turmoil in the cities, improve soldiers’ standard of living at relatively low cost by providing cheap housing and subsidized goods at base stores, and pocket the proceeds from the land sales.35 The Egyptian military is free to use its own assets for internal purposes without taxation or oversight from the government and may control 10–15 percent of Egypt’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).36 These massive economic interests are under the control of the military as an institution, giving military leaders distinct interests from the regime leadership and tying the officers together as an interest group. It also renders the military, as an institution, internally focused and fearful of relinquishing too much power. A powerful democratic or Islamist regime might try to reduce the military’s economic power, either to professionalize it and focus it on external defense or to diminish its political power and independence. Throughout this period, the military’s autonomy increased and it remained a key player in the regime, but it was no longer the only strong force. Under Mubarak, the internal-security services gained power relatively to the military. The Egyptian regime has a relatively strict separation between external and internal security. The large Central Security Force (CSF) and the secret police are responsible for internal security and the military is responsible for external defense, though it has acted as a force of last resort for internal repression. When CSF recruits rioted in 1986, the military reluctantly mobilized to quell the disturbances but quickly returned to barracks. There is conflict for influence and resources, which increasingly went to the internal-security forces under Mubarak,37 but there is not the same confusion of overlapping agencies one sees in a place like Syria. And, ‘[w]hile President Mubarak did use his internal security forces to observe the military, the military considered this institutional oversight a nuisance that could be managed rather than a burden that could not be 107

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring escaped.’38 Nor did the president have a significant regime-protection force to defend him against the rest of his army. Egypt’s presidential guard is a small, relatively minor force. This separation of internal and external policing allowed the Egyptian military to focus on its economic interests and avoid being too visibly tied to the repression of the Mubarak regime, which gave it greater legitimacy in the eyes of the populace. It was a mainstay of the regime but, unlike many of the cases in this analysis, the Egyptian military supports and benefits from the regime while not necessarily having the same interests as the leadership. Unlike in Syria, where the top military leadership comes from the same family and tribe as the ruler, the Egyptian military was a key player in the regime, but not the regime itself. Its significant economic independence, through the businesses it owns and through its $1.3 billion per year in aid from the US, as well as its coherence and relatively bureaucratic structure, meant it had interests separate from the regime leadership as well as the unity to act on those interests. The Egyptian military was not completely bureaucratic at the top, where Mubarak had greater control of appointments, but was very bureaucratic below the senior leadership. High-level commanders were often picked for loyalty first and competence second. The defense minister, Mohamed Tantawi, who led the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that eventually ousted Mubarak, was seen by some of his own soldiers as ‘Mubarak’s poodle,’ and in his position only because of his loyalty to the latter.39 American diplomats saw Tantawi as overly conservative and ‘focused on regime stability and maintaining the status quo through the end of their time’, without ‘the energy, inclination or world view to do anything differently.’40 There were also many more major generals than necessary; these positions did not entail a great deal of responsibility or power, but brought social prestige and allowed generals to engage in corruption. This suggests an attempt by Mubarak to buy allies; he was also known to hand out cash to leading generals.41 Mubarak was also careful to limit the American impact on his military. US-trained officers were often ‘denied speedy promotion to prevent the growth of US influence,’ to the detriment of Egyptian military capability and professionalism.42 108

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military However, below the highest levels, the Egyptian military was quite bureaucratic. ‘Promotion through the rank of colonel seemed to have been largely on the basis of merit quantified by evaluation reports and performance at a host of military schools.’43 The military enjoyed strong control over its internal organization and officers were rotated through commands on a regular basis, not shuffled around based on political considerations. There were strong distinctions between the military branches, but all operated under the unified command of the SCAF.44 Even the tendency of military officers to move into government positions and governorships was regularized, not a matter of personal favoritism by Mubarak. Officers rose through the ranks until their mid-forties, and if they did not take senior military positions they retired and took posts in the government or private industry. Some governorships even seemed to be reserved for retirees from certain military commands. So, while a military career could lead to a government position, connecting the military to the government, it did not make the officers dependent on Mubarak personally. In fact, ‘in the eyes of an officer, it was not the personal loyalty to the president that guaranteed an attractive post-retirement position. It was rather seen as a reward associated with military career accomplishments.’45 Some authors claim that the military under Mubarak had become completely subservient to the civilian regime,46 while others argued (at least, as of the late 1980s) that a ‘clear separation of military and civilian authority – and the subordination of the former to the latter – is not engrained in the nation’s political culture.’47 Steven Cook argued that Egypt’s military effectively ruled through its shared ‘interests and worldviews,’ with the former General Mubarak and the many officers and former officers in government.48 This book argues that the Egyptian military was a powerful interest group, that in practice deferred to the leadership, even where deference harmed its interests. The military was a central pillar of regime support, and often shared interests with Mubarak, but not always. And prior to the Arab Spring, when there were conflicts between the military and Mubarak, Mubarak usually won. The 1989 firing and corruption investigation of popular defense minister Abu Ghazalah, who was a strong American ally, was Mubarak’s attempt to prevent any individual from rising up to challenge his position. According to US Embassy cables published through the 109

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Wikileaks organization, Egyptian military analysts say that the military’s influence had been in decline since that incident and that ‘a culture of blind obedience pervades the [Ministry of Defense] where the sole criteria for promotion is loyalty, and that the MOD leadership does not hesitate to fire officers it perceives as being “too competent” and who therefore potentially pose a threat to the regime.’49 Political considerations were especially important for advancement to the most senior ranks, as Mubarak tried to limit the military’s ability to challenge his succession plan. During the 2000s, Mubarak attempted to build up the National Democratic Party as a power base from which his son, Gamal, could succeed him. Gamal would have been the first president of Egypt not to have a military background. He had worked as a banker in London and, as he solidified his position within the NDP, he brought along many younger proponents of neo-liberal economics, directly challenging the military’s economic preferences. The military – with its large, state-supported enterprises – was in danger of losing out if the economy opened up too much. Michael Makara and Hicham Bou Nassif point to the ways that Mubarak increasingly favored the CSF and civilian NDP over the military, causing conflict within the regime, though they disagree on how resentful the generals were.50 Mubarak continued to give military allies top posts in the civilian government, but this was a means of maintaining the support of military leaders even as the military as a whole was losing power relative to Gamal Mubarak and his neo-liberal clique.51 Rumours passed to the US State Department that the military might coup to prevent Gamal’s ascension to the presidency if Mubarak died in office, but would likely acquiesce if Mubarak handed power to his son.52 This suggests the military had become subordinate to the leadership, even on issues perceived to be against military interests, though it might take advantage of a power vacuum at the top to press its interests. There is no doubt that the Egyptian military was a major beneficiary and strong supporter of the regime, but it had distinct and separate interests from Mubarak and, particularly, his son. It also had distinct military identity and a strong bureaucratic structure below the highest levels, where leaders had to balance the individual economic benefits of being loyal to Mubarak with their institutional interests as officers. 110

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military The military also usually deferred to Mubarak, even when its collective interest was at stake. Individual military officers were unhappy with Tantawi’s fealty to Mubarak, the loyalty criteria for promotion during the 2000s, and the increased resources and power of the CSF and NDP, but the Egyptian military was largely subordinate and seemed willing to stay that way, barring any major challenge. As Brooks argued, the Egyptian military had taken on a supportive but subordinate role, and was willing to stay out of politics ‘as long as it [could] run its own economy.’53 Following Eva Bellin’s definition, this book argues that the Egyptian military is institutionalized, but it is not professional as she and others have occasionally written.54 Since the 1967 war, it has developed clearer chains of command and greater expertise in warfare, though it still does not give its lower-level commanders enough freedom of operation.55 It has also reduced its political role, but the Egyptian military still has too many internal economic interests to be considered fully professional. In the terms used by this study, it is ‘highly representative’, ‘highly cohesive’, ‘moderately distinct’, ‘moderately bureaucratic’, ‘moderately expert’, and ‘highly subordinate’. But, its strong business interests give it a corporate cast and ‘low external focus’ (see Table 3.1). Based on these criteria, the Egyptian military falls into the ‘High Subordination & Distinctiveness’ category. So, as shown in Table 3.2, when the president was challenged by large, peaceful protests, the military was able to look out for its own interest, not Mubarak’s, and refuse to shoot protesters. Because of its relative bureaucratization and high cohesiveness, it also had the ‘Strong Internal Structure’ necessary to successfully defy and overthrow the president, despite some officers who might have been sympathetic to him. However, because the military was not externally oriented it had strong internal interests to protect. So, it was reluctant to hand over control of the government and was quick to take power back. And though it was not willing to use violence to defend Mubarak or Morsi when the military was not in power, it was willing to use violence against protesters to defend its own interests when it was in control. As a retired US general wryly noted, the ‘Army took the side of the Army.’56 111

Table 3.1 Egypt’s Military Structure Representativeness


Egypt is a relatively homogenous society and all groups are represented throughout the military, even if the Coptic Christian minority is mostly excluded from the highest military positions.



There is a single national military with a coherent military identity, controlled at the top by a single unified command.



Many government positions are reserved for retired military officers, connecting senior officers to the regime, but below that there is a distinct military career path and officers must retire from the military to join government in other areas.



There are too many generals and the most senior officers were chosen based on loyalty to Mubarak. Below the senior level, promotion, transfer, and internal organization are largely rule-bound and regular.



The military is a powerful organization with political clout, but since the 1970s it had a long history of practised subordination and was prone to lose in clashes between the president and the military – down to an apparent willingness to accept the hated Gamal Mubarak as the next president, had the Arab Spring not occurred.



While many officers have received Western military training and the army has advanced equipment, it was known to have relatively poor training and a doctrine that limited the freedom of junior officers.

External Focus


The military was large and officially in a cold peace with Israel, but much of its activity was focused on its massive internal economy.

Table 3.2 Egyptian Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Strong Internal Structure High Distinctiveness & Subordination Low Distinctiveness & Subordination

Military Coup Tunisia Egypt

Weak Internal Structure

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military

The Uprising On 14 January 2011, President Ben Ali fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia, and for two weeks the world waited for the next domino to fall. There were rumblings and guesses about which country would be next. There were more self-immolations, like the ones that launched the Tunisian protests, but little movement for several days. Egypt was not seen as particularly vulnerable.57 As the uprising began in Tunisia in December, there were also protests against the December 2010 parliamentary elections in Egypt. Those elections had been less free than before, rolling back many of the 2005 gains made by the Muslim Brotherhood. The protests were significant, as was the electoral manipulation, but the Egyptian regime was used to protests and these did not seem to shake it. This suggests that the Egyptian Revolution was only possible because of Ben Ali’s fall in Tunisia. Egypt had experienced plenty of unrest in the 2000s, but the police had always been able to repress and contain it. It is likely everyone assumed they would always be able to do so, and thus most stayed at home during the December 2010 election protests. As prominent Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian Muhammad Beltagy said about the mood in January 2011, ‘All the indicators were going in the other direction […] None of us knew the revolution was coming.’58 It took the Tunisian example to prove that a peaceful uprising could succeed and offer the possibility that the military might not shoot. As Marc Lynch put it, ‘Tunisia’s great contribution was to show Egyptians that they could actually win.’59 As the world waited for the next big protest in January, younger Egyptians from the April 6 Youth Movement were organizing a ‘Day of Rage’ protest for 25 January, Egypt’s Police Day. The group had grown out of the 2004 Kefaya movement for fair elections and a series of economic protests in 2008 that had been brutally suppressed by the regime. Some groups with international connections had been planning a push for some time and were looking for an opening. Others had been working to develop an online community of activists and supporters in Egypt, many of whom were suppressed by the government. Social media and the internet were prevalent amongst educated Egyptian youth, and served as


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring a place where information could be circulated quickly and widely, if not always discreetly. The ‘Day of Rage’ on 25 January 2011 generated much more support than expected. Young people, mostly unaffiliated with established political parties, took to the streets. The regime tried to paint the protests as Muslim Brotherhood-led in order to justify swift repression – but the Brotherhood was not involved as a movement and protesters vocally asserted that theirs was a broad-based call for political and economic change, not a call for the rule of Islam.60 The initial government reaction was to contain the protesters: they were organized and mobile, but not yet large enough to be a significant danger to the regime. Protesters managed to briefly capture Tahrir Square in central Cairo, but were chased away by police that night.61 The first day’s protest was not sufficient to threaten the regime, but it did show that there were a great many people willing to challenge it. Protests continued for the next two days. The CSF cordoned off Tahrir Square and protesters tried to overcome them, leading to increasing deaths and arrests.62 On Friday 28 January, the situation changed. Friday is the day for communal noon sermons and a traditional day of protests in the Muslim world. Massive crowds marched out of noon prayers and into the streets, trying to congregate on Tahrir and taking to the streets in other major cities. Where the Tunisian protests had spread from the poor countryside to the capital, their Egyptian equivalents started in the major cities. The Muslim Brotherhood declared it would allow its members to join the protests, but would not join as a group. Egypt had been willing and able to crack down on the movement before, and the Brotherhood was afraid that its heavy involvement would frighten the middle classes and the West enough to allow Mubarak free reign to violently suppress the protests. The Brotherhood would push for more as the transition process went on, but from the start it tried to minimize the government’s ability to portray the demonstrations as an Islamist uprising.63 The government reaction was swift and brutal, but the population fought back. The Brotherhood had groups of street fighters ready, but gangs of soccer fans, called Ultras, were also key to the protesters’ ability to meet violence with violence.64 Internet services and telephones were cut, 114

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military as was Egyptians’ access to Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language channel. Tellingly, the English-language cable channels, including Al Jazeera, were allowed to continue broadcasting. It is likely that the Western-oriented regime wanted to downplay the extent of the protests and maintain its appearance of international legitimacy. Unlike Syria or Libya, Egypt had been largely open to the international press, and it could not act too harshly against the media without some blowback. Hundreds were killed in those first days, mostly on Friday, as the regime tried to regain control. The protests were large, geographically dispersed, and attended by most sectors of Egyptian society, ‘including young and old, women with Louis Vuitton bags and men in galabeyas, factory workers and film stars.’65 The police, finally challenged by a large cross-section of society, were unable to hold the streets, but the military had yet to become involved. The government remained defiant, however. Mubarak continued to view the protests as a plot by Islamists as opposed to an honest, popular challenge to his 30 years’ rule. The protesters managed to loot and burn the headquarters of his National Democratic Party and attacked the Interior Ministry building and the state television headquarters. Looters broke into the Egyptian Museum and made off with some artefacts. There was also an attack on the US Embassy, which was eventually dispersed. By evening, unable to hold back the protesters, the police gave up and left the streets. As night fell on Friday 28 January, the army rolled into Cairo. The initial reaction to the army taking control of the streets was jubilation. The army quickly secured the Egyptian Museum, the US Embassy, and various other buildings, but made no effort to disperse the protesters. The demonstrators immediately tried to get the army on their side. Egypt’s army is conscript-based and large enough that most families have at least one member who has served. It was popular amongst Egyptians for its perceived victory against Israel and was viewed as largely nationalist, as opposed to being totally identified with the regime. It was also just good strategy: many hoped that it would oust Mubarak, as the military had done in Tunisia. The protesters cheered the army as it arrived, hugging soldiers, climbing on tanks for photographs, and chanting the ‘the army and the people are one hand!’ The ‘hug a soldier’ campaign was a deliberate attempt to get the military on their side; with soldiers’ permission, protesters painted anti-regime 115

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring slogans on tanks and other military vehicles, attempting to symbolically align the soldiers with themselves. The military remained largely hands-off, however, not taking sides in a battle between protesters and police defending the Interior Ministry, despite calls for help from the demonstrators.66 The military would not fire on the protesters, but had yet to decide where its interests lay. As in Tunisia, its decisions should be thought of as defensive. The military could conceivably have used the violence of that first night as an excuse to disperse the protests, but its institutional interests leaned away from that course of action and there does not seem to be clear evidence that Mubarak had ordered them to shoot. However, once the military allowed the protesters to take Tahrir Square and set up a peaceful camp, its options were limited. It could have used massive violence against peaceful protesters, but that would have been dangerous for the military’s internal cohesion and long-term interests. From that point on, rather than driving events, ‘military commanders were always “a half step behind the protest events” and one to two days late to influence every major decision.’67 After mostly ignoring the Tunisian uprising until it was over, international reaction to the Egyptian uprising was swift but equivocal. The US called for Mubarak to respect the rights of protesters and refrain from violence. It threatened to put the $1.3 billion annual grant to the Egyptian military under review if the government did not address the people’s legitimate grievances. But the US was still far from calling for Mubarak to step down, or for explicit changes. Its connection with Egypt gave the US some leverage, but the threat to review the grant was short-lived, as the Obama Administration began to see the military as its greatest lever against the regime. US officers and government officials made many attempts to contact their Egyptian counterparts, and some analysts and US officers wanted to give credit to those contacts or the effect that American training had on Egyptian officers’ views of civil–military relations, but according to interviews by William Taylor, the calls had little effect and the Egyptian officers only took them because they wanted to keep the lines of communication open with Washington to protect their own interests.68 It was, rather, the structure of the Egyptian military that made it resistant to shooting large numbers of peaceful protesters and able and willing to eventually overthrow Mubarak. 116

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military On Monday 31 January, after a long weekend of waiting, the military announced it would not fire on protesters. The army acknowledged the protesters’ legitimate demands and said that, contrary to the evidence of Egypt’s history, ‘freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody.’69 The crowds understood what such a bold statement meant, and they cheered the announcement on Tahrir Square. The military could have reneged on its promise, but it would have broken its relationship with the population. Even if it could have dispersed the protesters at this point, in the long term the military would likely pay for it in reduced prestige. Such a scenario would have required extensive and obvious violence, with the world watching. If it was unable to disperse the protests before its conscripts broke ranks, a true revolutionary situation would arise and the military would have been discredited and dismantled, like the Iranian military in 1979. Unlike in Libya, Syria, and Bahrain, where the strongest units in the military are run by the rulers’ families, the Egyptian military was a largely distinct, coherent entity with its own interests to defend. On Wednesday 2 February, Mubarak supporters made one last attempt to disperse the protests and regain control. Armed with makeshift weapons and some guns, as well as several on camel- or horseback, they attacked the protesters in Tahrir Square in what came to be called the ‘Battle of the Camels.’ The attack was obviously organized by regime allies and included police from the Interior Ministry in plain clothes. It is likely they wanted to either disperse the protesters or goad them into violence that would have led to a military crackdown. Certainly, there were not enough of them, nor were they heavily armed enough, to take the square by force. The Muslim Brotherhood is given much of the credit for defending the protesters that day, but the soccer Ultras were also a major part of the defense.70 These disciplined forces apparently took much of the brunt of the fighting, and the protesters stayed organized and relatively peaceful as they resisted the attack. The military in Tahrir Square stood by and watched. It had announced that it would not fire on protesters, but it had not yet sided with them. When the protesters begged the soldiers to protect them from the attacks, an officer said, ‘But aren’t they Egyptian? You want me to fire at Egyptians?’ Other soldiers said they had no orders about what to do.71 It is likely that the military would have been perfectly happy if Mubarak’s 117

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring supporters cleared the square, but did not want to damage its reputation by doing so itself. With the military refusing to fire and the failure of Mubarak’s supporters, who by attacking on horses and camels looked both brutal and ridiculous to international audiences, Mubarak’s regime was essentially over. It was just a matter of how and when it would end. After the Battle of the Camels it was clear Mubarak could not continue in office, and the Obama Administration demanded he step down. The US wanted to avoid a power vacuum or a chaotic transition, however. Behind the scenes, it was trying to get the military to push out Mubarak and oversee a transition to a more democratic system, one that would guarantee key American interests like the Camp David Accords and preferential treatment at the Suez Canal.72 On 10 February, it looked like the strategies had worked. Egypt announced that Mubarak would give an important speech that night. Everyone expected him to step down and were just waiting for the announcement. Instead, he delivered a rambling speech, calling himself the father of the nation and vowing to continue leading Egypt. Lost in the speech were a few words about delegating powers to his new vice president, but the protesters were not appeased. Mubarak could not have picked a worse day to make that speech. He delivered it on Thursday night; the following day was the traditional day of prayer and protest. The mosques filled up at noon, and protests started soon after. Thousands began to march towards the presidential palace. Mubarak had apparently realized his mistake earlier, however, and made his way to his vacation home in Sharm el-Sheikh. In one account, Mubarak himself handed over power to Field Marshal Tantawi, the minister of defense.73 In others, the military ‘nudged [him] out the door.’74 Omar Suleiman, the new vice president, announced that Mubarak had ceded power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and promptly stepped down as well.

The Transition Unlike in the Tunisian case, the Egyptian military did not hand over power immediately to a transitional government. Like Tunisia, the military was distinct and coherent enough to overthrow the president; unlike in Tunisia 118

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military the Egyptian military had strong internal interests to protect and was thus unwilling to quickly relinquish control. The SCAF claimed it would only remain in control until new elections were held but according to M. Cherif Bassiouni, ‘the aim of the armed forces’ leadership was to remain in control for years.’75 The military was definitely committed to doing everything it could to protect its interests. The transition became a four-way contest between the military, disorganized liberal factions, and two Islamist groups – the Muslim Brotherhood and the previously apolitical Salafists of the AlNour Party. It is difficult to know if it planned to do so in advance, but in effect the military first aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood to cut out the liberals. Once the Brotherhood won the first few elections, the military then used the liberals’ fear and the powers of the old regime to undercut and ultimately overthrow the Brotherhood. According to Bassiouni, ‘The SCAF appears to have considered that it was best to let the Muslim Brotherhood win and then fall on its face.’76 After an initial celebration, the days after Mubarak left were tense, and the younger, more liberal protesters quickly lost patience with the military and its handling of the transition. Protesters wanted a democracy not a military regime, and at first refused to leave Tahrir Square. The police were discredited and afraid, so the military now stepped in when there was unrest and began to pressure the protesters to leave. Between Mubarak’s ousting and the installation of the new parliament in late 2011, the military was conspicuous in its use of violence and torture. This may have been partially due to its inexperience with internal policing, but it also represented its intention to defend its own interests.77 The military’s relationship with the regime had changed. In the terms of this study, the military went from ‘subordinate and distinct’ from the regime to ‘dominant and indistinct’ from the regime. Thus, while the military was not willing to fire on protesters to defend Mubarak, it was willing to shoot to defend its own position. The military often justified violence as defense of the revolution, claiming a mantle of revolutionary legitimacy and using violence to suppress the mostly liberal protesters who did not want a military regime to follow Mubarak. Military courts continued to try civilians for political crimes, secret and brutal detentions persisted, women were assaulted when they were arrested, and protesters died in clashes with the military and police – in particular, a 9 October 2011 protest that killed 25 119

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Coptic Christians and November 2011 protests over continued military control after the elections. This situation reflects a clear difference between the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the 2011 Egyptian uprising. In Iran, the military collapsed and returned to barracks, leaving a power vacuum that was filled by revolutionary groups, in which street fighting determined who would dominate the transition. In 1979, Khomeini gave his blessing to a moderate transitional government, but when protesters attacked and seized the US Embassy in Iran he did not allow the interim government to evict them. This discredited the transitional government and made an enemy of the US, helping to radicalize the revolution. In the 2011 Egyptian case, the army remained in charge and defended its interests, including its relationship with the US. When protesters attacked the Israeli and US embassies, the military shot and killed some. The Egyptian military also prevented protesters from marching towards the Israeli border on the anniversary of the 1948 founding of Israel. The military showed it would defend Egypt’s international commitments and its own interests, rather than letting the uprising take a radical direction. Mubarak was jailed, but not initially put on trial, the military disbanded the NDP, and many of Gamal Mubarak’s allies fled the country. This was to the military’s benefit however. It was able to remove the neo-liberals and capitalists who were challenging its economic interests; politically contain the internal security forces, which had competed for resources and influence; and dismantle the NDP, which Mubarak had been building up to challenge the military’s political power. ‘In fact, the protests provided SCAF an opportunity to eliminate its coalitional rivals before resituating the military at the center of the executive during the transition.’78 In Tunisia, where the military remained in place but did not have much to protect, it could serve as a relatively neutral arbiter and a check on the most radical members of each camp. In Egypt, the military was a major player in the negotiations. The stages of the transition also went in the opposite order from Tunisia’s. The Egyptian military made minor constitutional changes but kept most of the old voting laws, like the single-member district electoral system and incentives for politicians to run as individuals rather than in cohesive parties. This would disproportionately benefit the 120

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military largest parties, like the Brotherhood, and those with old-regime connections. The new parliament would nominate a separate constitutional council, and Egypt would elect a president – mostly under the old rules. Only then would the country vote on a new constitution. This was a very dangerous way to inaugurate a new system. The old system had been established to privilege the dominant party and the president. Once a new parliament and president were put in power under that system, they would have a high degree of control over the new constitution and be prone to make changes that would increase or lock in their own power. The Egyptian military also ruled during the transition period and was adamant about retaining and expanding its privileges. At each stage, it pressured the constitution writers to enshrine and expand military powers. It seemed to the liberals that the military and the Brotherhood were colluding to retain as much power as they could. The Brotherhood backed the military’s unilateral constitutional changes and push for a quick election, hoping to benefit from its superior name recognition and organization. This was the beginning of a severe split with the liberals and secularists who had, rhetorically at least, dominated the Tahrir Square protests.79 The Brotherhood and military were able to take advantage of revolutionary symbols, momentum, reputation, and the liberals’ lack of organization to dominate the transition. The Brotherhood dominated elections and the military continued to dominate the State, sidelining the liberals but putting the Brotherhood and military on a collision course. For its part, the Brotherhood recognized that it had to be strategic. Its leaders learned the lessons of the Algerian coup in 1992.80 They knew that if they pressed too hard and appeared too radical, the military could destroy them and the liberals and international community would look away. However, with each success they expanded their ambitions. At the start of the protests, they declared they would run candidates for only half of the parliamentary seats and would not run a presidential candidate. When the first elections came, they ran for more than half of the seats, and between the Salafist Al-Nour Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamists dominated the parliament and the constitutional commission. After some internal conflict over whether to do so, the Brotherhood ran a presidential candidate, breaking their second promise. As in any large organization, there were 121

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring disagreements over strategy.81 Some Brothers wanted to be more active, others urged caution. At the same time, the Al-Nour Party was doing well and the Brotherhood feared it might be outflanked. It also feared a military crackdown, but its electoral successes and fear of being overwhelmed by the more radical Salafists emboldened it. After its strong showing in the first parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood demanded the military relinquish power early.82 The military refused, but agreed to hand over power after the presidential elections. In a choice between a Brotherhood Islamist, whom many distrusted, and Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, the Brotherhood candidate, Muhammed Morsi, won by a slim margin in June 2012. It was clear, however, that while the military would allow Morsi to take office, it was not willing to relinquish total control of the government. Days before the election, old-regime judges disbanded the Islamist-dominated parliament, arguing that election rules had not been followed. Then the military announced it would retain legislative and budgetary authority until a new parliament was elected, ensuring that it remained in charge until a new constitution was written to its liking.83 This led to a year of conflict over state authority between Morsi and the military. It seemed at first that Morsi might have gained some degree of control over the military, because he was able to force some members of the SCAF to retire and decreed that he would not accept any limits the military placed on his powers. But this was more likely a deal between Morsi and the military; many of the dismissed officers were Mubarak allies like Tantawi, and retiring them simply elevated younger members of the military with their own interests. When the Islamist-dominated constitutional council released its draft constitution, it was very friendly to military interests. The military continued to control its own finances; it was allowed to try civilians who threatened military interests in military courts; the minister of defense would be drawn from the military, something democracies almost never allow; and it secured the majority of the seats on a national security council that had to approve any declaration of war.84 The military, which had an interest in maintaining the cold peace with Israel and protecting its relationship with the US, would have the ability to prevent an elected leader from challenging its interests by going to war. The military may not have loved the Brotherhood, but it may have been learning to live with it. However, 122

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military with its vast interests, the military must have feared that an empowered Brotherhood would eventually be able to undercut its power. It managed to convince the Brotherhood to accept strong military influence in order to gain power, whilst simultaneously undercutting the Brotherhood’s ability to control the government. As the military stepped back from power it also stopped defending the new regime and probably encouraged violent attacks against Brotherhood offices.85 Meanwhile, the Brotherhood’s growing power was alienating large sections of the population. Much of the public had always hated or feared the Brotherhood but, additionally, the economy continued to deteriorate under Morsi. Conflict between Morsi and the Brotherhood Guidance Office led to inconsistencies,86 and the state apparatus resisted Morsi’s control. The courts overturned the parliamentary elections and blocked some of his decrees. The military continued to battle unrest in the Sinai, but it was less involved in policing and crowd suppression. Some believed that the bureaucrats and the military deliberately cut gas and electricity supplies to undermine Morsi’s popularity. Others claim that the military purposely allowed the 2011 parliamentary elections to fall foul of election law, so that it could later have a judge negate the results.87 Overall, there was a sense that the stalwarts of the old regime were deliberately undermining Morsi’s ability to govern.88 This, combined with the Brotherhood’s own aggressiveness, led to a popular backlash that gave the military the excuse it needed to overthrow Morsi. The courts initially blocked the Islamist-dominated constitutional council from presenting a draft constitution and vetoed some of Morsi’s appointments. Morsi countered by declaring his decrees immune to challenge from the courts and pushed through a vote on the disputed constitution. The public responded with massive protests, but the military and police chose not to defend the presidential palace in force. Instead, Brotherhood defenders captured and publicly beat protesters, causing a further backlash.89 Rising unhappiness led to a petition demanding Morsi step down and massive protests on 30 June 2013, the anniversary of his inauguration. The military encouraged and helped orchestrate these protests, but ‘the mass popular antipathy towards Morsi was genuine.’90 By most accounts, these protests were much larger than the 2011 Tahrir 123

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring demonstrations. Street fights broke out between Muslim Brotherhood members and anti-Morsi demonstrators. Eight died in fighting between these groups at the Brotherhood’s main headquarters; fighting expanded the next day and at least 18 more died. On 1 July, army commander-inchief and minister of defense, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, demanded concessions from Morsi on the grounds that the people had spoken. Morsi refused to step down or make major concessions in a defiant speech on 2 July. The following day, the military arrested Morsi and suspended the new constitution to a great deal of public, and even international, acclaim. Sisi announced the coup flanked by prominent liberal, Christian, and Muslim leaders, signaling widespread support for it.91 General Sisi was elected president with 90 percent of the vote in a dubious election in 2014. The Brotherhood called for a boycott, and the regime had to work hard to reach a 40 percent official turnout amongst a weary population and a perceived preordained outcome.92 The most severe violence of the revolution occurred after the army deposed Morsi. The military brutally cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, killing hundreds in separate instances after the coup and many as 900 on 14 August 2013 when it broke up a longterm Brotherhood protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo.93 Since then, the military has outlawed the Brotherhood and arrested most of its leaders, with much of the public supporting the crackdown. The government has also arrested and tried foreign journalists from Al Jazeera for purported collusion with the Brotherhood. There has been ongoing repression and an insurgency in the lightly controlled Sinai region that has left many soldiers, police, civilians, and insurgents dead. The Egyptian Brotherhood was decimated, and many leaders who were not arrested fled the country. Some began calling for an end to the Brotherhood commitment to non-violence. For a time, there was spreading campus unrest and sporadic urban terrorism that the Brotherhood did not officially claim but which did seem to come from allied groups. However, the urban unrest seems to have died down as of 2017.94 The US is certainly more sympathetic to liberal protesters than it is to Islamists, so it remained quiet when the military overthrew Morsi. Since then, the US has denounced the repression and it froze some aid to Egypt 124

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military for two years, but the payments have since resumed. The international community generally has become more critical of the crackdown and the growing authoritarianism of the regime, but it needs a stable Egypt and the criticism has been muted. After the coup, the new Egyptian regime began to receive massive aid from GCC countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, countering any potential leverage the West might have. Conflict in Egypt continues, but the military is once again ascendant. Joshua Stacher wrote that the Arab Spring in Egypt ‘produced a structural change to the regime rather than regime change.’95 Given that the bulk of the State remains intact, it is likely that Egyptian political culture and institutions, shaped since independence by a nominally civilian presidency and a powerful but subservient military, will reassert themselves. Sisi, should he survive in office, will probably use the constitutional powers of the presidency to distance himself from the military over time and find other allies, as Mubarak and Sadat did. In the meantime, however, there has been a significant change in the relationship between the military and the State. It took until late 2015 to elect a new parliament, after it had been disbanded prior to Morsi’s election in 2012. Many Mubarak loyalists have returned to government, but they had to create new parties to support the military regime. Myriad small parties were elected, many of which came together in the Support Egypt coalition, set up by a general and committed to supporting the government.96 Some politicians and parties began a campaign called ‘The Army is the Solution,’ to push for military committees to deal with corruption and supervise more civilian ministries. 97 In 2016, Sisi declared 30 June, the day of the coup against Morsi, a national holiday.98 As of 2017, the military was dealing with a violent insurgency in the Sinai, simmering unrest on campuses, and occasional protests in the major cities. It continued its harsh crackdown on the press and public life and began adopting Islamic symbols to counter Islamist popularity. However, there was also growing discontent with Sisi. Egypt’s international profile was diminished and a sense of gloom had settled over the country.99 Tourism suffered greatly after the revolution and the economy overall had not recovered. Sisi caused a stir by announcing Egypt would return two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. These were originally Saudi Arabian islands transferred to Egypt for strategic reasons as part of the Arab–Israeli conflict, but 125

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring in the midst of a Saudi royal visit the transfer looked like a trade for cash. This set off a new round of protests, which started out against the land transfer but quickly turned to calls for the end of the regime.100 The courts briefly blocked the transfer, which energized some in the opposition with the idea that the 2011 revolution might not be over yet,101 but the government eventually pushed the deal through. Under Sisi, the government deals more harshly with protesters and dissent, and controls the media even more completely, than it did before the revolution. According to analyst Amr Hamzawy, Sisi is actively trying to undermine the judiciary to further empower the presidency and the security forces, torture and extrajudicial killings are increasing, the government is demonizing internal opponents and building up a narrative of plots and conspiracies, and ‘repression has been the major structuring reality of Egypt since 2013.’102 Mubarak was officially acquitted and freed in 2017, a signal to some that the revolution had been fully defeated.103

Conclusion Egypt is a relatively homogeneous society, with a long history as a political entity. There are minimal ethnic, sectarian, and tribal divisions within Egyptian society, so soldiers come from the whole of the nation and came to represent that nation. But because Egypt gained real independence through a military coup, the military became a central support for the regime. The Egyptian military under Hosni Mubarak was representative, cohesive, subordinate, and relatively distinct, bureaucratic, and expert. It was not externally oriented, however. When faced with the prospect of shooting large numbers of peaceful protesters or abandoning President Mubarak, the Egyptian military was distinct enough from the regime to want to protect its own interests and had a strong enough internal structure to be able to do so. So it refused to shoot protesters and helped push Mubarak to resign. However, it was not then willing to hand over power quickly. The Egyptian military had internal interests to protect. Once Mubarak was overthrown, the Egyptian military was no longer subordinate and separate, and thus defending the status quo meant defending itself. For that, it was willing to use violence. It allowed a temporary 126

Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military democratic opening and changes to the constitution, many to its own advantage, but also worked to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood’s ability to turn early electoral successes into permanent change. When it had an excuse and enough support, it overthrew Morsi and violently cracked down on the Brotherhood and all political dissent. The exhausted Egyptian population will likely have to wait some time before they can attempt another revolution. On the other hand, democratization often requires several attempts. Organizations and alliances built in the first failed attempt go dormant but survive, and activists learn lessons that help them the next time.104 The Egyptian military has proven that it can act strategically. If an outside shock causes another massive popular mobilization, the military may once again decide discretion is the best strategy to defend its interests and allow some opening. If the liberals and the Brotherhood can learn to live with one another, they may be able to ally against the military through the transition process. During transitions from authoritarian rule, the military must usually be dealt with gingerly and in a fashion that may feel undemocratic. But in the long term, countries that keep the transition civil may be able to slowly chip away at the military’s interest and create a fully democratic regime.105


4 Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military

The previous two cases involved militaries that were largely representative of their nations. The next four cases concern armies that either exclude major parts of the population or in some other way segregate their military forces by sect, tribe, or ethnicity. In Libya, Syria, and Yemen, militaries break down along social fault lines, as will be shown. Bahrain’s military is distinct in that it is made up of the dominant sect in society, but completely excludes the disempowered Shi’a majority. Instead, it is filled by soldiers recruited from abroad. Bahrain’s military can be described as a ruler/mercenary structure. Unlike premodern armies based on mercenary troops, which might have come with their own unit structures and commanders, the Bahraini military is officered by the sprawling royal family and Sunni tribal allies. The imported troops mostly make up the rank-and-file and are heavily monitored. This gives the military a strong sense of internal cohesion even without a strong bureaucratic structure. This arrangement differs from the factionalized structure in larger states, such as Libya and Saudi Arabia, and may be limited to Bahrain, with its strong sectarian politics, but it has echoes in the other smaller, GCC monarchies. Their relatively small citizen populations, massive wealth and distinctive, dynastic monarchical structure give their governments and


Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military military structures a peculiar character, typified by strong control by the extensive royal family and a significant portion of foreign-born soldiers. Even with extensive US equipment, these countries’ small size limits them to token resistance against larger neighbors, such as Iraq and Iran, and thus their militaries are mostly useless for external defense. In the terms used by this study, the Bahraini military has almost none of the important qualities of military professionalism. It is not nationally representative because it excludes the majority Shi’a. Because its leaders come from the ruling family, it is not distinct from or subordinate to the ruling leadership, nor is it run bureaucratically. The military’s primary purpose is protecting the ruling monarchy, largely against the Shi’a majority, and acting as a symbol of national sovereignty, so it is not externally focused. Its unique structure gives it a high level of cohesiveness, however. Thus, the military is strongly tied to the regime and willing to defend it. It also has the strong internal structure to do so successfully. With assistance from GCC members Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain’s police and military ruthlessly broke up the protest camp at Manama’s Pearl Roundabout in March 2011 and engaged in brutal ongoing repression to re-establish control. For the time being, they seem to have contained any major challenges to the regime’s power while making the country even more reliant on Saudi Arabia. The repressed Shi’a majority remains restless and resistant, however.

Historical Development Bahrain is a small archipelago in the Persian Gulf, with a population of roughly 1.3 million in 2011. Approximately half of those are immigrant workers.1 Bahrain has stood on the edges of empires for much of its history: it was part of various Persian empires, was captured by Oman and Portugal, coveted by the Ottoman Empire, and periodically claimed by Iran. In 1783, the Sunni al-Khalifa clan from the Qatar Peninsula captured the islands from the then Persian garrison and made them their base. Through much of its history, Bahrain has been a maritime trading hub, encouraging a more open society than some of its mainland counterparts.2 129

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Its history as a pearl-diving center served as a symbolic point: its demonstrators used the city’s Pearl Roundabout as their place of protest in 2011. Nonetheless, Bahrain is a divided society, with a Sunni emir and a minority Sunni upper class (about 30 percent) ruling over a large Shi’a majority (70 percent).3 While al-Khalifa-friendly histories claim they brought peace to an unstable political situation, some opposition histories identify them as ‘foreign usurpers’ with a long history of oppressing the indigenous Shi’a Bahrainis.4 Bahrain’s small size and vulnerable position has forced the al-Khalifa to look to larger states for protection against its more powerful enemies, often playing multiple patrons against one another.5 For part of the nineteenth century, Mohammed bin Khalifa ‘acknowledged both Persian and Ottoman claims of sovereignty and then appealed to one side for protection whenever the other side wanted to assert its claim.’6 The al-Khalifa signed a treaty of protection with Britain in the 1830s to reduce the influence of the Ottoman Empire, and Bahrain became a major base as the British Empire began to move some of its administration out of India. The first major oil discoveries in the Gulf were made in Bahrain, and in 1935 it became the main British naval base in the region. The oil discovery came just as the development of the Japanese cultured-pearl industry was destroying the pearl-diving trade in the Gulf. Because of this, Bahrain has developed differently to many of the other Gulf emirates, which were often quite poor until their oil industries developed. British influence was strong throughout the Gulf, but their early intervention in Bahrain led to a more modern and internationally integrated economy and society than those of its neighbors – at least until the 1990s, when Dubai and Qatar began to expand their international profiles. With oil revenue, the country began to provide free education, healthcare, and other services. Oil extraction and the existence of a major, British-built naval base induced the UK to push a modernizing agenda in Bahrain and ‘build the skeleton of a local government administration capable of coping with the social and economic transformation of the island.’7 During this period, Bahrain began to build what Michael Herb calls a ‘dynastic monarchy.’8 This system, as Herb describes it, is not a traditional monarchy as might have existed before modernization but a contemporary monarchical structure that developed when new oil revenues required 130

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military rulers to accommodate powerful members of their families. These states, which seem to be peculiar to the Gulf, are highly stable compared to oil monarchies ruled by a single monarch without obligations to family, such as the Shah’s Iran or Libya under King Idris. Dynastic monarchies are distinguished by the presence of large numbers of family members in key institutions, each of whom has an interest in perpetuating family rule. Powerful family members are accommodated in high-level posts, which give them something to concentrate on besides challenging the monarch, a means to develop their own wealth, and a vantage point from which to watch for challenges and discontent. Key institutions, what they often call the ‘sovereign ministries’ – such as the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, and Defense, and often the Oil Ministry – are almost always in the hands of leading family members.9 Lower-level relatives are sprinkled throughout the State and economy where they can keep an eye out for dissent and suggest policy changes. This is particularly true in the military sphere, which must be watched diligently for loyalty. In Bahrain, al-Khalifa family members have held as many as eight of the top ten military positions.10 Herb argues that no dynastic monarchy has fallen to a revolution because the power struggles that make other authoritarian states vulnerable to revolution, by splitting the elite, are dealt with in the confines of the family. Most have a loose succession structure, in which leadership is negotiated rather than passed down through primogeniture, allowing powerful family groups to agree on the best candidate – or, at least, one who will be able to best serve the family’s interests. Their massive wealth means recalcitrant family members can be accommodated with government positions, businesses, or a luxurious exile, reducing the possibility  – and potential deadliness  – of intra-family conflict.11 Bahrain, however, was pushed to accept primogeniture by the British in the nineteenth century. That meant the possibility of greater conflict, as the most competent and powerful family member might not be the king – as, arguably, is the case in Bahrain with the strong position held by the current king’s uncle, the Prime Minister. Bahrain developed earlier than most of its Gulf counterparts, was more reliant on native labor, and had a sectarian split between the majority population and the rulers. This has led to many more mass challenges than in the other Gulf monarchies, including Nasserist protests and meddling 131

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring by Iran. Bahrain has relied on external protectors and has not experienced many direct external challenges, but has dealt with many internal ones. The country has undergone a few aborted liberalizations, as well as multiple instances of protest and military crackdown. In all cases, the military and security forces, led by al-Khalifa family members and largely staffed by immigrants and expatriates, has proven willing to use violence to protect the regime. GCC allies have also aided in the repression on several occasions. Whereas in other Gulf States expatriates do most of the work, much of Bahrain’s early workforce comprised local citizens.12 Even with a half of the country now being expatriates, it is significantly less dependent on foreign labor than neighbors like Qatar, with around 300,000 citizens and over 2 million foreign workers; the UAE, where less than 20 percent of the 5 million residents are native citizens; or Kuwait, where citizens form 30 percent of the population. As such, Bahrain’s labor movement was strong, at least for the area. In addition, elites created a system of social clubs that allowed for some political discussion. Thus, at independence, Bahrain had a fairly well-developed history of opposition, a developing political culture, and the most advanced civil society in the region.13 According to Emile Nakhleh, it had a ‘relatively strong journalistic tradition’, especially when compared with the other Gulf states.14 Despite sporadic attacks on the al-Khalifa ruling family and the British Administration throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Bahrain’s decolonization process was relatively uncontentious. In 1971, the UK abandoned all its bases and protectorates east of Suez, granting independence to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms. Without the wars of liberation that forced colonial withdrawal elsewhere, often leading to modernizing or revolutionary political movements, this quiet retreat from the Gulf left the traditional rulers in place. The British hoped, in fact, that the various Gulf emirates would form a united bloc. In the end, conflict between Qatar and Bahrain led those two to form independent nations while the remaining seven formed the United Arab Emirates, dominated by Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Bahrain made an abortive attempt at representative government in the early years of independence. The ruling family propagated a constitution in 1973, guaranteeing some political rights and creating a unicameral National 132

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military Assembly, with advisory powers, elected by native-born male citizens. In the common practice of dynastic monarchies, the appointed Prime Minister was a close family member of the Emir at the time – in this case his brother, who still serves in that post as of 2017. The al-Khalifa viewed the constitution and parliament as a gift from the ruling family to their subjects in accordance with the Qur’anic principle of consultation, or shura, not as a right of the people or a response to pressure. According to Nakhleh, writing at the time, the majority of the population accepted this interpretation and the legitimacy of the al-Khalifa family.15 Many of the parliamentary candidates, though not revolutionaries, thought differently. They believed that Bahrain’s rulers were not strongly connected to its society or needs, and not committed to elections or an opening of political society. Some groups boycotted the elections in protest, and pro-democratic rhetoric whipped up some real enthusiasm for democracy that the ruling family would have preferred stayed suppressed.16 Even though their role was advisory, and they were unable to block government decrees, the elected members of the National Assembly proved willing to challenge the government on several occasions. They voted against statesecurity measures put in place to suppress strikes in 1974 and the extension of the US Navy’s lease agreement for the Jufair base.17 Even worse, they attempted to ‘legislate the end of al-Khalifa rule.’18 By August 1975, the Emir had had enough of the upstart National Assembly. Citing parliamentary non-cooperation, he suspended parliament, announcing in 1977 that it would remain suspended indefinitely. An appointed advisory body was put in place in 1992 after considerable pressure, but the Emir and the council of ministers largely ruled alone until his son, upon succeeding him, put a new bicameral parliament in place in 2001. The Sunni ruling minority has largely excluded the majority Shi’a from power and from much of the prosperity – though a small, prosperous Shi’a merchant class did develop. Early professional and leftist movements tried to bridge the sectarian divide and present a united front against the government, pushing for more democracy, some Arab nationalist goals, and socialism, depending on the party. However, the ruling family largely suppressed these attempts at unifying the opposition and encouraged sectarian division. As in many other Muslim states in the 1970s and ’80s, 133

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring the successful suppression of communist, socialist, and moderate democratic elements helped to encourage Islamist movements as one of the few remaining routes of social protest. In Bahrain, this was exacerbated by the Sunni/Shi’a divide. The Islamic revolution in Iran, combined with an increase in imported foreign labor, further divided the labor and opposition movements along sectarian lines.19 After taking power in Iran in 1979, the Shi’a Ayatollah Khomeini called for revolution against the un-Islamic monarchies and secular, imperialistdominated states of the Middle East. Iran made bold public statements, trained revolutionaries, and attempted to foment coups and assassinations. Some Shi’a clerics in Bahrain heeded Khomeini’s call, denouncing monarchy as un-Islamic and the al-Khalifa regime as illegitimate. While the government constantly uses fear of the Shi’a Islamist bloc to scare the Sunni minority and external allies beyond what can be justified, the movement was a potential threat early on. It had ‘massive support’ in the early 1980s as leftists were largely pushed out of opposition leadership and ‘exclusively Shi’a and revolutionary slogans alienated the religious Sunnis and their political network, the Muslim Brotherhood.’20 The government claimed that Iran engaged in four separate plots against the monarchy in the 1980s, including a coup attempt in 1981 by dissidents armed and trained by Iran.21 Iranian influence has largely subsided, however. Today’s Shi’a opposition, though not interested in coming under Iranian sway, continues to express its resistance in religious, and specifically Shi’a, terms on occasion. In a battle over the codification of sharia family law in 2005, Shi’a religious figures encouraged massive protests, during which 100,000 people (one-ninth of the population at the time) took to the streets. Any codification of sharia would likely have privileged Sunni legal interpretation over Shi’a, which Shi’a figures presented as an attempt to expand government control and suppress their religious identity. Government figures argued that it was a means to reduce the differences, and thus conflicts, between the sects. The Sunni leadership believe ‘ “Bahrain used to be unified, but because of the revolution in Iran in 1979, the rise of the Shi’a, fundamentalism, Afghanistan and all these things,” the Shi’a have created a division.’22 The Sunni minority are not all supporters of the regime, however. Urban, non-tribal Sunni are less supportive than 134

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military the tribal groups that staff the armed forces,23 and many Sunni joined the 2011 protests in their early stages. But the regime has made considerable, and largely successful, efforts to paint every Shi’a challenge as a sectarian plot fomented by Iran. The Iranian Revolution and the Iran–Iraq war alarmed all the Gulf Sunni monarchies. In response, they formed the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981, which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain. All began to rely heavily on American weaponry and training, but most of their militaries have ‘little more than symbolic value’24 and they tend to rely on the US security guarantee in the Gulf. During this period, the American presence in Bahrain increased and the US became the primary protector of the oil shipping lanes out of the Gulf on which the Gulf emirates and the world economy depend.25 Cooperation increased again after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Bahrain currently hosts the US Fifth Fleet, reactivated to deal with Gulf security, and many of the GCC countries have agreements with the US to pre-position equipment and supplies so that the latter can more quickly respond to regional threats. Before switching their focus to the civil war in Yemen in 2015, Kuwait and the UAE took part in air raids against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, at US request. The danger to the pilots was real, but the missions were primarily symbolic: an attempt to diffuse the charge of another unilateral American invasion and to bolster the GCC alliance with the US.

Exclusion, Revolt, and Repression While Bahrain has had a consistently open economy, its politics have been much less so. The prosperity experienced by the country has been dispersed very unevenly, with the Shi’a majority population politically and economically segregated. While many commentators have viewed Bahrain as relatively more open than other GCC states, Herb argues that – with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia – it is the most violent, unpopular, and repressive of the dynastic monarchies. He writes, ‘The al-Khalifa, clearly lacking any legitimacy among a substantial part of the population, rule through force.’26 It has even been compared to an apartheid regime.27 135

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Shi’a are all but completely excluded from Bahrain’s armed security services. They are also at a disadvantage in other employment. Albeit not to the extent of other GCC countries, Bahrain is highly dependent on foreign labor despite significant unemployment amongst the nation’s Shi’a. Bahrain has a large community of low-paid South Asian workers who staff much of the private industry in the country, particularly in service industries and the domestic services. Largely men who are unaccompanied by their families, they make up 50 percent of the population, but in 2013 they comprised about 80 percent of the private-sector workforce and 77 percent of the workforce as a whole.28 There have been attempts to encourage local hiring by making importing labor more expensive, trying to revitalize the fishing industries, and educating the population, but resistance by business leaders, who prefer cheap and docile foreign labor, have limited the effectiveness of these practices. For much of the country’s history, the majority of Bahrainis who work have been employed in government – what Rob Franklin describes as a ‘welfare scheme.’ Government work provides higher pay and a permissive working environment, and ‘offices are overstaffed, hours are short, tardiness is scandalous, supervision is lax.’29 In non-technical areas, foreign labor is exceptionally cheap. In 2011, it cost 449 Bahraini Dinars per month to employ a Bahraini citizen in construction, trade, hotels, restaurants, or small-scale manufacturing, while a foreign worker (likely an Indian citizen) would make 208 BD: less than half.30 The government would like to see more Bahraini workers take over these jobs, but ‘given the availability of skilled foreign labor at bargain prices, employers thus have few incentives to train Bahrainis, who in the end are likely to be more demanding employees.’31 The Shi’a population takes the brunt of the economic hardship and has revolted against it in the past. The 1990s saw significant unrest in Bahrain. The government attempted to blame this on Iran, but that claim was largely discredited. It was a large movement that initially included many liberal Sunni asking for more open politics, but was also fed significantly by the economic and political marginalization of the Shi’a community. Young Shi’a men were particularly hard hit by unemployment. Eventually, through government manipulation and Shi’a escalation, the movement did become primarily Shi’a. The 136

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military protests included riots and arson, and the killing of several Asian workers. The government’s response was to try to enact economic reforms, increasing opportunities for Bahraini workers while trying to limit foreign workers, but they experienced resistance from business leaders who wanted to keep importing cheap labor.32 The government’s other response was repression. Shi’a clerics were exiled and there were significant reports of torture – including by the internal security services, led by a British citizen, Ian Henderson. ‘Their activities are said to have included the ransacking of villages, sadistic sexual abuse and using power drills to maim prisoners […] Between 1994 and 1998 at least seven people died as a result of torture at the hands of the Bahraini regime.’33 The Gulf ’s most liberal regime was brutally suppressing unrest and slipping in international eyes just as Qatar and Dubai were beginning to assert themselves as business destinations. Offshore banking units began to leave the country, dropping from a high of 75 to 46 by 1997, and a Chevron–Texaco consortium in Bahrain had trouble selling its 40 percent stake in the BAPCO refinery and had to offload it onto the government.34 This unemployment and political unrest in Bahrain was part of a more general pattern in the Middle East. Oil revenues shrank throughout the 1980s and ’90s and pressure to liberalize came from the US, newly ascendant after the fall of the Soviet Union and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s military in 1991. To avoid international criticism and dissipate internal pressure, in various places throughout the Arab world rulers began to institute elections and constitutions. Gulf state rulers mostly created advisory councils, arguing that shura (consultation), based on the idea of tribal councils, was a long-standing part of Arab and Islamic culture and thus more appropriate for the Arab world than ‘half-baked’ Western procedural democracy.35 The elections were usually rigged, the parliaments were usually toothless, and the constitutions usually enshrined the ruler in power, but they were a move towards a more modern appearance and, some hoped, a step towards future democracy. There was also a turnover in leadership in nearby monarchies.36 In Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani overthrew his father in a palace coup; in Bahrain, Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa inherited the monarchy after the death of his father in 1999, the same year Abdullah II succeed his father as the king of Jordan. 137

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring As a reaction to this general trend, as well as the specifics of Bahrain’s unrest, when Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa inherited the title of emir he began an accelerated change in the system, over the objection of some elites.37 After taking power in 1999 – apparently following a succession conflict with his uncle, the Prime Minister, who was said to be the real power behind his brother’s (the emir’s) throne – Hamad created a new constitution, called the National Action Charter. Anoushiravan Ehteshami calls this move ‘revolutionary,’ and for the Gulf in 2001 it was, but it was not a democratic constitution. The Emir changed his title to King, and the name of the country to the Kingdom of Bahrain, and did away with the statesecurity courts and state-security laws. In place of the unicameral structure in the 1973 constitution, the King installed a bicameral legislature. Despite it being called a constitutional monarchy, there are no legislative controls on the king, not even in budgetary matters. The elected National Assembly can be overruled by the upper house, which is chosen by the king. The referendum for the new constitution, seemingly conducted fairly and marked by high turnout and a feeling of optimism, garnered 98.4 percent support with an 82 percent turnout.38 But divisions soon resurfaced. In the first parliamentary elections under the new constitution, four parties, including the largest Shi’a party, boycotted the election because of the veto power of the unelected upper house. The boycotting parties did take part in the 2006 election, which Islamist parties dominated.39 Just before the vote, Dr Saleh Al-Bandar, an advisor in the Cabinet Affairs Ministry, published an exposé of corrupt practices within Bahrain’s government, dubbed ‘Bandargate.’ With a great deal of documentation to back it up, the report charged that an illegal cabal within the government was creating and coopting human-rights groups to support the government and undermine genuine NGOs. It claimed that there were concerted efforts to convert Shi’a to the Sunni sect to alter their political loyalty and the demographic make-up of the country. The cabal also allegedly tried to secretly undermine elections and incite sectarian hatred through the press and fake NGOs.40 The 2006 elections were hotly contested and, with the blessing of the Shi’a Ayatollah al-Sistani of Iraq, highly attended, with a 72 percent turnout. Of the 40 seats in the National Assembly, 18 went to the powerful, but largely moderate, Shi’a Islamist bloc, Al-Wefaq. 138

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military The 2010 parliamentary elections were also controversial. While violence was minimal, opposition groups claimed Shi’a voters were turned away at several polls and gerrymandering was used to reduce the influence of Shi’a votes.41 There were continuing complaints of demographic manipulation, with Sunnis being given preferential treatment in the naturalization process. That year was marked by what some called a ‘crackdown,’ with violence following the arrest of seven Shi’a charged with killing a policeman and charges against 23 Shi’a dissidents accused of trying to overthrow the regime. This group included ten prominent opposition members, allegedly supported by Iran. Until the 2011 protests and aftermath threw the country into turmoil, the government had made significant progress in reducing unemployment, at least compared to the 1990s. There was growing prosperity, but many Shi’a continued to suffer: Many of Bahrain’s villages lack basic services – connections to the municipal sewage grid, regular garbage collection – and the stench of trash and waste hovers over some of Karzakan’s [a Shi’a village] back alleys and side streets. Residents say the poor sanitation leads to occasional outbreaks of disease, particularly among young children.42

‘The Shias have realized that they have lost a lot in the last few years […] the opposition is getting stronger.’43

Military Structure According to a US State Department report on Bahrain, ‘a fundamental constraint for all the Gulf states has been the limited pool of qualified manpower and, in most countries, the problem of attracting recruits when better employment opportunities exist in the civilian sector.’44 This is exacerbated in Bahrain by the almost total absence of Shi’a in the military or armed security services. In 2009, the US State Department found that less than 1 percent of the recruits to the country’s armed forces were Shi’a. When Shi’a were recruited by the Ministry of the Interior, it was as unarmed traffic and community police officers.45 The GCC countries rely 139

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring on US military protection for the bulk of their external defense, while their ‘ground forces have traditionally been oriented toward counterinsurgency actions and the protection of the ruling families.’46 A ruling family member is in charge of each branch of the military, the Bahrain Defence Forces (BDF).47 Through much of its independent history, the crown prince controlled the armed forces, while the Prime Minister, uncle to the current king, controlled the internal security services. Al-Khalifa family members also fill many other senior positions. This is consistent with dynastic rule and the ruler/mercenary military structure. Such militaries are small and reliant on high-tech weaponry meant mostly for show, with family control of the top positions and heavy tribal influence. But their defining feature is the prevalence of foreign recruits to fill out much of the force structure. In Bahrain, the reliance on foreign troops has a more sinister tinge, as the majority Shi’a are almost completely absent from the military or armed police forces. Officers are recruited from the royal family and friendly Sunni tribes, but the BDF and even the police are mostly made up of foreign recruits, largely Sunni Muslims, occasionally with Western expatriate leaders. Meanwhile, the Shi’a experience disproportionately high levels of unemployment and a generally second-class status in the country.48 The problem is made worse by the lopsided way citizenship is granted in Bahrain. While it is supposed to be based on length of residence and equal for all, there is strong evidence that ‘the government is granting citizenship to foreign nationals who have served in the Bahraini armed forces and security services to alter the demographic balance of the country.’49 Recruits come mainly from Sunni groups in Jordan, Yemen, and Pakistan, and, allegedly, are meant to tip the demographic balance in favor of Bahrain’s rulers. This preferential treatment on naturalization, as well as the much higher standard of living they receive from working in Bahrain, as opposed to their homelands, undoubtedly make many of these recruited troops more likely to support the government. It also gives them little incentive to challenge orders, if by following them they can jump to the head of the queue and enjoy the full rights of citizenship in relatively affluent Bahrain. During the 2011 protests, the crowds would cry ‘there is no security when the police come from Pakistan.’50 140

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military Bahrain’s military is also highly cohesive. The BDF has multiple branches, but they are all under the authority of a single commander-inchief and overseen by a Supreme Defence Council that includes high-level ministers. Royal-family members oversee each branch and are also dominant at the second level of command. Below that, many officers are from allied Sunni tribes. However, to prevent any tribal notable from gaining too much power in one unit or branch, the al-Khalifa make sure that tribal groups are broken up within the security apparatus, and ‘you would not find more than eight hundred security force members from any one tribe.’51 Troops are also heavily monitored for loyalty, but the monitoring comes from military intelligence personal within the BDF, not an outside intelligence agency, meaning it does not damage the structural unity of the military. The BDF apparently has its own torture facilities to deal with troops with wavering loyalty, and if a ‘soldier steps out of line he will receive a phone call not from an al-Khalifa member but instead from his own family member advising him to modify his behavior.’52 Native Bahrainis and immigrant troops serve in the same units, allowing mutual monitoring between the groups and preventing factionalization. Dorothy Ohl notes that in the police forces, ‘both Bahrainis and nonnatives are sent out on police patrols. The Bahrainis are not given hard tasks but instead are there to supervise the hired guns and ensure that they use sufficient force against demonstrators’ and ‘the same is likely true within the military.’53 The Bahraini military is a single unit controlled in a highly cohesive fashion. Ohl argues that, in general, studies that use internal cohesion of the military as a variable do not define it clearly enough – mixing in attitudinal, identity, and institutional variables – and that depending on the criteria one uses, Bahrain’s military could be seen as either cohesive or not.54 This book tries to remedy that problem by looking only at structural and institutional features, rather than attitudes, but the identity issue is interesting in the case of Bahrain. Ohl shows that there are differences in outlook between the immigrant troops and the Sunni Bahrainis. Some Bahraini troops resent the fact that money is spent to recruit immigrants and give them perks, rather than raising the pay of native soldiers. She also notes instances in which foreign troops expressed sympathy towards the protesters. Immigrant soldiers also ‘live in their own areas and do not fully 141

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring integrate with Bahraini Sunnis.’55 In her view, this complicates the issue of cohesion. This book argues that Bahrain’s military has low representativeness because the Shi’a are excluded from the military, and the BDF is cohesive because of its unified organizational structure and strong monitoring. However, if the immigrant community were to rise up against the leadership, representativeness would have to be looked at differently and cohesion would be tested in a different way than it is when dealing with a Shi’a uprising. Such an uprising seems unlikely, however. Despite the fact that some families stay permanently, most immigrant laborers to the Gulf come without their families and only plan to stay for a few years. Expatriates can be deported very easily if they prove problematic, and the laboring classes are often heavily monitored and constrained in where they can go and live. Divisions also exist amongst the immigrant populations, with workers from different countries in different classes of jobs. While there are smallscale strikes and demonstrations by immigrant laborers, there have been no concerted uprisings by foreign laborers in the Gulf and the demonstrations have not been for political rights. They mostly focus on issues of wages, enforcement of contracts, and workplace treatment.56 Because of the constraints noted above, a large-scale uprising of immigrant laborers is unlikely but not impossible. This study will continue to view the Bahraini military as being poorly representative of the citizen population and highly cohesive, but this complication should be noted for future analysis. GCC militaries, like the BDF, are primarily focused on regime protection and mostly symbolic when it comes to external defense. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Gulf monarchies looked to the US and international forces to dislodge Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, rather than rely on the GCC or their own defenses. They did take part in some missions, however. Since then, the GCC generally, and Bahrain in particular, have relied heavily on US forces for external defense. Bahrain bought $1.4 billion of US equipment between 2000 and 2011 and it regularly takes part in exercises with US forces, receives technical assistance and training, and sends personnel to the US for training. It seems the military has some degree of expertise and is able to use the advanced weaponry bought from the US, but it is not externally focused, and the US State Department regards it as primarily concerned with protecting 142

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military the regime.57 Overall, the Bahraini military has ‘low representativeness’, ‘low distinctiveness’, ‘moderate subordination’, ‘low bureaucratization’, ‘high cohesiveness’, ‘moderate expertise’, and ‘low external focus’ (see Table 4.1). Table 4.1 Bahrain’s Military Structure Representativeness


The military is not representative of the citizenry. It all but completely excludes the majority Shi’a populations. It is led by Sunni troops and filled out with foreign recruits.



The BDF is a single, national military with a unified command structure. Its units are not broken up by tribe or nationality and it is heavily, even brutally, monitored from inside the chain of command.



All of the most important positions in the military, and many of the less important ones, are filled by royal-family members, making the military leadership indistinct from the regime leadership.



While it is hard to judge the level of bureaucratization among the rank and file from the sources available, the widespread influence and presence of the royal family means that promotion and control are not conducted in a bureaucratic fashion.


Moderate The military is led and dominated by the royal family, including having the Crown Prince as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the BDF, meaning the military is an equal partner with the regime leadership.


Moderate The BDF has high-tech equipment, sends officers to Western military schools, and engages in training exercises with the US, but it is not viewed as highly skilled in external warfare.

External Focus


Bahrain is a small country with a small military, and it relies on the US for its external defense. The high-tech nature of the military serves a symbolic function, but it is primarily focused on internal regime protection.


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Table 4.2 Bahraini Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Strong Internal Structure High Distinctiveness & Subordination

Military Coup Tunisia Egypt

Low Distinctiveness & Subordination

Successful Repression Bahrain

Weak Internal Structure

Bahrain’s military is not distinct or subordinate to the regime, so it was bound to defend it, as shown in Table 4.2. According to the methodology presented in Chapter 1, its low level of bureaucratization should hurt the internal structure of the military. However, because that low bureaucratization is driven by the large presence of the sprawling al-Khalifa family throughout the military, when combined with the high level of cohesiveness Bahrain can be categorized as having a ‘Strong Internal Structure’. Combined with contradictory US goals in the region – which reduced US willingness and ability to challenge the regime – and Bahrain’s strong connections with Saudi Arabia, this meant that the military and police were able to crack down on protesters with little fear of internal defection or international condemnation. Bahrain’s military and security services were able to contain the uprising at the Pearl Roundabout with brutal repression and carry on that repression in the ensuing months to assert full control. In the aftermath, the regime tried to rehabilitate its international image and draw some of the opposition back into negotiations, but it did so from a position of dominance not weakness. Unrest continues, but it is largely contained by the regime. However, the repression has radicalized some groups and there is always the possibility of a flare-up in the future.

The Uprising Bahrain had elections that people cared about and stronger political and civil society than its neighbors, and ‘protests had been a frequent occurrence in Bahrain well before the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.’ However, the Pearl Roundabout protests happened as they did because of the success 144

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military of the Arab Spring uprisings.58 Hosni Mubarak was forced out in Egypt on 11 February 2011, and on 14 February Bahrain’s protests began in earnest. The date was chosen because it was the ten-year anniversary of the National Action Charter referendum. Demonstrators followed the Egyptian ‘script’, announcing their protests in advance and attempting to take peaceful control of a significant public space. Like many of the kings and emirs in the Gulf, Bahrain’s first response was to offer immediate economic concessions to head off protests. On the day of Mubarak’s ousting, Bahrain offered the equivalent of US$2,650 to every Bahraini family, ‘as a sign of appreciation’, in an attempt to stop protests before they started.59 It did not work. The King had claimed that peaceful demonstrations would be tolerated, but when protest began, police almost immediately began to attack ‘without warning any group that dared to gather in the street.’60 Protesters had hoped to congregate on the large, symbolic Pearl Roundabout, as the Egyptians had done on Tahrir Square. As in many places in the Middle East, but the Gulf in particular, intersections often consist of large roundabouts with statuary in the center. Pearl Roundabout, also called GCC Roundabout, in Manama, the Bahraini capital, was the largest of these, with a symbolic pearl held aloft in the center to commemorate Bahrain’s traditional pearl-diving history. For the first day at least, police were able to prevent the protesters from converging on the roundabout with a significant use of violence. Early calls were against the government and the Prime Minister (the King’s uncle), but protesters were careful not to call for the downfall of the King, chanting ‘peaceful’ as police attacked them.61 On this first day of protests, one teenager was killed. His funeral the next day turned into another protest, which the police again attacked fiercely.62 The US called on the King for restraint and he pulled back his troops late on 15 February, allowing the protesters to take the roundabout, and made a rare television appearance to offer condolences for the protesters’ deaths and call for an investigation.63 The number of dead was small relative to other Arab Spring countries, but Bahrain is a small nation so the numbers were comparatively significant. The protesters at this point were mostly Shi’a, but they did include Sunni as well. Opposition political parties, professional associations, and unions were involved in the protests at 145

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring this early point, unlike in some other cases in which unions and parties were absent or latecomers. The protesters were quick to announce their loyalty to Bahrain and the monarchy, claiming only to want the fall of the Prime Minister and the cabinet, and arguing against any Iranian influence or desire for Iranian-style theocracy. Newspapers reported ‘a feeling of absolute celebration, a block party on the square.’64 Early on the morning of 17 February, the army and police attacked the roundabout using tear gas and live and rubber ammunition, and expelled the protesters, killing at least five. The army was clearly involved, as helicopters were seen overhead – firing on journalists, in one account.65 Armored personnel carriers were seen firing anti-aircraft guns into the air, and tanks patrolled the streets the next day. Whereas in Egypt and Tunisia the military only became a factor once the police and internal-security forces had lost control of the situation, the BDF, with its largely symbolic external mandate and more significant mission for internal regime protection, was involved in crowd suppression from the beginning. There were numerous accounts of rescue workers being beaten, ambulances being fired upon, and police and soldiers searching nearby hospitals for injured protesters. In response to the violence, the 18-member Shi’a Islamist Al-Wefaq parliamentary bloc resigned, calling for the government to step down. The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU)  – the country’s large, national umbrella union – called for a general strike on 20 February in protest.66 The protesters, who had been mostly peaceful and previously expressed only limited aims, began to call for the end of the monarchy, chanting ‘Death to Khalifa.’67 The next day, a funeral for protesters killed on 17 February turned into a march as the demonstrators again tried to gather on Pearl Roundabout. They were fired on by the police and army once again. The government, trying to characterize the protests as part of an Iranian plot, had announced that it would not tolerate any more demonstrations and threatened a severe response. It was true to its word. The use of tanks and helicopters against citizens seems to have angered even regime supporters, though there were also demonstrations in favor of the regime. There was a swift reaction by the international community, and the US reportedly spoke directly to the King and the Crown Prince, calling for restraint. The government’s response was to pull back on 19 February, 146

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military allow the protesters to take the roundabout and to call for a ‘national dialogue.’68 The GFBTU went ahead with its planned strike on 20 February, and up to 80 percent of the workforce stayed away from work – either in solidarity with the strike or because the strike and protests prevented them getting to their jobs.69 About 100,000 protesters, one-seventh or more of the citizen population, set up a tent city at the roundabout and settled in for a long demonstration. For a time, the bulk of the protesters softened their demands for the King’s removal and again began to call for a constitutional monarchy. At this point, there were calls from the protesters and the international community for the US to take a firmer position against Bahrain. Libya was collapsing at the same moment, and the US was taking a strong stance there. There were claims that the US had acted more forcefully, more quickly, against Mubarak in Egypt. The argument was that it was less vocal against Bahrain because of its strategic position as the home of the Fifth Fleet. The story is more complicated however, and points to a US policy that was more reactive than proactive during the Arab Spring. This suggests that while the US may have some influence behind the scenes in these situations, its public stances tend to be more contingent on the situation on the ground. The US had first called for Mubarak to ‘step down immediately’ on 2 February, after he had declared he would not seek re-election. This was about a week into the Egyptian protests. Three weeks into the Bahraini crisis, the US was supporting dialogue and argued that the al-Khalifa deserved a chance to deal with the situation after pulling back the military at US request and, presumably, after what appeared to be a decade of liberalization.70 Arguments in the press suggest that the United States’ close ties to Bahrain and fear of Iranian influence also made its response less forceful. While it is certainly true that the US was likely to be friendlier to Bahrain than to Libya, Egypt was a much more important ally and President Obama had called for Mubarak’s resignation relatively quickly. By some accounts, the US also had a limited view of the sectarian divide in Bahrain. Because of its close relationship with the al-Khalifa family, the US military may have been ‘reluctant to believe the degree of the royal family’s discrimination against Shiites in politics, employment, housing, and 147

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring human rights.’71 While it is clear that the US had a more rosy view of the al-Khalifa monarchy than was appropriate, and that its contacts with the opposition were minimal, some of those same constraints held in the case of Egypt. The Mubarak regime tried to limit US contact with opposition parties, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, and did its best to paint the latter as a radical threat to Egyptian and US interests, just as Bahrain tried to paint the Shi’a protests as instigated by Iran. However, the US quickly withdrew support for Mubarak but quietly retained it in Bahrain. The difference is probably one of prospects. During the Arab uprisings, the US did not call for a ruler to step down until his regime was sure to fall, or his actions had gone ‘beyond the pale’. The US used similar language in Bahrain as it had in the early days of the Egyptian protests, condemning violence and calling on the countries ‘to respect the rights of their people’ and pursue ‘meaningful reform.’72 Once the Egyptian Army announced on 31 January that it would not fire on protesters, Mubarak was essentially toothless. His allies in the ‘Battle of the Camels’ were unable to disperse the protesters and, with the military unwilling to defend Mubarak, there was no real hope for his regime. It was only then, when the Americans were fairly certain he would have to do so anyway, that Barack Obama was able to do what he wanted to do in the first place and call for Mubarak to step down.73 It took two weeks for Obama to call for Muammar Qaddafi to step down in Libya, after US citizens had been evacuated and after the regime began to use air power on its own citizens. It was three months into the violent suppression of protests in Syria before Obama called for Bashar al-Assad to step down. That was only after the Assad regime began to lose support from Turkey and most Arab regimes. While there is no doubt that it is in the US interest to be less forceful against friendly regimes, like Bahrain, it is also true that the US has more leverage when it does not make an enemy of the leadership. It also does not want to make the wrong call, in case the regime survives. In that case, it might not only lose a friend but also gain an enemy. So, while the US may potentially have an effect behind the scenes, the impact of its public rhetoric is limited. As Steven Levitsky and Lucien Way show, where a regime has military strength, has other allies, or the US has multiple competing goals, US influence may be extremely limited.74 Hillary Clinton, 148

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military who was US Secretary of State at the time, wrote that, despite its ties to Bahrain, the US was not told that GCC troops would go to Bahrain, nor would they ‘entertain entities to stop.’ The US needed GCC support for air strikes in Libya, and the UAE threatened that support if the US pushed them on Bahrain. In the end, Clinton argues that she was frustrated and used the strongest language diplomacy would allow, but the US had limited ‘leverage to produce a positive outcome.’75 Even if supporters reacted badly to the regime using tanks and helicopters against peaceful protests, the government still had significant, vocal support. While anti-regime protesters camped at the Pearl Roundabout, tens of thousands of largely affluent supporters held a pro-regime rally at a Sunni mosque. Many Sunni believed that the Shi’a were too heavily influenced by their religious leaders and were seeking to destabilize the country. For others, the call for the death of the King was a step too far. Said one, ‘the Shi’as, they have their ayatollahs, and whatever they say, they will run and do it. If they tell them to burn a house, they will. I think they have a clear intention to disrupt this country.’76 The regime also used state television to impugn the opposition and paint the protests as a foreign plot.77 With 100,000–150,000 protesters camped on the roundabout through the end of February and the beginning of March, the government began to offer some concessions. The King fired three cabinet members and allowed important dissidents to return. These returnees helped widen splits between the protesters. Many protesters, probably fearing that calling for the King’s fall would increase Sunni fear and resentment, were pushing for more democratic changes and a true constitutional monarchy, while the more extreme called for the downfall of the regime.78 In the beginning, there had been some Sunni support for the protests, and the protesters were careful to express their demands in nationalist terms, saying, ‘we are Sunni and Shia, this country is not for sale.’79 Online forums sprang up in which people could emphasize their Bahraini identity and downplay the sectarian split. On 5 March 2011, protesters formed a human chain between the sites of the pro- and anti- regime demonstrations ‘emphasizing the unity of the Bahraini people.’80 However, the regime’s early crackdown, the extended nature of the protests, and the amorphous and uncoordinated nature of the opposition helped lead to an escalation of demands from parts of the 149

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring opposition.81 At the same time, the government worked to increase the sectarian divide. While the protesters were not all Shi’a, and many called for more limited reforms, the government played up Shi’a dominance at the protests and focused on the more radical calls for revolution. Even before the protests, many Sunni, and some Shi’a, liberals and businesspeople were dubious about their future under democracy. The large Islamist bloc in parliament and their loud complaints about alcohol and tourism troubled them.82 The protesters argued that their demands were about economic grievances and political freedom. While this is true, it is also the case that Bahrain’s economic divide largely – though not completely – matches its sectarian divide. Large Shi’a merchant families supported the monarchy, but most of the country’s poor were Shi’a, so many Sunni feared that Shi’a demands for political equality would quickly erode their dominant economic position. The government was thus able to win the support of many Sunni who may have wanted reform but were not ready for revolution. Counter-demonstrations took place, some with a very sectarian tone, with Sunni openly cursing Shi’a religious beliefs. The demonstrations were largely peaceful and uneventful for about a month. The world’s attention was focused on Libya, as Qaddafi’s forces were regaining control of that country. Protesters felt they were ‘breathing freedom’ for the first time as they gathered at Pearl Roundabout,83 but there was no progress on the negotiations. While the Crown Prince acknowledged that protesters had legitimate grievances, the Al-Wefaq Party, the Shi’a bloc most often identified as the moderate leadership of the opposition, demanded that the Prime Minister be dismissed before negotiations could begin. This was not possible; according to many, the prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa, has been the real power in the monarchy since the 1970s.84 Fearing that the uprising was stagnating, the protesters became more daring. They marched on various symbolic targets, including the Prime Minister’s office and the state television building. Protests at the main university became violent, with security forces and government supporters clashing with students. There were grievances on each side, however; some Sunni students felt they were being harassed by Shi’a students on campus. There were attacks on private property and some attacks on expatriate workers from 150

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military South Asia,85 innocent bystanders whose presence symbolized the exclusion of Shi’a from the security services and much of the economy. As the protests wore on and turned to stalemate, younger protesters wanted to increase pressure on the regime. On 13 March, a group of ‘youth protesters’, against the advice of the main opposition parties, pushed into Manama’s financial center, forming human chains and blocking workers from entering.86 In bankingoriented Bahrain, this development proved a step too far. Police attempted to push back the protesters, resulting in a few deaths, but protesters were able to hold the area. The same day, the leader of the Al-Wefaq Party suggested that Bahrain convene a constituent assembly to write a new constitution, which was unacceptable to the royal family and ended the negotiations.87 The next day, Saudi Arabia and the UAE sent in troops to back up the BDF. By some accounts, this was a Saudi suggestion. Certainly, they sent the bulk of the foreign troops, hoping to shore up a fellow Sunni monarchy and intensifying Bahrain’s already strong dependence on its larger neighbor; however, the members of the Bahrain Council of Representatives had also called for a crackdown.88 The GCC troops did not have a decisive role in the repression. They mostly guarded sensitive sites to free up Bahraini troops to engage in repression, but the symbolic value of this assistance was high. It showed the protesters and the world that the GCC was determined to back Bahrain, and that external powers like Iran and the US should stay out. Iran objected to the move, and the US called for restraint but made no strong declarations. Protesters called it a foreign occupation. On Tuesday 15 March, the government instituted a three-month ‘state of national safety’, characterizing the protesters as criminals inspired by Iran. By Wednesday 16 March, it had become a decisive government crackdown. Soldiers dragged opposition leaders from their homes and used tanks and helicopters to clear Pearl Roundabout. Troops took up position in hospitals, preventing medical staff from treating protesters and arresting and beating many who tried. Telephone and internet services were cut and foreign journalists were attacked. The crackdown was violent and swift and, unlike in Syria or Libya, successful. Bahrain is a small island country, with the population mostly concentrated in the capital. The protests were not spread across a wide region and the protesters did not have defensible mountains from which to launch an insurgency, so Bahrain’s government 151

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring had a geographical advantage that other countries did not. The key issue, however, is that the military was unified in its intention and ability to use massive violence against the protesters. Once the government had cleared Pearl Roundabout, troops and police fanned out into the outlying villages and were largely able to quell protests there as well. Bahrain has a second, small island, Sitra, which saw strong opposition support, but troops were able to contain the protests there on the second day.89 There is one main hospital in Manama, and by taking control of that they were able to cut off healthcare to most of the protesters. If they came to the hospital, they could be arrested. ‘You shoot at them and prevent them from getting help. That is one way of trying to deter other people from participating in demonstrations,’ said Amnesty International’s EU Representative.90

The Aftermath In the aftermath of the protests, Bahrain’s government began a campaign of intimidation, torture, and humiliation against the opposition. Doctors and medics who treated injured protesters were fired and imprisoned. Reports of torture were rampant. Long lists of Shi’a who had participated in demonstrations were fired from their jobs, in contravention of labor agreements. National soccer players who supported protests were publicly shamed on live TV, and people made angry calls to their home telephones. Public figures and sports heroes were arrested, and Facebook sites were created to ‘unmask Shi’a traitors.’ A young woman protester and poet, named Ayat, was singled out: social-media posts from proregime forces defamed her honor and claimed, ‘the people want the corpse of Ayat.’ After three months in prison, she apologized on TV for her actions.91 ‘Activists trade stories of colleagues forced to eat feces in prison and high-ranking Shiite bureaucrats compelled to crawl in their offices like infants.’92 The intimidation continued on a large scale, and included removing signs of the Shi’a community and signs of protest. Many Shi’a mosques were demolished under the excuse that they were not officially registered. The government destroyed Pearl Roundabout and turned it into an intersection named Al Farooq Junction, in reference to a Sunni hero who is viewed as 152

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military a usurper by Shi’a – a clear signal of the regime’s intent to continue Sunni dominance. In 2015, the area was still cordoned off, guarded by troops on the ground and police cars on the highway overpass above. As of September 2011, out of roughly 700,000 citizens, 1,400 had been arrested and 3,600 fired from their jobs. Thirty-four died in the course of the protests, and another four died of torture in custody over the following months. Human Rights Watch called it ‘a systematic and comprehensive crackdown to punish and intimidate government critics and to end dissent root and branch.’93 Many Shi’a were afraid to go outside. People would disappear one day, and some time later their bodies would be found dropped in the street.94 Government television and news continued to demonize protesters as foreign agents, businesses owned by Shi’a were attacked, and there were organized gatherings to curse Shi’a beliefs. Protests did not end, but they were pushed away from the city center towards outlying villages. The police and security forces were able to keep them contained using roadblocks and by tearing down buildings. They used what activists call collective punishment, throwing tear gas into homes and punishing whole villages to encourage elders to restrain young protesters. The protests were thus kept away from the central areas; ‘a visitor to Manama might not notice any signs of the unrest save for the occasional police jeep splattered with a paint bomb thrown by protesters,’95 but many fear it is only a matter of time before there is another, even more violent, explosion.96 There were a few larger protests in 2012: after the government released a report on the repression, after a young Shi’a man was found dead, and as the anniversary of the protests approached. However, these were suppressed and contained. The government often allowed small Friday protests as a safety valve, while cracking down on any attempt to reach central areas. Meanwhile, it continued to hire soldiers from abroad. Al Jazeera sources said that two months after the uprising, Bahrain had recruited at least 2,500 former members of the Pakistani military, ‘increasing the size of their national guard and riot policy by as much as 50 percent.’97 The government claimed it wanted dialogue with the opposition, but talks eventually broke down. Al-Wefaq, the moderate Shi’a opposition party, said that the Prime Minister and the cabinet must be fired before negotiations could begin, and argued that any government that attacks its citizens 153

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring cannot be trusted to negotiate.98 However, most analysts agreed that the Prime Minister and his hardline faction were ascendant, and thus any move against him was highly unlikely. Some argued the King might have been as low as fourth in the family hierarchy at this point – behind the Prime Minister and two brothers, the Army Chief of Staff and the Court Minister, all with strong ties to Saudi Arabia.99 The government proposed a few minor constitutional reforms, requiring the King to consult with ministers before dismissing parliament and requiring him to explain his choices for the appointed house, along with a few minor improvements of parliamentary-budget oversight that the opposition dismissed as ‘cosmetic.’100 The government also commissioned an independent report on the protests that cast doubt on any links between the opposition and Iran and which recognized the systematic use of torture and excessive force.101 Under international pressure, applied in part through the auspices of the free-trade agreement signed with the US, the government slowly allowed many of the people sacked from their jobs to return to work. Harsh sentences given to doctors for treating injured protesters were also, mostly, overturned. The Formula One race that had been canceled the year before went ahead in 2012, despite protests. The government was able to keep the protests far from the track and showed no concern that the race might be disrupted. It hired several Western public-relations firms to improve its image and lobbyists to speak for it in the halls of Washington, while limiting foreign reporters’ ability to report in the country.102 Finally, after attempts by American congressional representatives to block arms shipments resulted in several months of delays, the US resumed weapons sales to Bahrain. The government appears to be in full control, with the backing of the military and police, and a muted international response. As of 2015, the country was quiet and one no longer saw concentrations of troops on the street in Manama, though anti-regime graffiti was visible in some neighborhoods, and the former site of the Pearl Roundabout was still under guard. Some argue that the continued repression can only lead to a more radical and violent uprising in the future. There is continued lowlevel violence, which has increased the power of more radical actors as the established political leaders have been imprisoned and stripped of 154

Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military citizenship.103 There has always been sectarian division in Bahrain but, despite years of repression and exclusion beforehand, some see the protest crackdown and its aftermath as the end of whatever truce may have existed. According to Anthony Shadid, the government might have regained control ‘[b]ut in doing so, it may have destroyed a society that once took pride it its cosmopolitanism.’104 In 2016, police found a cache of weapons and explosives from Iran. There is no evidence of Iranian influence on the protests in 2011, and most outside powers believe the regime continues to exaggerate the Iranian threat to justify its repression. However, the continued unrest and radicalization, combined with greater Iranian assertiveness in the Gulf, may mean that the Iranians really are becoming involved in Bahrain.105 The ongoing repression has radicalized some groups, particularly the February 14 Movement led by younger activists.106 There have been signs of greater militancy, including attacks on police officers, planting grenades at a shopping mall, attempts to plant roadside bombs, and smuggling in of weapons.107 There have been deaths and there is fear of escalation, but the lack of significant violence and the fact that the regime is able to capture masked assailants and weapon stockpiles suggests that it remains in control. The regime has long experience with repressing unrest amongst the excluded Shi’a majority. The protests have also drawn the al-Khalifa regime even closer to Saudi Arabia. In May 2012, Saudi Arabia proposed deepening cooperation within the GCC, with a shared foreign policy and defense strategy. Most of the Gulf monarchies were reluctant, fearing that Saudi Arabia would dominate any shared governance with its much larger size and dominant foreign-policy position. Bahrain was one of the only monarchies to endorse this Gulf Union, confirming its vulnerable position and dependence on Saudi Arabia.108 Most analysts also agree that the Saudi-friendly, hardline group around the Prime Minister became dominant following the uprising; they agree with Saudi fears about democracy and empowering the Shi’a. The US continues to support the al-Khalifa regime, though it has pressured the monarchy on some human-rights issues. Under such heavy Saudi influence, however, it is questionable how much impact US or international pressure could have. As one protester said, ‘I don’t want to say 155

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Hillary Clinton is lying’ about US pressure on the regime, ‘I want to say this government doesn’t care.’109

Conclusion Bahrain is the only Arab Spring case in this study in which repression clearly worked. Like Syria, Yemen, and Libya, Bahrain is a divided society. However, unlike those countries, Bahrain’s ruler/mercenary military almost completely excludes the out-group Shi’a from the armed services. In Bahrain, the military is led by the sprawling royal family and their Sunni allies, and heavily staffed by foreign recruits. These troops – mostly Sunni from Pakistan, Yemen, and Jordan – stand to gain a great deal if they are granted Bahraini citizenship, and do not have strong connections to the Bahraini Shi’a. The Bahraini military, tied to the regime and cohesive in its structure, was willing and able to engage in quick and brutal repression. With strong Saudi support and conflicted US interests, the United States stood by as GCC countries sent in troops to back the regime’s crackdown. There has been a sharp break between the people and the leaders, and unrest continues; however, with a strong and loyal military, the Bahraini royal family seems to be secure for now.


5 Libya: A Factionalized Military

In significant ways, Libya has remained – from a weak integration into the Ottoman Empire, through an indifferent monarchy, to an avowed strategy – stateless. Its revolutionary leader, Muammar Qaddafi, resorted to the myths and the remnants of tribal structures, ‘to avoid the burdens of extending the mechanisms of a modern state […] a vision of statelessness that was carefully wrapped in a cloak of nostalgia for earlier times.’1 This statelessness extended to its bureaucracy and military structures. Tunisia was the ideal case for peaceful overthrow and democratization because it had a strong state and an autonomous military. Libya presented the opposite: an easily fragmented set of ruling networks dependent on the leader, and military and security forces that were equally fragmented and dependent. This history of social division and lacklustre state building, combined with Qaddafi’s personalist style of rule, led him to prefer a weak state, propped up by oil wealth and high levels of surveillance and coercion. Qaddafi created his Jamahiriya in opposition to the idea of bureaucratic statehood. In theory, it would be a ‘state of the masses’, where people ruled directly. In actuality, he created a highly personalized regime, in which he ruled without holding an official position but where all forms of real authority answered to him personally.


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring In response to a series of coups, Qaddafi created a factionalized military that could protect him from his own troops. Factionalized militaries are the most common type in the Arab world, occurring in Syria as well as Saudi Arabia, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, contemporary Iran, Jordan, and probably Morocco. This is not tribalism, in the sense of being traditional or reflecting pre-existing power dynamics. It is a modern reaction to ruling a divided society in the absence of democracy or another strategy for integrating diverse groups into a single nation. Particularly useful in the case of a minority ruling over a majority, it involves creating a military structure around one dominant sect, tribe, region, or national group but it allows out-groups some opportunities within the regime. Libya’s military was not representative of the nation, was not cohesive, and did not have a distinct military identity. It was organized into compartmentalized, tribal groups supplemented with mercenaries; disadvantaged groups received fewer resources, and multiple security forces competed for resources and power. Like the rest of the State, the military was non-bureaucratic, with promotions determined by tribe, family ties, and loyalty. The regular army was at best an indoctrination-and-employment programme, weak on external defense and not used for internal regime protection. That was the duty of military Revolutionary Committees and better-equipped regime-protection units run by Qaddafi’s sons. The regime survived on vast oil revenues in the face of local and Western opposition, but when confronted by a large, popular uprising its military splintered. It was not distinct or subordinate to the regime, so at least part of the military was bound to try to defend the leader. But it did not have a strong internal structure. When protests grew, troops in neglected regions abandoned their posts and sided with protesters. Qaddafi’s loyal troops might have put down these revolts, but his lack of friends and surplus of enemies led to NATO and Arab intervention to protect and aid the uprising. His public and brutal killing ended his regime, but Libya’s weak regional and tribal integration remain as the primary legacy of Qaddafi’s rule. The effects of his regime-survival strategies caused a proliferation of armed groups during the revolt and NATO intervention, making Libya a poor candidate for democratization and leading to a renewed civil war that put it on the brink of becoming a failed state. However, at the time 158

Libya: A Factionalized Military of writing, there seem to be signs that the various regional factions may finally be coming together to resolve their conflict.

Historical Development Under Ottoman rule, what is now Libya comprised three distinct territories, separated by long, inhospitable distances, with little economic interaction. Cyrenaica and Tripolitania were trading cities on the Mediterranean Sea. Fezzan lies in the Sahara Desert, and was a key stop on overland trade routes between sub-Saharan Africa and the Mediterranean.2 The Ottomans showed little interest in this backwater territory. They made no significant attempts to tax the hinterland or the Bedouin tribes and disregarded the area, as long as ‘the annual tribute and formal allegiance to the sultan were paid.’3 In the nineteenth century, when Europeans began their ‘scramble for Africa,’ the Ottomans were forced to take greater interest in defending their possessions. In 1835, the Ottoman Empire reasserted control over the three provinces that would become Libya. It would take more than 20 years of conflict to establish even limited administration. Tribal groups, particularly in the hinterlands and Fezzan, resisted imperial rule, especially taxation.4 In Cyrenaica, the less-cosmopolitan eastern province, a puritanical religious movement called the Sanusiyya gained enough control over the area for the Sanusi family to become central to the politics of North Africa and the Sudan. Throughout this period, European economic encroachment into Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt, and the replacement of overland commerce with European sea trade, led to economic hardship in the area. Ottoman rulers tried to increase the level of bureaucratization, but were able to do little beyond the cities. During the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire proved unable to do more than hold the vaguely defined borders and create a few slightly modernizing city states that European powers showed scant interest in controlling. Italy – itself only unified in 1861, and late to the ‘game’ of empire – announced its plan to take Libya from the Ottoman Empire in 1911. Anxious to prove itself amongst the great powers, and searching for a place for its rapidly growing population – many of whom were leaving for the 159

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Americas – Italy sought Libya as a ‘fourth shore.’ The Italian colonization campaign was brutal, particularly in Cyrenaica, where the Sanusi continued to resist until 1931. Even by the standards of the time it was a particularly vicious subjugation, with an estimated one-quarter to one-third of the population of almost a million dying of non-natural causes during the Italian period between 1912 and 1943.5 After Mussolini’s rise, the Fascist Government spent a great deal of money to reclaim land for agriculture and built some modern infrastructure, such as roads and ports, for the 300,000 Italian settlers that moved there. Libyans did not benefit, however. Tribal assemblies and structures were seriously damaged by the conflict and displacement, and Libyans gained little from what modernization did take place. While in Tunisia the French expanded on nineteenth-century state building, capitalizing on the administrative, educational, and patronage institutions established by the Muslim rulers, the Italians destroyed whatever state building and integration had taken place.6 The Allies pushed the Italians out of Libya during World War II, and the fighting did great damage to what little they had built. After the war, the major powers could not agree who would rule Libya. The British allied with Idris, leader of the Cyrenaican Sanusi, who had spent the war in Egypt, but he did not seem interested in ruling all of Libya. The French had control of Fezzan and some local support for continuing their administration, but more cosmopolitan Tripolitania wanted a united Libya under an Arab-nationalist banner. It could have easily remained three separate states under different administrations. But as negotiations wore on, the US became more interested in forestalling Soviet influence in the area and pushed for a united Libya amenable to US basing rights, under the kingship of Britain’s ally, King Idris. ‘In a sense, the United Kingdom of Libya was an accidental state’, says Dirk Vandewalle. Idris and the Cyrenaicans were focused just on their region, and there was little sense of national identity beyond ‘dismal memories of their first exposure to a modern state.’7 The Italian legacy ‘proved enduringly destructive to the sense of national unity and statehood that the inhabitants of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan would need to face the challenges of political, social, and economic developments after 1951.’8 At independence, Libya had a 94 percent illiteracy rate, an infant mortality rate of 40 percent, and a GDP per capita of US$25. 160

Libya: A Factionalized Military Where Tunisia had developed a sense of national unity through years of institution building and a struggle for independence that involved little violence, Libya was a country without a nation and became a state without a fight. According to Lisa Anderson, tribal affiliation reasserted itself as the primary form of connection.9 This was particularly true in Cyrenaica, the seat of government, where King Idris ruled through some of the same tribal structures that the Sanusi movement had taken advantage of in the nineteenth century. Idris tried to rule through patronage and tribal ties, using rents from the vast oil discoveries made in 1959 to buy off constituencies. He showed no interest in creating a strong, monarchical order, however. Childless, he ignored his family, barring them from government positions, and relied instead on a trusted advisor and the advisor’s family, who were only loyal to Idris as long as the patronage kept flowing.10 The King’s strong ties to the US and UK, especially in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War, made him unpopular. He favored Cyrenaica over the other provinces, and the patronage that enabled the system became an economic drain. The national army, which included soldiers from poor families and ignored tribes, was kept small and weak, and its soldiers resented the preference given to the eastern tribes allied with the King. Idris heard of the rumblings in his army and started redeploying troops to forestall a coup, but to no avail.11 In 1969, a group of officers from poorer backgrounds, inspired by Nasser’s 1952 revolt and calling themselves the Free Unionist Officers, overthrew the government, which collapsed without bloodshed.

The Jamahiriya The coup plotters called their new government the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) and tried to rule together for the first few years. However, Muammar Qaddafi was always ‘first among equals’ and the external face of the coup. Over time, his growing power and insistence on using Libya’s oil wealth for pan-Arab and revolutionary, egalitarian projects set him at odds with more technocratic and domestically focused members of the RCC.12 Several attempted a coup against Qaddafi and the more radical members of the RCC in 1975 and, failing, fled to Tunisia. This was a critical turning point. The failed coup paved the way ‘for increasingly draconian 161

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring measures to implement Qaddafi’s vision for a stateless society.’13 Qaddafi’s subsequent purges not only removed immediate threats to his authority, they also marked a decisive change in his ruling strategy. Except for the oil ministry – which, throughout Qaddafi’s reign, remained a technocratic, professional organization – all major institutions of Libyan society were transformed. Anyone suspected of disloyalty – at that time, gauged through outward degrees of revolutionary zeal – was replaced, and Qaddafi began to fill most major positions with those personally loyal to him. Only months after the failed 1975 coup, Qaddafi introduced the first chapter of his Green Book, laying out the ideology for his Jamahiriya. Part One was called ‘The Solution to the Problem of Democracy’. For Qaddafi, Western democracy was flawed because it put institutions and parties between the people and their government. The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, a word he invented to mean ‘state of the masses’, would need no such intervening structures. The people would rule directly without bureaucrats, parties, or institutions in the traditional sense – what Vandewalle calls ‘statelessness.’14 Qaddafi was not interested in, or disillusioned with, modern concepts of statehood, claiming that government structures diluted true democratic rule. Instead there would be direct popular participation in government. But behind the official participatory councils laid out in The Green Book, real power lay with an unelected, informal, revolutionary, and constitutionally undefined authority ruling on the basis of their relationships with Qaddafi.15 Citizens were to take part in Basic Popular Congresses based on locality and profession, wherein, theoretically, there was a free discussion of local issues. The Congresses chose Popular Committees to serve as the local administration and sent representatives to the General Popular Congress, which was supposed to decide issues of national importance. The General Popular Congress supposedly chose an executive board, called the General Popular Committee, as a sort of cabinet and executive. The general secretary of the General Popular Congress was its chief executive and had an advisory staff called the General Secretariat of the General People’s Congress. Qaddafi was the first general secretary, but he ‘stepped down’ from government in 1979. The general secretary was said to be the official head of government, with Qaddafi serving as an unofficial head of state, though the latter retained total control. In theory, the Popular Conferences 162

Libya: A Factionalized Military exercised constant control over their Popular Committees, unlike the intermittent control Qaddafi attributed to electoral systems or the divisive, ‘tribalistic’ features that he attributed to conventional political parties. The Jamahiriya system, as presented, looked like a tribal structure wherein leaders were supposed to govern by consensus, and family and clan structures served as constant supervision. For Qaddafi, this represented direct, true democracy: ‘Popular Conferences are the end of the journey of the masses in quest of democracy’, based upon the masses’ ‘right to proclaim reverberantly the new principle: no representation in lieu of the people.’16 Ronald Bruce St John, writing in 1986, argued that this was an improvement over the monarchy period, as at least there was discussion and participation.17 But it was a façade and a means to deflect blame from the real power centers, with all genuine power resting with a small group surrounding Qaddafi. George Joffe says, ‘it was a state in which image and reality were mirror-image inversions of each other.’18 The congresses may have been a means of airing grievances, but there was no free press and political activity outside the committees was suppressed. In fact, saying the wrong thing could result in severe punishment, and real decisions were out of the hands of the congresses. The regime, mostly Qaddafi and his advisors, appointed administrators – including the General Popular Committee, supposedly the government’s cabinet – and many areas lay completely outside the purview of the committees and congresses, including ‘foreign policy, the army, the police, the country’s budget, and the petroleum sector.’19 According to one Libyan, as far as the Popular Congress was concerned, ‘the head of it didn’t have the power to pick up a glass and set it back down.’20 In 1979, Qaddafi officially retired from all his government duties in order to engage in revolutionary activity. He remained in full control, however. Qaddafi viewed Libya as a revolutionary state, and his goal was to transform it and the international system. Thus, official administrative structures were always secondary to the parallel revolutionary structures. The revolutionary leadership was not elected, nor could it be dismissed, and its actions were not, ‘in any way, regulated by legal statutes.’21 Qaddafi surrounded himself with the Free Unionist Officers who had survived his purges following the 1975 coup attempt, as well as tribal and familial allies. He used these confidants to run the diplomatic corps, universities, 163

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring and other civilian institutions. His most potent form of control were the Revolutionary Committees. Formed in the 1970s to encourage revolutionary mobilization and transformation, they were statutorily prevented from keeping in contact with one another, reporting directly to Qaddafi himself. The committees mobilized the population for displays, ran the revolutionary courts, and could ‘circumvent the hierarchy of decision-making process of almost all state institutions.’22 The revolutionary institutions worked to increase their own power and wealth, becoming ‘predators on Libyan society’23 and vehicles for patronage. All these informal institutions were personally loyal to Qaddafi, connected directly through him and divided from one another, and provided him with strong, personal control over the system. It was a personalist structure centered on Qaddafi and totally dependent on his patronage and control, and it prevented distinct, bureaucratic structures from developing. There was ‘no common ordering principle or chain of authority beyond Qadhafi’s [sic] presence at the top of every heap.’24 This was not lost on the population. Qaddafi claimed to lead a revolutionary government for Libya, but ‘following the precedent set by the monarchy of King Indris, the Jamahiriya had been transformed into a political instrument serving the interests of a single tribe... The “family of Gaddafi” [sic] – the Guide’s own tribe and its allies – were undoubtedly regarded as the real government.’25 After Qaddafi’s 1979 retirement to serve as a revolutionary ‘Brother Leader’ and ‘Guide of the Revolution,’ he officially had no position but was still the one to speak at the UN and go on state visits. He was the real power in the system, making the decisions and taking credit while blaming the formal structure for failures. This dual power structure appeared in the military as well, where real authority rested in unofficial power centers while the official structures were sidelined or allowed to deteriorate. This was intended to create a factionalized, coup-proofed military. This military then split when the regime was challenged from below.

Qaddafi and the Military Qaddafi had good reason to distrust the military. He had come to power in a military coup and was constantly urging other Arab armies to overthrow 164

Libya: A Factionalized Military their leaders. He counterbalanced military power with Revolutionary Committees and, eventually, a plethora of militias and heavy regimeprotection units. The military had a residual role as an employment programme and tried to foster national identity through a draft from the population, but units were broken up by tribe and treated unequally, ruining its value as a nationalizing institution. This is the essence of a factionalized military structure. Out-groups served in the Libyan military, either in non-combat positions or poorly equipped units, while the regime retained the best equipment for the most loyal units. These units were made up of friendly tribes, led by family members or extremely close associates, and stationed close to the capital. Qaddafi also used mercenaries to staff his regime-protection units. This structure can prevent coups but is unstable in a revolutionary situation; the out-group units tend to break away in support of their protesting brethren. But barring international intervention, the regime-protection units should be able to keep the leader in power and possibly retake full control. As with most coups led by junior officers, the first step in Qaddafi’s revolution was to purge the military. Beginning with the 1969 coup, the RCC purged anyone loyal to the monarch or the previous system: everyone above the rank of major was dismissed. However, the army was seen as a useful tool to indoctrinate new cadres in the revolutionary mindset and to act as the vanguard of the revolution, so the RCC doubled the size of the military. It was also seen as a vehicle to bind other groups to the regime, such as middle-class and rural groups outside of the traditional elite who could be used to counterbalance existing tribal authorities. The 1969 coup ‘was rightly characterized as a revolution of the oases and the interior against the more established society of larger, coastal families and dominant tribes.’26 The regular army had been neglected under the monarchy, with only 6,500 lightly-armed soldiers.27 Idris relied on the local Cyrenaica Defense Forces, comprising friendly eastern tribes, and channeled people from more modest backgrounds into the national army, which they joined as a means of social advancement. After the coup, the RCC members, who were mostly from the less-advantaged tribes, filled the military with people from similar backgrounds to expand the size of the army and the loyal base of the regime. 165

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring The military was never as revolutionary as Qaddafi, nor were many of his RCC comrades. In 1975, after the coup attempt against him, Qaddafi purged his enemies in the military and began to shape it for his own ends. ‘The coup also marked the end of professional and technical criteria for military recruitment, and the beginning of a steady but noticeable influx of individual members of Qaddafi’s tribe – and later his family – in a number of sensitive security and army positions.’28 He recruited heavily from his own, relatively small, tribe for the highest-level military positions and filled many lower-level posts from the much larger Werfalla tribe because of its blood ties to his own.29 In addition to its dual state, wherein revolutionary organs had the real power instead of the official organs of state, Libya had a dual military. The army was officially responsible, but most of the military work was done by the Revolutionary Committees, mercenaries, and Qaddafi’s foreignrecruited Islamic Legion. Qaddafi created the Revolutionary Committees in 1977 under his direct control. They were ‘young, carefully selected individuals’, who would serve as ‘security mechanisms for the revolution.’30 They were responsible for indoctrination and mobilization – they could vet Popular Committee candidates for revolutionary zeal – and for the press, and they hunted down ‘enemies of the revolution’ at home and abroad. In the Country of Men, a highly acclaimed novel written by a Libyan about the late 1970s, depicts the Revolutionary Committees as having almost unfettered access to homes, and as widely feared because they could put a person ‘behind the sun’ – a euphemism for making an individual disappear.31 The committees created virtually unsupervised revolutionary courts that did away with all civil and Islamic law, and broadcast public confessions and punishments on TV. They reinforced the economic dictates of the revolution, which included – for a time – a complete ban on all private economic activity. Because of Libya’s vast oil resources and Qaddafi’s radical, revolutionary policies, the Jamahiriya was indeed egalitarian – outside of high-regime figures – but highly inefficient and highly restricted. Revolutionary Committees were given broad powers and eventually allowed to acquire massive wealth through corruption and control of businesses, while the military grew in size but deteriorated in capacity and professionalism. Qaddafi created yet another armed force, the 166

Libya: A Factionalized Military Jamahiriya Guard, a ‘People’s Militia’, to promote popular defense of the revolution. These militias were mostly used for symbolic displays of solidarity at national events.32 Qaddafi had significant international ambitions, which led to funding and arming international terrorists, ongoing conflict with the US, and a long war with Chad between 1978 and 1987. As part of his goal of leading an international movement against Western imperialism he created and solely funded an Islamic Legion.33 Intended to be an army of international revolution, it was staffed by recruits from many Arab and African countries. Often recruiters told jobseekers in Sudan and elsewhere that they would be going to Libya to work in the oilfields or some other job, only to press-gang them into the Islamic Legion when they arrived.34 This private army was more likely than the national military to be used to push Qaddafi’s foreign policy in Africa. With his oil wealth, Qaddafi also hired foreign troops and mercenaries to bolster his forces. When his rule was in danger, these external forces would prove more loyal than much of the regular army. Between 1969 and 1988, the armed forces grew from 7,000 to 85,000 troops, with large expenditures on Soviet equipment. Libya bought much more than it could use, passing weapons to other governments and revolutionary movements.35 However, the Libyan military’s results were often poor. The army was so swiftly overwhelmed by Egypt in 1977, after Qaddafi’s attempt to assassinate Anwar Sadat, that other Arab nations asked Sadat to stop his advance, probably saving Qaddafi’s regime. The heavily armed Libyan military was embarrassed by ill-equipped Chadian forces on several occasions,36 and was humiliated when it was unable to defend the capital, Tripoli, from a bombing attack by the United States in 1986. That attack, in response to a terrorist bombing that killed two American soldiers in a Berlin disco, was aimed at Qaddafi himself. He survived and had a statue built of a fist crushing an American fighter jet, but this was an embarrassing moment. The damage was extensive and the regime’s military shortcomings were apparent. This event exposed the fact that the military was poorly trained and poorly motivated. The military was also a constant source of insecurity. In 1980–3, the international media reported at least eight coup attempts against Qaddafi, with another six between May 1985 and 1986.37 In 1994, a significant 167

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring army rebellion took place in Misurata and had to be put down by the Revolutionary Committees. Like many Arab rulers, Qaddafi worried more about military coups than external invasion. As such, he crippled the military’s ability act as a unified force. Qaddafi moved commanders around, carefully balanced promotions based on tribal and political criteria, and worked to prevent a sense of corporate identity in the military, which might have led it to have distinct interests. 38 Favored tribes were allowed into special regime-protection units, but unfavored groups were put in tribally organized units with minimal equipment and training. ‘Those serving in regular military units were loyal to their region and tribe, not to Gaddafi as an individual, his much-maligned philosophy of Arab socialism, or the corporate identity of the military as a profession.’39 In the 1990s, when under attack by an Islamist insurgency, Qaddafi relied primarily on the Revolutionary Committees and mercenaries, sidelining the distrusted military. Islamist revolutionary activity crested in the mid-1990s in Libya, led by fighters returning from the international Islamist insurgency against the Soviets in Afghanistan and inspired by the Algerian civil war. The main adversary was the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was linked to Al Qaeda, had around 2,500 members and tried to assassinate Qaddafi at least once. The State was too strong to be seriously threatened by the fighters,40 but they were a significant problem in the neglected eastern region of Cyrenaica where the regime was unpopular. The military, which ‘reflected tribal allegiances rather than ideological affiliations’, became friendly with the Islamists, particularly in Cyrenaica, and the soldiers and Islamists were likely from the same tribes. ‘According to rumor, the Islamist guerillas could be confident of being left alone if the roadblocks were manned by the military.’41 The insurgency lasted from 1995 until 1998, but the LIFG was never able to make major headway and was eventually defeated. After being embarrassed by the war with Chad in the 1980s, Qaddafi did not rely on his regular army for external warfare either. For external action he had the Islamic Legion and mercenary troops, and he supported various armed groups – first throughout the world, but later primarily in Africa. Many of these returned to Libya to help him when the regime was 168

Libya: A Factionalized Military under attack in 2011.42 For internal regime protection, he relied on his ‘ring of steel’, a group of heavily armed regime-protection units including the Presidential Guard Brigade, two mechanized brigades led by his sons, and a Revolutionary Guard Corps. These units were heavily staffed by members of his and other allied tribes. The regime-protection units were stationed near Tripoli; were intended to guard against coups by other parts of the military; and had better weaponry, uniforms, and training than the regular army.43 They may not have been particularly well trained, however. After Qaddafi’s fall, stockpiles of advanced anti-aircraft weapons were found that his army had not deployed, perhaps because they did not know how to use them.44 In the 1990s, Libya was under stringent UN and US sanctions for blowing up a Pan Am passenger plane and refusing to hand over the suspected perpetrators from its intelligence services. The country was still allowed to sell its oil, but there were severe restrictions on other areas of the economy and the regime suffered serious economic damage. Combined with the fall of the Soviet Union, the regime’s main arms supplier, this meant Qaddafi lost his capacity to act as a patron to the military. From buying huge amounts of arms in the 1970s and ’80s, arms purchases collapsed by the mid-1990s and wages often went unpaid for months.45 As time wore on, Qaddafi began to put all funds and effort into his special regime-protection units, further eroding both the training and status of the regular army. Training was rare, equipment was poor and the regular army was badly supplied and taken care of; ‘Military units outside of Tripoli were issued only one uniform, rarely shot their weapons, and usually focused on base defense and law enforcement, not tactical maneuvers.’ ‘The air force suffered from lackluster maintenance, training, and low tactical awareness. Outside observers commented that pilots were overweight, incompetent, and scared to fly at night.’46 Additionally, units were kept small and divided, and there was no overall military commander to create a single, cohesive command structure. Revolutionary Committees also penetrated the army, reducing communication and trust between officers.47 Troops and commanders were shuffled to prevent consolidation of interests, promotions were political, and a history of professional incompetence worked against developing a strong esprit de corps. 169

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Libya’s other security organizations were factionalized and balanced as well, through shifting personnel, assigning overlapping responsibilities, and making them compete with one another for Qaddafi’s favor. Rather than giving security agencies defined tasks, as in Tunisia and Egypt, Qaddafi maintained control through ‘a set of security institutions that were deliberately kept in either separate, vertically integrated organizations that reported directly to Qaddafi and his top security advisors, or consisted of an overlapping and integrated network that provided a carefully controlled system of checks and balances.’48 The factionalized structure of the Libyan regime – and its lack of centralized, bureaucratic logic, or a sense of national unity – was purposeful. It kept the society, and the army, unable to challenge Qaddafi’s divide-and-rule strategy. According to Vandewalle, Libyan tribes maintained their identity through this period, including within the military, with major tribes having representatives within the governing institutions to look after their interest as tribes.49 In terms used by this study, the Libyan military had ‘moderate representativeness’, ‘low cohesiveness’, ‘low distinctiveness’, ‘low bureaucratization’, ‘moderate subordination’, ‘low expertise’, and ‘low external focus’ (see Table 5.1). The most important parts of the military were led by regime insiders and Qaddafi’s own sons, with ‘Low Distinctiveness & Subordination’ to the leadership – so at least part of the military would try to protect the regime, as shown in Table 5.2. However, because it was not a cohesive, bureaucratic entity, the military did not have an internal structure strong enough to successfully protect the regime against a large, popular uprising. It quickly split, with parts of the military joining the protesters, particularly troops from the rebellious and neglected area around Benghazi. Other troops remained loyal and tried to take back control for the regime, leading to civil war. Once the military split, international intervention determined the outcome. Qaddafi had few international allies and many enemies. When he seemed on the verge of massacring the rebellious people of Benghazi, the Arab League and NATO agreed to intervene to defend the protesters and then worked with the rebels to overthrow Qaddafi. However, the lack of state structures to capture and the proliferation of militias during the uprising meant that there was no single authority in post-Qaddafi Libya. This made democracy unlikely. It led to government paralysis and 170

Table 5.1 Libya’s Military Structure Representativeness


Most groups in Libyan society were represented in the military, but they were split across different units by tribe and region.



The military had competing units under different commands with overlapping responsibilities. There was no central military structure, and a high degree of penetration by security forces.



The leaders of the military, particularly the regime-protection units, were Qaddafi family members, and the units were filled with tribal allies.



There was no regularized military structure, promotions and assignment were based on loyalty to the regime and transfers were haphazard and designed to prevent officers from developing strong connections.



The military leadership included Qaddafi’s sons and family members, so it is treated as equal to the political leadership.



The military had poor training, mostly poor equipment, and a history of poor results. Some regime-protection units and mercenaries had higher skill levels, however.

External Focus


The military was not externally oriented. The regular military had few defense duties at all, primarily serving as an employment programme. External action was primarily done by the Islamic Legion and by mercenaries.

Table 5.2 Libyan Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Strong Internal Structure High Distinctiveness & Subordination

Military Coup Tunisia Egypt

Low Distinctiveness & Subordination

Successful Repression Bahrain

Weak Internal Structure

Military Split Libya

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring fragmentation that turned into a civil war. Because of the ‘Low Expertise’ of the remaining militias, and because Qaddafi’s army and store of advanced and heavy weaponry had mostly been destroyed, the ongoing civil war is of relatively low intensity but still destructive and harmful to the exhausted Libyan people.

The Uprising On 11 February 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigned in Egypt and people waited for the next regime to topple. Few assumed it would be Qaddafi’s Libya, but the long history of control and coercion hid an increasingly brittle regime. Following a decade under UN sanctions, and in reaction to US assertiveness after 9/11, Qaddafi had begun making changes to his regime in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He paid a legal settlement for the 1988 Pan Am terrorist bombing, renounced his nuclear weapons programme, made peace with the US and promised to aid its ‘War on Terror.’ Islamist groups like Al Qaeda had targeted Qaddafi as well, and he was afraid he would be the next US target after Saddam Hussein. Over time, Qaddafi had allowed more private economic activity in the country and there was an attempt – led by his son, Saif al-Islam – at an economic and (limited) political opening in the 2000s. Some who had fled Libya over the years came back to take part in the process, and Saif and some of his allies made positive international connections. In particular, Qaddafi tried to attract foreign investment in oil production and extraction, which had stagnated during the sanctions of the 1990s.50 Joffe argues that Qaddafi had been reluctantly allowing more public challenges in recent years, and the ‘regime’s image of absolute control of an allegedly perfect political system had been badly dented by civil disobedience, particularly in Cyrenaica’, where his support was already weak.51 The openings were limited, however, as older regime cadres fought back against Saif and his more cosmopolitan allies, and Qaddafi continued to use threats and make enemies internationally. By 2010, there was increased international activity and investment in Libya, but Qaddafi had mostly lost any goodwill he had gained with Western powers. The political openings had largely stalled, but there was more open dissent. Finally, the neglected and factionalized military was ready to crack. 172

Libya: A Factionalized Military As the Arab Spring gained momentum in early 2011, Qaddafi watched what happened to Ben Ali and Mubarak and was determined not to fall himself. He bolstered his forces with more mercenaries, threatened bloggers, and banned the use of cameras.52 Following Mubarak’s fall, opposition groups around Libya planned a ‘Day of Rage’ for 17 February. On 15 February, to pre-empt the protests, Qaddafi’s forces arrested one of the leaders of the opposition, Fathi Terbil. Terbil was the lawyer for a group of widows and relatives challenging the Libyan Government over the massacre of 1,200 prisoners, including political prisoners, during a 1996 riot in Tripoli’s notorious Abu Salim Prison. This movement had been politically active in the past, and was one of the few organized groups in the country. Rather than stop the protests, however, the arrest of Terbil advanced them by two days. Almost immediately, 2,000 protesters began a demonstration outside the police headquarters in Benghazi, demanding his release. The police shot at the protesters, who responded by attacking a Revolutionary Committee office nearby, which set off a cycle of escalating violence for the next several days.53 Protests spread quickly to other cities, but just as quickly the regime sent military commandos and snipers to suppress them.54 By 19 February, reports claimed that ‘young supporters’ – probably the Jamahiriya Guards militia or the Revolutionary Committees – plus mercenary soldiers were using significant violence on protesters.55 The level of violence unleashed was much greater than in most of the other uprisings, with regime forces immediately using grenades and heavy weapons. Protesters and some defecting troops broke into security offices and abandoned barracks to collect weapons and began to fight back against regime forces in Benghazi and other eastern cities. Internet services were quickly cut.56 On 20 February 2011, the regime lost control of Benghazi. The last major brigade in the city collapsed when faced with up to 50,000 protesters armed with weapons taken from another base. Officers and troops defected to the protesters, and it is possible that other units deserted wholesale. This led to a slew of army defections throughout the country, including in Tripoli, where ‘founding members of Gaddafi’s Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) condemned his bloody crackdown and demanded that he hand over power to the Libyan army.’57 The defections were not uniform, 173

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring however. In the east, where Qaddafi was particularly unpopular, and where authority had collapsed most quickly, whole units did defect. In other cases, some soldiers stayed loyal, some deserted without joining the rebels, while others stayed at their posts and waited to see what would happen next. ‘Some units followed their officers’ counsel and defected wholesale to the opposition. Most made an individual decision based upon self-preservation, peer pressure, and their opinions concerning the justness of the revolution.’58 In Tripoli, the regime-protection units tied to the leadership stayed loyal. Attempting to repeat the successful overthrows in Tunisia and Egypt, the protesters hoped to bring the army on side, calling ‘for a secular interim government led by the army in cooperation with a council of Libyan tribes.’59 The factionalized nature of the Libyan military rendered it unable to act as a whole, however. Rather than step into government as a coherent unit, like in Tunisia and Egypt, the military splintered. Indeed, the entire Libyan regime, marked by Qaddafi’s divide-and-rule strategy and the ‘orchestrated chaos’ that had allowed him to sit at the center of politics as the ‘voice of wisdom and calm,’60 split at the seams. Within a week, Libya’s deputy representative and much of the Libyan UN mission accused Qaddafi of genocide.61 The cracks in the military were at the highest levels, with Qaddafi placing one of his top generals under house arrest for refusing to fire on protesters. ‘Military officers and units began to defect in droves in the east and dissolve in the west.’62 In Benghazi and other towns, local people began to care for their own cities, forming defense committees, cleaning up the damage, and directing traffic. By the fifth day of protests, the regime had lost control of parts of Tripoli. Qaddafi’s tribe is based in Tripolitania, and Qaddafi had prioritized the development of the capital. It was where most of his tribal allies lay, as well as where the most well-equipped and loyal troops were stationed, including those units commanded by his sons, Mutassim and Khamis. Whereas in Benghazi significant numbers of troops defected to the protesters, in Tripoli loyal military forces attacked fiercely, taking the virtually unprecedented step of using air forces against protesters. A steady stream of mercenaries began to fly into the country. Many were from sub-Saharan Africa, from insurgent groups that Qaddafi had 174

Libya: A Factionalized Military supported in various African wars, as well as the Islamic Legion.63 The air force was primarily drawn from loyal tribes, but it was likely that many of the pilots were foreign mercenaries. Qaddafi had used foreign pilots to bomb insurgent bases during the Islamist uprising in the 1990s. Far from using police forces, or even less-lethal military crowd-control techniques, the regime fired into crowds using helicopters, airplanes, and heavy weapons.64 The use of black-African troops exacerbated an already prevalent problem. As Qaddafi was increasingly isolated by the Arab regimes of the Middle East during the 1980s and ’90s, he had turned to sub-Saharan Africa with his dreams of regional leadership, giving gifts to various African leaders and pushing for a larger role within the African Union. He opened his borders to immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, some passing through to illegally migrate to Europe but many staying to work in Libya. These immigrants experienced difficult lives, often feeling unprotected by police. A racial component came into play with black workers. The 1990s sanctions period saw an increase in violence and resentment against this group; they were seen as exacerbating unemployment amongst Libyans and as a symbol of Qaddafi’s preference for his international ambitions over his domestic responsibilities.65 During the first weeks of the uprising, some black Africans who were caught by rebel forces were hanged, whether actually mercenaries or not.66 Within a week of the first protests, the Libyan regime seemed to be on the brink of collapse. It was barely holding onto Tripoli with massive violence, and the city of Benghazi was taking down Qaddafi’s revolutionary flag and raising the standard of the pre-revolutionary regime. Other areas declared themselves free of Qaddafi’s regime, including the villages in mountainous Berber areas. Soldiers took off their uniforms and joined the protesters, and two pilots refused to fire on demonstrators and flew their planes to Malta. The rebels in Benghazi gathered weapons and tried to move on Tripoli, to help the less-organized protesters there. Unlike what was to happen in Syria, where it took months of significant violence for the regime to start losing Arab support, the Arab League quickly turned on Qaddafi and suspended his membership. Rumblings had already begun in the West, with statements against the violence, but not yet strong calls 175

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring for Qaddafi to step down. The US had little sway with the Qaddafi regime; its contacts were recent and shallow and, perhaps more importantly, it had little contact with the military.67 Saif al-Islam Qaddafi warned that a bloody civil would be the inevitable result of overthrowing his father.68 His claim that Qaddafi was all that held this nation of conflicting tribes together was partly true, but much of that was deliberate policy by Qaddafi’s government.69 Qaddafi had taken over a divided society, but rather than work to unite it he used the conflict between tribes to his advantage, playing them off against one another. This kept the country divided and all groups dependent on Qaddafi’s charisma and mediation to keep the ‘machine’ running. Since his overthrow, Libya has indeed descended into a tribal and regional civil war – but this is because he maintained and exacerbated those divisions to remain in power, not because his regime suppressed inevitable conflict. The regime could also still bring supporters onto the streets. After clearing Tripoli’s central Green Square using massive violence, thousands of Qaddafi supporters held pro-regime rallies, wearing green bandannas and brandishing machetes. Probably members of allied tribes, militias, or Revolutionary Committees, these supporters were then bussed to various places around Tripoli to begin taking back the city. Qaddafi urged them to protect his legacy, calling the protesters ‘cockroaches’, and claiming the uprising was caused by foreign intervention and citizens drugged into acting against the regime. No Libyan could be against Qaddafi, he claimed, because ‘Muammar Qaddafi is history, resistance, liberty, glory, revolution.’70 Battle lines had been drawn. The opposition believed it had to win because, based on the brutality Qaddafi’s regime had shown in the past and his bellicose speeches during the uprising, it feared terrible retribution if it lost. Many regime supporters were fearful as well, particularly Qaddafi’s tribal allies, who had enjoyed high social and military standing. They feared reprisals for years of poor treatment of the eastern and unallied tribes should they lose control.71 This proved to be the case; a great deal of score settling followed the regime’s fall. High-level diplomats and military figures were being arrested or defecting, but those that remained loyal had a lot to lose if the regime collapsed. 176

Libya: A Factionalized Military In Benghazi, the opposition set up a governing body and announced its National Transitional Council (NTC) to be the rightful government of Libya. The international community quickly ratified its claim. In Tunisia and Egypt, the revolts had been led by young people without much leadership. In the Libyan case, particularly in Benghazi, the opposition was older and more organized. Many were part of lawyers’ groups and the body calling for justice for the 1996 prison massacre.72 Some of the defectors were regime figures tied to Saif al-Islam’s reform efforts in the 2000s. This gave them useful governing experience, connections to one another, and ties to the international community that bolstered their claims to be a responsible opposition.73 Senior regime figures and military defectors also gave the Benghazi group a more mature face and greater political experience. However, these very qualities made the NTC suspect in the eyes of some more radical revolutionaries and those more fully excluded from the regime. To the dismay of Western observers, and probably some liberal oppositionists, veteran fighters from the 1990s Islamist insurgency also began to reappear, though they claimed to be fighting for a democratic Libya. The uprising in Libya was a highly local affair, with individual militias forming to take back their town but not coalescing into larger units. ‘The brigades were first and foremost loyal to their respective cities rather than to the NTC.’74 The NTC tried to coordinate the militias with a military council, ‘comprised of defected officers from the regular Armed Forces (not Gaddafi’s elite security units). They solicited foreign support, tried to unify and coordinate the resistance in the west and the east, worked issues of logistics and resupply, and started a one-week training academy south of Benghazi to prepare eager recruits for battle,’75 but it was unable to control the various militias, who did not trust one another or, necessarily, the NTC itself. With most Europeans, and all the Americans, out of Libya (in fact, minutes after the last American plane had left), the US became more vocal about Qaddafi’s repression. It announced sanctions against the regime, including freezing Qaddafi’s assets and those of many regime figures. Libya was suspended from the UN Human Rights Council, its membership of that body always having been something of an irony, and war-crimes investigations 177

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring began. More of Libya’s diplomatic staff abroad defected. Qaddafi showed few signs that the international condemnation mattered to him. Even if he had been willing to consider stepping aside, actions by the transitional regimes in Egypt and Tunisia probably would have dissuaded him. Ben Ali and Mubarak, once pushed out of office, were being stripped of whatever assets the transitional governments could find and demonstrators were demanding they be tried for crimes against their countries. Qaddafi viewed himself as a world-historical leader and a principled revolutionary. He probably believed it himself when he said that the uprisings were caused by foreign intervention, Al Qaeda, and drug-addled young people. Rebel gains soon turned to losses, as government forces went on the offensive. After a ten-day delay to bring in additional mercenaries and purge pilots unwilling to fight the protesters, the air force began to bomb rebel positions, including ammunition dumps in rebel-held areas and oil facilities captured by the rebels. This was accompanied by a major push by loyal forces, reportedly commanded by Qaddafi’s sons.76 This was a collection of various regime-protection units that had remained loyal, ‘a hodgepodge arrangement of elite security battalions, regular army units, mercenaries, and pro-Gaddafi militia.’77 Over the next few days, Qaddafi’s forces pushed back the disorganized and unprofessional rebel fighters. Many rebels were mutinous soldiers, but many were normal citizens who had taken up arms ‘and ambitious youth who wanted to earn fame on the battlefield.’78 Qaddafi’s forces used tanks, artillery, and warplanes against these rebels, who mostly rode into battle in private cars and trucks. The rebels had little weaponry and scant discipline. As stated earlier, Libya’s regular army was underequipped and had a poor battle history. This was even worse in the more restive east, home of tribes less friendly to Qaddafi and the site of the Islamist uprising, which had exposed a great deal of disloyalty within the military. The remaining government forces, while not much of a match for a modern, professional military, were much more disciplined than the rebels and had them vastly outgunned. Qaddafi’s forces would arrive outside a city, bombard it with artillery and air power, and then ‘armored columns would roll into the cities shooting everything and anyone in their path’.79 They were quickly taking back the cities they had lost and moving rapidly east along the coast to Benghazi. 178

Libya: A Factionalized Military The rebels had been adamantly against any foreign intervention up to this point, but with Qaddafi’s forces rapidly approaching Benghazi their position began to shift. With mounting losses and fear for what would happen if Qaddafi managed to regain control, the Libyan rebel leadership began calling for UN intervention. It was a contentious issue amongst the leadership, who felt like traitors for asking for help.80 Their initial request was simply for a no-fly zone and help preventing mercenaries from entering the country, but once in place, assistance increased to include close air support, intelligence, training, money, and weapons. In an unprecedented move for the historically ineffectual body, on 13 March 2011 the Arab League asked the UN and Western governments to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.81 It requested airstrikes, but proscribed any foreign occupation. This was an unexpected move from the League. Almost wholly made up of autocracies, with the dubious exceptions of Lebanon and Iraq and the transitional states of Tunisia and Egypt, the Arab League has historically placed sovereignty over all other considerations. Syria objected. It was about to witness its own ‘Day of Rage’ and no doubt wanted to quash the idea of foreign powers intervening to stop internal repression. For many of the other Arab League members, however, this was an opportunity to get rid of a thorn in their side while appearing to their own people and the world as supporting the protests. Marc Lynch argues that the Arab populace saw the Libyan revolt as part of a single Arab uprising, and that to the broader Arab public it was as if they were about to be attacked by Qaddafi and have their own revolution destroyed.82 So, any Arab leader who sided with the Libyan people would be able to claim, at least temporarily, to be acting on behalf of the Arab people instead of the regimes. Some, like the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, might have done it just because of personal animosity. Qaddafi ‘had antagonized the Arab League, the African Union, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference’, all of which supported the UN resolution, despite later reservations.83 Lynch argues that Saudi Arabia in particular might have been eager for the West to pay more attention to Libya, ‘if this meant diverting the West’s gaze from unsavory happenings in Bahrain, where the crackdown began at almost precisely the same time as the GCC move to endorse action in relatively faraway Libya.’84 179

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring The Arab League request gave political cover to the NATO intervention; however, the US demanded that some Arab countries commit forces to give the operation a multilateral veneer, and the UAE and Qatar sent planes. Russia later argued that it had been tricked into accepting a resolution that unfairly became a war to remove Qaddafi. However, with the backing of the Arab League and wide public support in the Arab world, it probably had little choice. Libya was far from a key Russian strategic interest, and Qaddafi did himself no favor with his rhetoric. On 15 March, as his troops approached Benghazi, he declared, ‘It’s over. We are coming tonight. We will find you in your closets.’85 The outcome in Syria would be very different. For a moment, however, against a bellicose leader who had few high-profile supporters and a significant number of enemies, the UN and NATO were able to come together to intervene and turn the tide of rebellion. Qaddafi’s forces reached the outskirts of Benghazi on 17 March, the same day the UN approved the no-fly zone. On 20 March, Qaddafi began his attack on Benghazi, hoping to take it before NATO could stop him, but NATO strikes began that same day. It quickly became clear that there was no way to protect the civilians of Benghazi without ending the Qaddafi regime. If NATO concentrated only on aircraft, Qaddafi could use his tanks and artillery to do just as much damage. It is also likely that some NATO and Arab League members were happy to use this opportunity to do away with a troublesome tyrant, even if they could have stopped short of doing so.86 After quickly destroying Qaddafi’s air defenses, NATO began to methodically target his ground units and command and control. As stated above, Qaddafi’s army had never demonstrated much expertise in war fighting. His Revolutionary Committees and the special units run by his sons were designed more for internal regime protection than fighting external forces. They were well armed and well trained enough to come within days of putting down a rebellion by citizens and defecting troops, but they were no match for NATO forces. As Russia and the US had feared, the intervention became a long, slow slog. The US and NATO sent trainers, weapons and equipment. Qatar ‘handed [weapons] out like candy’, many of which went to radical, jihadist groups.87 France and the UK flew the bulk of the missions in 180

Libya: A Factionalized Military the intervention, though the US was responsible for the initial attacks to destroy Libya’s air defenses and much of its command and control. Rebels on the ground, in combination with French and British Special Forces – and, probably, CIA agents – began to work with the NATO air forces to target regime units and coordinate close air support.88 As Qaddafi lost control of more places and smuggled weapons became available to more militias, the noose tightened, and ‘with Gaddafi’s forces in full retreat, his inner circle and Armed Forces began to crumble.’89 Qaddafi retained the support of his sons’ military forces and key allies, many of whom probably feared for their own lives if they were captured, but the rest of the military and state finally collapsed after NATO intervened and it was clear they intended to overthrow Qaddafi. By May, one general ‘insisted that Gaddafi’s military stood at only 20 percent of its prerevolution strength.’90 Within weeks, NATO and the rebel forces had pushed Qaddafi’s forces back towards Tripoli and rebels were pressing on all sides. By July, ‘he only controlled his traditional strongholds of Tripoli, Sirte, Sabha, and Bani Walid.’91 The rebels called for the people of Tripoli to revolt on 20 August, and were able to take the city the next day with little fighting. Qaddafi escaped, but was later captured and killed trying to escape a siege of his home town of Sirte. Video footage shows him being put into a truck alive and wounded, and coming out dead. He was brutalized before being killed.92 There was not much mourning in the world for Qaddafi, though some insisted there be an investigation and trial and the NTC promised to investigate.93 Qaddafi’s body was put on public display for four days in a freezer in Misurata, home of the rebels who captured him. Eventually he was buried in the desert, at a site kept secret so that it would not become a place of pilgrimage for supporters or be desecrated by opponents.94

Transition and Fragmentation Qaddafi fell because his factionalized army split and the international community intervened to overthrow him. Libya failed to become a democracy and subsequently slipped into civil war because his rule led to a weak state and fragmented society. The country was divided before Qaddafi, but his rule perpetuated and deepened those divisions rather 181

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring than encouraging national unity. Qaddafi also neutralized political activity outside of the strictly controlled Congress system. He destroyed Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s, and there was no place in his system for independent political or professional organizations.95 As such, there were no real political parties or strong organizations to take control after his fall. He also hollowed out the State, meaning there was little in the way of bureaucratic infrastructure to help the NTC rule or provide services during the transition period. The nature of the uprising and the international intervention created a proliferation of militias with little connection to one another or incentive to disarm for fear it would hurt their political prospects. Politicians from the NTC and other groups tried to restore order and reach a democratic bargain but, without an army to maintain security and give the various parties the confidence to compromise, the opposition fractured. Virginie Collombier shows that the NTC and the Libyan people understood this, and that rebuilding a national army and police force was one of their first concerns, but the fragmented nature of the militias and their distrust of the remnants of the national army made this impossible.96 It is possible this moderating role could have been filled by international peacekeeping forces, but the NTC was reluctant to invite in more foreign troops; the US was unwilling to take on the role; and the British and French, who had pushed for the intervention and were expected to be more involved in the transition, moved on to other things.97 It is likely that a major peacekeeping effort would have been politically impossible for the US and because of the nationalist demands on the Libyan opposition, but without a relatively impartial group to provide security for all parties, and with a plethora of militias pulling against unity, the NTC and Libya fell into factionalism and renewed civil war. The NTC had international support, but was relatively weak militarily and had to compete for revolutionary legitimacy with myriad regional militias. The uprisings were an intensely local affair. Local militias or governing councils would take control of their city or region, but they remained independent even if they professed allegiance to the NTC. The no-fly zone also allowed local uprisings and militias to survive without too much help from the NTC or other rebels. ‘The result was a deeply 182

Libya: A Factionalized Military fragmented security landscape consisting of loosely connected armed groups, each of which had developed “its own chain of command, military culture, and narrative of the revolution”.’98 These groups did not necessarily trust one another or the NTC, which contained old-regime figures and remnants of the national army. Lynch argues that NATO intervention made Qaddafi’s eventual downfall a foregone conclusion, which reduced the need for cooperation amongst the militias, and that ‘even as the war against Qaddafi raged, the militias associated with different external patrons [such as the UAE and Qatar] were jockeying for position within the expected post-Qaddafi Libya.’99 Following Qaddafi’s defeat, the NTC tried to rebuild a national army in order to provide the necessary security for building a democratic state, but the militias resisted. Many viewed themselves as being the real force behind the revolution, and feared for their own interests under the new government. They distrusted the NTC figures, many of whom had worked in the Qaddafi regime. The fractured tribal and regional landscape exacerbated this mistrust.100 The NTC had formed in Benghazi, and there was fear that it was biased towards the eastern part of the country. The largest militias would only agree to join the government if granted heavy concessions and few trusted what remained of the national army, which was also primarily from the east.101 The transitional Prime Minister tried to put the militias on the payroll as a means of controlling and, hopefully, integrating them into the regular army, but ‘because the payments were ongoing, he was giving the katiba [militia] members every reason to stay together and flout the government’s authority.’102 In fact, many of those who had joined the uprising had gone home after Qaddafi’s fall and the militias were now seen as an employment opportunity for people who had not taken part in the uprising, including ‘adventurers and criminals.’103 This led to significant governance problems and continued insecurity. Libya’s first election went fairly well and, unlike in Tunisia or Egypt, did not deliver an avowed Islamist group to power.104 However, parliament had a difficult time forming a government and did not control much territory. With all the disagreements and without an effective national military to prevent a militarization of politics, political factions and militias ‘started to take matters into their own hands.’105 The militias refused to 183

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring disarm and began acting independently, running their own prisons, taking control of institutions and neighborhoods, and even kidnapping politicians. Without other authorities to establish a safe environment for political bargaining, militias made political demands. ‘Political parties aligned themselves with various commanders, and with no army or police force to carry out their will, the elected officials became increasingly dependent on the fighters extorting them.’106 Local tribes and regional groups created their own security arrangements, sometimes producing areas of safety and security, but the transitional government ‘found themselves incapable of restoring control over these territories.’107 At the same time, Qatar and the UAE were supplying competing factions with weapons over the objections of Libyan politicians. In September 2012, the radical Ansar al-Sharia militia killed the popular and respected US ambassador, Chris Stevens, in Benghazi. In the aftermath of Ambassador Stevens’ death, people in Benghazi staged protests and marched to the militia headquarters, demanding they disarm; however, the militias survived and strengthened their influence over time. The toxic, partisan reaction in the US to the ambassador’s death in the midst of a presidential election led the US to pull back from Libya, as did most of the international community. The conflict between regions and between Islamists and the more secular opposition led to a long stalemate, with two groups eventually claiming to be Libya’s properly elected government, both with some international support. The General National Congress (GNC), elected in 2012, was based in Tripoli and supported by militias from Misurata in the western part of the country. It became dominated by Islamists over time, and was supported by foreign powers like Qatar and Turkey. It should have been superseded by the House of Representatives (HoR), elected in June 2014. However, those elections took place under conditions of insecurity, instability and low turnout, and the newly elected HoR was dominated by anti-Islamist forces. This was unacceptable to the Islamists in the GNC, who refused to disband. With the rump GNC refusing to give up power, and protected by Misuratan militias, the HoR was forced to flee Tripoli and set up in Tobruk, in the eastern Cyrenaica region. The HoR was initially supported by most of the international community, eastern tribes, and remnants of the Libyan Army under the control of 184

Libya: A Factionalized Military exiled Qaddafi opponent Khalifa Hiftar. Hiftar leads an alliance of former army units, tribes, and federalist forces from the east who claim to be the sole rightful National Army, and in 2014 he launched an attack on Islamist militias in Benghazi without government approval. He claims his goal is to eliminate Islamist influence and re-establish state authority, particularly in the east, and he receives support from Egypt and the UAE, but many see Hiftar’s actions as just one more attempt to use military power to dictate political outcomes.108 When the Libyan Supreme Court declared the 2014 elections void, the HoR refused to accept the verdict because it viewed it as being made under the threat of local militias.109 Since then, the situation has deteriorated into a civil war. The rival governments created parallel versions of institutions like the National Oil Corporation and Central Bank, fought one another, and competed to see who would be first to defeat ISIS, which gained control of the city of Sirte between their territories. At the same time, Fezzan in the south was ‘in a state of uncontrolled chaos.’110 The conflict is not nearly as bloody as Syria’s, however, because there is no central state with a trained and well-equipped military. All the groups are relatively small and poorly trained. Though fighters found sophisticated, portable missile launchers and many smaller arms in Qaddafi warehouses, which have been feeding conflict throughout Syria and northern Africa,111 the conflict does not include large numbers of tanks, heavy artillery, or aircraft as in Syria. Hiftar’s forces have used air force against his enemies, and there is indiscriminate use of mortars and artillery, but because most of Qaddafi’s military is gone and much of his air force was destroyed there is no central state able to use significant air power against civilians. Regional actors are also less directly involved in the conflict. Fighters come over the border from Tunisia and Algeria, and fighters from Libya are trying to bring the conflict to their more secure neighbors. External actors support the militias and there have been occasional air strikes by Egypt and the UAE, but these have been limited and ineffective, and regional powers like Egypt have resisted sending in troops without greater international support.112 In Syria, by contrast, major regional actors are engaged, like Hezbollah, Iran, Russia, the Gulf States, and ISIS. 185

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring ISIS had several thousand fighters in Libya’s Sirte, but they were largely expelled in late 2016. Even so, ISIS is simply one of the myriad players in the conflict, not a major regional actor like it is in Syria and Iraq. In Libya, there are many groups and no one group large enough to win decisively, which creates insecurity but has limited the scope of the fighting. Large cities like Misurata and Tripoli are contested by many different militias, which makes life there difficult, dangerous, and criminalized, but the groups are small enough that they often manage to live side by side rather than precipitating a full breakdown in social order.113 There is widespread suffering though. ISIS brutality caused mass migrations out of its territory, and many Libyans have fled the country because of the fighting, poverty, and insecurity. Weak security has also made Libya a route for significant trade in people across the Mediterranean. Many of the migrants are fleeing war-torn conditions in Libya, but most are migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and other areas searching for a route into Europe. Militias and non-state actors dominate this trade and often treat these migrants brutally, including holding them for ransom, forced labor and prostitution, sexual violence, slavery, and captivity. This has led to thousands of deaths, as people try to cross the Mediterranean in rickety and overloaded boats, and inhumane treatment in Libya, as people wait for their opportunity to cross the Mediterranean. Even with the ongoing conflict, the situation in Libya is certainly less deadly than in Syria. The civil war is terrible for the population, but because of the low level of expertise of the militias it is a relatively lowintensity conflict. put the deaths from 2014 to 2016 at around 6,000.114 This is not a small number in a country of 6.4 million people before the conflict began. In two-and-a-half years of civil war in Yemen, the death toll was 10,000 but Yemen has almost 24 million people. Adjusted for population, that is over twice the number deaths in Libya as in Yemen over a similar time period. Libya has had significantly fewer deaths than Syria, however. Estimates of the death toll in the 2011 uprising are limited, but an article in the online African Journal of Emergency Medicine estimates a death total of 21,490 between February 2011 and February 2012.115 Combined, this puts the death toll of the long Libyan conflict at around 27,500 as of early 2017. The death toll for Syria’s 186

Libya: A Factionalized Military civil war was estimated at 465,000 in May of 2017. Syria in 2011 had just under three-and-a-half times as many people as Libya, but the Syrian civil war has caused almost 17 times as many deaths. Security is low in Libya, the economy is bad, there are regular human-rights violations by all sides, 435,000 people are internally displaced,116 and an unknown number have fled the country, but in many areas the militias manage to live side by side and life can go on.117 UN-brokered talks between various factions established a unity Government of National Accord (GNA) in 2015, which began meeting in Tripoli in March 2016.118 Whether this unity government can build an effective administration and begin to consolidate the country is an ongoing question. General Hiftar and his allies from the Tobruk parliament have refused to recognize the GNA and did not take part in the unity talks. The GNA has little loyalty from the militias and is primarily supported by the UN.119 Hiftar has external support, including growing interest from Russia, and his forces remain in control in the east, where they control the country’s key oil-export terminals. There are signs of hope, however. Hiftar is being recognized as a major actor in Libya and necessary to any negotiated solution. He met for the first time with the Prime Minister of the GNA in May 2017 and both sides promised to try to reduce tensions and work towards a unified Libya. At the time of writing, in late 2017, the outcome is uncertain; the international community is engaged and the sides are negotiating, but the conflict continues. Qaddafi’s plan was to make the system ungovernable without him. In the long term, there is the possibility that external pressure and the fragmented nature of the opposition could force negotiations and consolidation, but for now Qaddafi seems to have succeeded.

Conclusion When Muammar Qaddafi took power, Libya was a divided society with a weak state. Qaddafi did not try to unite the society and was hostile to the idea of the modern state. He created a revolutionary, utopian regime where he was sole authority. He ruled through close tribal allies, friends, and Revolutionary Committees peppered throughout the country – all 187

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring responsible to him personally. He claimed not to have a position in the State, while dominating politics through revolutionary structures. All of this was only possible because of Libya’s vast oil wealth, but Qaddafi was not able to turn that into long-term prosperity. His economic policies, combined with his international isolation, let his rich state become poor. Politically, the country was smothered by his secret police and no independent political groups were allowed to operate. Internationally, he had few friends. He insulted other Arab leaders at every opportunity, tried to overthrow nearby African leaders, and made himself an enemy of the West with constant challenges and support for terrorism. Qaddafi would not have lasted as long as he did without Libya’s oil wealth and his internal-security apparatus. Key to this study, though, is what he did to the military. The military was always a danger for Qaddafi, and there were dozens of coup plots. To neutralize the military, he divided it and created a factionalized structure. Out-groups – such as non-favored tribes – were allowed to serve, but were relegated to separate units with poor training and equipment. The best equipment was given to the regimeprotection units led by his sons and manned by loyal tribal allies and mercenaries. These key parts of the military were not distinct or subordinate to the regime, so when the uprising finally came they would be sure to back the leader. However, the military had a weak internal structure and lacked the cohesion to deal with a massive, popular uprising. The military splintered, with out-group soldiers joining the protesters. The system worked as designed, however, and core regime-protection units remained intact. It was only through last-minute NATO military intervention that the rebels in Benghazi were saved. In terms of this study, the military split. It was designed to recover from those cracks, however. If not for NATO intervention, Qaddafi would likely have remained dominant, if not in total control. In the end, NATO intervention led to his downfall and death. Once his military was largely destroyed, the proliferation of militias, the weak state, and regional and tribal rivalries prevented the groups that emerged from the uprising from successfully negotiating a democratic bargain. Without an intact army to provide security and disarm or fully incorporate the militias, the fragmented opposition was unable to come to an agreement and politics militarized until it returned to a state of civil 188

Libya: A Factionalized Military war. The low level of expertise and absence of significant air power has meant the conflict is relatively low-intensity, at least compared to somewhere like Syria, but the Libyan people continue to suffer and a solution remains elusive.


6 Syria: A Factionalized Military

Syria presents another case of a factionalized military, built to allow a minority regime to rule over a larger population. Modern Syria has had a long and brutal history of coups and internal conflict, which depoliticized much of society and empowered a regime dominated by the Alawite Assad family and their allies, ruling over an occasionally resistant Sunni majority. Syria is a highly diverse society with regional, ethnic, and sectarian divisions. Unlike a country such as Algeria, which developed a semblance of national unity in its long war of liberation against France,1 Syria gained its independence mostly through negotiation and great-power manoeuvring. After independence, the old Sunni elite was left in charge of a fractured nation and the parliamentary regime was unable to deal with the many pressures from inside and out. Its military was politicized and its politics divided, which made it a playground for competing regional powers in the 1950s and ’60s, leading to myriad coups in the first 25 years of independence. Over time, various coups and purges pared the competing factions down to a small group around Hafiz al-Assad, who was able to institute a stable, if oppressive, system. The reins of that system were handed to his son, Bashar, on his death.


Syria: A Factionalized Military Unlike in Tunisia or Egypt, where the people had some hope that their nationalist militaries would not shoot, the Syrian regime had proved itself willing to use massive violence against its population, killing tens of thousands repressing an Islamist uprising in Hama in the 1980s. Key military units were tied to the regime by family, tribal, and political interests. Military leaders were not subordinate to the regime leadership but were, in fact, key regime figures. This means that at least part of the military was bound to defend the regime. However, the Syrian military was divided into separate units by sect and distance from the leadership. It was full of overlapping agencies, constantly competing with and watching one another, and it lacked a strong bureaucratic structure. This meant the military as a whole did not have the internal cohesion necessary to violently repress a broad-based uprising, particularly among the Sunni conscripts who would have identified most strongly with the protesters. The Syrian military was stronger and more heavily monitored than its Libyan counterpart. So, when it began to splinter, it was not a matter of whole units or bases defecting. Instead, troops fled or resisted in small groups, feeding into the burgeoning resistance, and ensuring that the government could not trust or use its full military force. The differences are important but, as with the Libyan case, core regime-protection units remained intact, while the broader military dissolved, leading to civil war. Once the uprising became a civil war, international alliances and intervention were key to the outcome. In the Syrian case, NATO and the Arab League were reluctant to intervene directly as they had in Libya, and the regime received greater support from authoritarian powers like Russia, China, and Iran. It relied on a sectarian strategy, massive violence, and backing from Shi’a powers like Iran and Hezbollah to survive. The opposition was radicalized by regime violence, an influx of foreign fighters, and backing from Sunni states and individuals with sectarian agendas. This turned an initially peaceful revolt into a bloody, internationalized civil war.2 At the time of writing, in late 2017, the regime has regained control over most of Syria’s large cities, with help from its aforementioned allies. It abandoned other areas to the Islamist groups like ISIS and to Kurds in their self-declared, autonomous region of Rojava. There has also been massive displacement, destruction, and sectarian sorting. Even if the regime 191

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring regains full control, or there is a negotiated peace, Syria will never look the same again.

Historical Development Greater Syria was one of the most important areas of the Ottoman Empire. It was a diverse region that included parts of present-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. Historically, Sunni Arabs dominated the plains and cities, but the mountainous areas allowed many groups to maintain a degree of independence and cultural and religious distinctiveness. These included Maronite Christians; Druze; Kurds; Alawi (then called Nusayris); and other, smaller groups. Society was highly divided by region and there was a strong urban/rural divide, leading to a group of closed communities. ‘Each was a “world” sufficient to its members and exacting their ultimate loyalty. The worlds touched but did not mingle with each other; each looked at the rest with suspicion and even hatred.’3 The communities were largely focused around a set of major agro-cities. These cities – such Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs – served as trading hubs and foci of regional identity. There was, and often remains, little communication between these regional hubs; they are connected with the capital, rather than with one another.4 This led to occasional conflict and constant jockeying for position, as well as intensifying regional and sectarian rivalries. Sunni Arabs dominated the cities and owned a significant portion of the arable land. The Ottomans ruled Syria largely through these Sunni elites in what was called the ‘politics of the notables.’5 During World War I, the British encouraged an Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, premised on the creation of a large, independent Arab state with Syria as a major component. Instead, following the war, the French and British broke up what was Ottoman Syria into several states under their own control. After a short battle with Arab forces, the French took possession under a League of Nations mandate, supposedly to prepare the country for independence. But rather than building a state apparatus run by locals, they brought in a large French bureaucracy. The French took all the important decisions, ‘supported by an all-pervasive intelligence service and a standing garrison of 15,000 troops.’6 They also broke up what is now Syria into smaller units: the State of Aleppo and 192

Syria: A Factionalized Military the State of Damascus, centered on those respective cities; and the Sanjak of Alexandretta, which was eventually handed over to Turkey. They also created an Alawi State and a Druze State initially, which many blame for later divisions. Syria is a divided society but, while there is no doubt the French divideand-rule policy did enshrine divisions, to place all the blame for later conflict on French policy is to downplay the conflicts that already existed. Quoting Albert Hourani, Fouad Ajami writes, ‘France had “made articulate the corporate consciousness” of the minorities. She had not created it; she had simply given expression to it in her administrative organization.’7 In Syria, many Druze and Alawi felt excluded and oppressed, and they were often looked down upon as heretics. Alawi lived poor lives in the mountains and, in areas where the Sunni-dominated plains met the Alawi mountains, they worked as sharecroppers and sent their daughters to richer Sunni households as indentured servants and possibly sexual slaves.8 Ajami argues that the Alawi State was a natural unit: an area with 370,000 people; 60 percent Alawi and 20 percent Sunni – with its mountain, coast, and attached plain, much like Lebanon. Druze and Alawi leaders pushed for their own states, and many minorities would have preferred to remain autonomous under French protection rather than being joined to an independent Syria.9 Many Alawi, Druze, and Kurds viewed Arab and Syrian nationalism as cover for Sunni dominance in this period, and prized their independence from the rest of Syria, even as the Druze fought against the French. However, following the preference of the Sunni majority, the smaller independent states were attached to Syria at independence. The notion of a single Syrian national identity would remain contentious. The French suppressed a few localized uprisings when they first took control and dealt with a major, nationwide revolt from 1925 until 1927. In the aftermath, the French began to engage more with the Ottoman-era notables and rule with a slightly lighter hand. This renewed the dominance of the urban Sunni elite as intermediaries between the French and the broader population, recreating ‘the politics of the notables.’ The National Bloc, formed by these notable families, engaged in what it called ‘honorable cooperation’, taking on an anti-French tone while controlling their constituents in exchange for considerations from the French.10 The latter 193

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring mostly kept the notables away from real political power, but they were allowed to maintain and strengthen their clientelistic networks and influence. Under the French-imposed constitution, Syrians elected a president and a legislature, but the French made all the final decisions. This was similar to the liberal period in Egypt, when the British allowed some parliamentary politics but their control robbed it of any real meaning and discredited the elite parties that participated. External forces, rather than internal revolt, led to Syrian independence. After the French collapse in World War II, the Vichy Government suspended the constitution and political activity in Syria. Prior to taking Syria back from the Axis powers, French General Charles de Gaulle agreed to independence for Lebanon and Syria, but he quickly backtracked. After the end of the war in Europe, de Gaulle sent forces to Syria to reinforce his position, but was met with anti-French violence. De Gaulle responded by bombarding the capital, Damascus. It was only through active pressure from Britain that France eventually agreed to give up control. France handed power over to the Syrian Parliament and evacuated its troops from Syria and Lebanon in 1946. The French left independent Syria with a divided nation; a politicized army; and a conservative, elite parliament with dubious revolutionary legitimacy and little experience of actually making political decisions. ‘When Syria became independent in 1946 she was in many respects a state without being a nation-state, a political entity without being a political community.’11 This led to an unstable period of coups and counter-coups, wars, and external meddling that was only settled by the imposition of an authoritarian, minority regime.

Coup Politics From the beginning of its independent life, Syria had a highly politicized military. The elite parliament was relatively weak, and there were no strong state institutions except the army. Until the 1960s, the latter remained dominated by Sunni officers, but increasing enlistment from minority groups led to a highly factional military. Cliques and groups used party labels, but their ties were less about ideology than regional or sectarian identity. 194

Syria: A Factionalized Military In the terms of this study, the military at that time was largely representative, as most societal groups were allowed in the army up to and including high-level positions, but it was not cohesive or distinct from the regime. Soldiers did not identify with the military as a corporate entity or interest group; their loyalty was to individual parties or sectarian factions.12 It was not bureaucratic, expert, subordinate, or externally oriented either, but rather a ‘playground’ of competing factions building loyal client bases. It was dragged into politics by politicians, officers, and outside forces. This led to more than two decades of coup politics, eventually ending in the Assad regime. During the mandate period, the French encouraged minority groups to join the army as a means of controlling the urban elites; the former were viewed as less nationalistic and easier to manipulate.13 Some Sunni elites were also reluctant to join the army, feeling that to do so would be to support French rule. The Sunni continued to dominate the officer ranks until the 1960s, but minorities began to join in larger numbers. As with the rest of the army, they would become politicized and radicalized. As was shown by Egypt and Libya, as the armies of the Arab world modernized they opened their doors to young people from disadvantaged communities, both to increase enlistment and as a means of national indoctrination. Without other means of gaining an education or government position, many of these poor and middle-class youths chose the army, which provided a route to power. Like Gamal Abdel Nasser and Muammar Qaddafi, Hafiz al-Assad came from a traditionally marginalized group, which sought to enhance its position in the new Syrian state. The first round of post-independence coups was precipitated by the 1948 war over the founding of Israel. The inability of the parliamentary regime to defend what was viewed as Arab rights weakened it in the eyes of the populace. Politicians and social groups in Syria were also happy to take advantage of the military’s polarization for their own ends, using it as a wedge against the parliamentary system or as a means to gain control for various urban factions.14 In order to build their power bases, politicians, and officers attempted to enlist their own loyalists ‘to enlarge the army, and to politicize, Arabize and radicalize its officer corps.’15 This led to two coups, followed by spells of parliamentary politics, followed by another 195

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring coup in 1951 by Adib Shishakli, who ‘set up a civilian government under not very remote military control.’16 Shishakli was ousted in February 1954 by a combination of student uprisings and a military revolt, and civilian government and parliamentary elections were reinstated. The Ba’ath was a growing movement throughout this period. Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al Bitar, two teachers, founded the Ba’ath (Renaissance) Party at Damascus University in 1943.17 Its ideology was pan-Arab and non-sectarian; it recognized Islam as important to Arab culture but did not require everyone to follow the same religion. Aflaq was Christian, and the various sectarian minorities in Syria began to gravitate towards Ba’athism and Syrian and Arab nationalism as a means of advancing their fortunes, on the logic that religious sect was less important than their Arab identity.18 Ba’athism was a secular ideology and called for a nondoctrinaire socialism.19 It has much in common with fascism and its reaction to Marxism. It focused on the glorification of national identity and an ethic of struggle over doctrinaire theory. It was a means of regaining a lost national glory and leading the nation to industrialization and independence from the impositions of the West.20 The Ba’ath joined with the rural socialist party in 1952 to form the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. Syrian governments during this period of coup politics were always insecure. They were pressed from the outside by regional politics and from the inside by their narrow support base. Nasser had become the symbol of Arab unity with his nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956, and Arab nationalist movements like the Ba’ath did all they could to associate themselves with his charisma. In 1958, under pressure to prove its Arab-nationalist credentials, the Syrian leadership offered to unite Syria with Egypt in a United Arab Republic (UAR). Neither Nasser nor the Syrians wanted full unity, but in the elation of this Arab-nationalist moment, neither could refuse.21 The relationship quickly soured. The Syrians had hoped to be equal partners in the UAR, but Nasser demanded full control and enacted economic reforms that hurt the country’s Sunni elite. With the support of Ba’ath and nationalist officers angry at being excluded from power, traditional Sunni power holders within the Syrian Army staged a coup and seceded from the UAR in 1961, reversing the Nasserist reforms. 196

Syria: A Factionalized Military Sunni officers led the 1961 coup and, initially, led Syria’s newly independent government. However, the minority officers were slowly outmanoeuvring them and, in a series of coups throughout the 1960s, were able to take control of the army and the country. Throughout the post-independence period, the Alawi and Druze had begun to fill the lower levels of the army; by the 1960s, the Alawi had a plurality amongst the enlisted soldiers and ‘[a]s early as 1955 […] no fewer than 65 percent or so of the noncommissioned officers belonged to the Alawi sect.’22 Inter-Sunni conflict weakened the leadership and allowed more space for the minority groups to take power.23 In the process of Syrian coup politics, smaller and more cohesive sectarian and regional factions came to dominate the army as each group eventually purged its former allies. In March 1963, the Ba’ath officers, with Nasserist and independent unionist officers, overthrew the Sunni separatist regime in a coup. During this period, many middle-class Ba’ath leaders were replaced by active-duty officers. The Ba’ath Party that emerged from the 1963 coup was a military body supported by Druze and Alawi officers.24 The Ba’ath officers were still not in control of the government but they had a large coterie of allies, held strong positions within the military, and took a leading role in the party organization. Factions began to develop around individual leaders, further weakening discipline in both the party and the army. Within the military, more Sunni officers were purged and minorities, such as Druze and Alawis, began to take their places. In some cases, whole units were being transformed into sectarian enclaves. Sunni were being discriminated against in the military academy and Ba’ath Party organizations. The military also began moving untrustworthy officers, mostly Sunni, out of key areas and to the more distant Israeli front or away from the capital. It was also common for what Sunni officers remained to be put in command of Alawi units, ensuring that if there were to be a crisis the unit would not obey that officer’s commands. Some Sunni were allowed to take high posts in the armed forces, probably to disguise the minorities’ takeover of the military, but they had little actual control. Only months after taking power with the help of the Ba’ath, Sunni Nasserist officers attempted a coup against their former allies. The coup failed, as most of the minority officers sided with the Ba’ath. The Nasserists were then purged themselves. Amin 197

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring al-Hafiz, a Sunni officer from the Ba’ath, took the presidency, but minority officers took most of the key positions below him.25 From this point onwards, the regime would be led by the Ba’ath, which was now dominated by minorities and the military. It would take seven more years and several more internal coups before Hafiz al-Assad was able to take full control of the regime, however. Under Amin al-Hafiz, the Ba’ath tried to downplay the sectarian character of its politics. It was philosophically dedicated to pan-Arabism and eliminating sectarian rivalries but highlevel officers were building sectarian factions around themselves, playing on fears that other sects would come to dominate the system. This was not a matter of sectarian unanimity so much as a defensive reaction against perceived threats from the other sects. At the same time, there was a dispute within the Ba’ath Party between the Regional (Syrian) Command, led by army Chief of Staff Salah Jadid, an Alawi, and dominated by minorities, and the National (pan-Arab) Command, containing Michel Aflaq and many old-guard, Sunni leaders. In 1966, the National Command was dissolved and Aflaq, Ba’athism’s founder and ideologue, was expelled from the country. This left a coalition of minority officers in charge of the Syrian Ba’ath Party, the military, and the government, though they tried to downplay the fact. Salah Jadid took control of the civilian wing of the party; Hafiz al-Assad became the minister of defense. A Sunni was made president, but the real power lay with Jadid and the party. A purge of Druze officers followed, leaving the military, government, and Ba’ath Party primarily in Alawi hands.26 It was not at this point, and never was, a regime of the Alawi. Many Alawi were outside the power structure and remained poor, but the leaders were now primarily Alawi and they installed many of their tribal and sectarian allies in key positions. It is clear that at this point the Syrian Army was not built for war; it was a political instrument. There was little discipline, and political loyalty took precedence over military capability. Like the Egyptian military, it was embarrassed and crippled by the smaller but vastly superior Israeli forces in the 1967 Six-Day War. Following that defeat, the Soviet Union replenished Syrian military equipment and sent in trainers to bolster expertise. The military improved its performance in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, but even after a successful surprise attack it was unable to retake the Golan 198

Syria: A Factionalized Military Heights and was eventually driven back.27 Despite the 1967 defeat, both Jadid and Assad survived in their positions. It was a conflict over intraArab regional politics that finally led to Jadid’s fall. After being embarrassed by Assad in the failed intervention to stop Jordan from expelling the PLO in September 1970, Jadid tried to have Assad dismissed.28 Instead, Assad activated his military allies and took control of Damascus in what he called a ‘corrective movement.’ He then made himself president, the first Alawi to hold that position. While many Sunni view the Assad regime as an alien dictatorship by a heretic sect, and many blame the French policy of divide and rule for the empowerment of the minorities, ‘it also symbolically represented the political evolution of the Alawis from being a discriminated-against, socially and economically backward religious community to a nationally emancipated group in a position of dominance.’29 While the Sunni and other minorities still served in the party and armed forces, any politically powerful factions had been purged. Assad brought in more Alawi allies and they were able to form their own power blocs over time, though he would prove adept at balancing them. From this point on, most of Syria’s internal political challenges came from within the Alawi community.30

The Assad Regime As Malik Mufti says, ‘Only when leaders emerged who learned to combine the despotic capabilities of tanks and planes with the institutional and ideological resources of a political party would real longevity in tenure become possible for the first time.’31 Besides the military, Assad took control of the Ba’ath Party and allied with Sunni business leaders, who had been attacked under Jadid’s more Marxist regime. He placed members of his own tribe and family in the most important positions and attempted to justify his rule through a subservient party organization and a cult of personality.32 The Ba’ath Party was used to indoctrinate both the army and the populace, organize and mobilize society, and provide an avenue for social advancement.33 Ba’athist ideology also became a means to justify minority rule. Since they were all Arabs, according to the theory, it did not matter that the regime leaders were part of a different religious 199

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring sect. This left out the Kurds, who were Muslim but not Arab, and many were denied official citizenship. Again, the regime did not necessarily represent rule by the Alawi as a sect, but the leaders were Alawi and their tribal and regional allies did wield disproportionate influence in the country and benefitted disproportionately. The regime was based on clan and personal ties, but in order to justify its existence it relied on ideology and party indoctrination. Alawi were given the sensitive posts of teachers in disproportionate numbers to spread the party line. Youth groups tied to the party were also used for the ‘inculcation of national values in the minds of citizens and students.’34 Even into the twenty-first century, there continued to be compulsory rallies in support of the government and the president.35 The regime also relied on its resistance foreign policy against Israel to justify its existence, which gave it some popular and international support. Hafiz al-Assad’s foreign policy was often referred to as pragmatic.36 He certainly was not a rash actor. He believed Israel was expansionist and dangerous to Syria, but he did not attack it directly from Syria after the 1973 war. He usually worked through proxies, trying to dominate Lebanon and maintaining influence with Palestinian terrorist and resistance groups that he could use to keep Israel insecure, and which would serve as a guerilla second front if Israel were to attack. His pragmatism existed within a certain context, however. A central part of Assad’s Ba’athist regime was its claim to Arab nationalism; as such, Assad always tried to maintain leadership of the anti-Israel ‘resistance front,’ attempting to extract resources and gain legitimacy by keeping relations tense with Israel and the US. If he were purely pragmatic and reclaiming the Golan was his primary concern, as was often claimed, he could have probably done what Egypt and Jordan did and made a separate peace. Raymond Hinnenbusch argues that by the late 1990s Assad had nothing to fear from public opinion or domestic rivals, so his actions were determined by realist foreign-policy concerns. However, Hinnenbusch also says, Syrian nationalism still has not become a viable substitute for Arabism, and regime legitimacy remains linked to its defense of Arab national interests against Israeli penetration of the region


Syria: A Factionalized Military […] No nationalist regime  – especially an Alawi-dominated one  – can, without grave risk, be seen to accept less than an honorable settlement.37

Thus, while the Syrian regime may have been relatively insulated from domestic pressure, it always based much of its legitimacy on its panArabism. The Assads downplayed the religious differences between the Alawi and Sunni, and focused on their joint Arab identity and pan-Arab goals. Many Arabs did view Syria positively because it continued to oppose Israel and had a relatively welcoming policy towards Palestinians. This confrontational stance put Syria in constant low-level tension with the US, and during the Cold War it was in the Soviet camp, but the Assad regime was able to use its stance as member of the ‘resistance front’ to bolster its rule in Syria and its popularity in the Arab world, even as it edged towards a closer relationship with Iran. During the Iran–Iraq war, Syria sided with Iran against its own Ba’athist rival, Iraq. Since then, Syria has served as a base for the radical groups that Iran supports and a transshipment route to Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon. While Syria was not radical enough to want to bring down the regional system, it was a constant source of friction and was able to play that system to bolster its influence. It was encouraged to enter Lebanon in 1976 to help stabilize the civil war there, but then refused to leave. Syria gained favor with the US when it sided against Iraq in the first Gulf War and lost it again when it sided with Iraq in the second, as well as – for a time, at least – allowing foreign jihadists to enter Iraq through Syria. Syria gained some friends in Washington when Bashar al-Assad came to power promising an opening, and lost them again when Syria was blamed for assassinating the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafic Hariri, in 2005. Syria was allowed back in the fold after shutting its borders to jihadists and leaving Lebanon, but the George W. Bush Administration imposed sanctions when it seemed Syria was developing chemical weapons and, in 2007, Israel quietly destroyed a Syrian nuclear facility. Turkey tried to make peace with Syria, if only so it would stop hosting Kurdish guerilla forces that attacked into Turkey, but this changed when Syria began killing civilians in 2011. The other Arab states were wary of Syria as well. The Saudis in


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring particular identified it with a Shi’a axis they saw as a growing threat, given the new Shi’a-dominated government in Iraq and Iran’s growing power.38 Despite Hafiz al-Assad’s power, Syria’s was not a one-man regime. According to Joshua Stacher, multiple power holders dominated the Syrian regime, each with institutional resources they could use to defend their own interests. In his view, Hafiz al-Assad was unquestionably the leader, but his longevity was due to his ability to balance the ambitions of competing power holders.39 The various regime figures that run the ministries, army units and businesses all have something to lose and some resources that allow them to protect their interests. When Hafiz died, they did not elevate Bashar because that was what Hafiz wanted, but because it was the best way to maintain the status quo.40 So Bashar al-Assad, who was second in line after his older brother was killed, was elevated to the presidency days after his father’s death in 2000. Many hoped that Bashar would prove something of a reformer, but he quickly demonstrated that he had inherited his father’s dictatorial instincts. His wife was Syrian but raised in the UK and analysts played up the fact that Bashar had studied medicine in London, implying that should make him more liberal. But the UK was only a small part of his life, which had mostly been spent in Syria. There was a short political thaw after he came to power, called the ‘Damascus Spring.’ Some new societal groups were allowed to form and the press opened a little, but it did not last. Many of those who spoke out were jailed or fled the country, and the opposition remained fractured and ineffectual.41 Bashar did make some changes to the economic and political system, but they mostly benefitted regime insiders. He reduced the economic and political role of the Ba’ath Party and liberalized the economy, doing away with much of the ‘populist social contract’ of the Hafiz years. This led to more foreign investment but also increased poverty, cut off the regime from some rural constituencies, and increased inequality and elite corruption, which helped to magnify existing political grievances.42 He did try to engage with the West and appear a reformer, and his wife featured on the covers of magazines in the competition between the younger Arab ‘first ladies’ to seem the most modern and progressive, but he had lost the air of a reformer well before the Arab Spring. 202

Syria: A Factionalized Military

The Syrian Military Under Hafiz al-Assad, the Syrian military came into its final form – which, despite the shuffling of some officers, remained in place under Bashar. Throughout the coup-politics period, the military contained many factions competing for influence. When finally in control, Assad used his tribal and family ties, and sophisticated coup-proofing strategies, to factionalize the military. ‘Two assumptions guided the organisation of the security sector: firstly, that regime survival was its foremost objective, superseding all other national security considerations; and secondly, that viable threats to the regime could spring from within the security forces.’43 Hafiz placed his brother, Rifat, in command of regime-protection units called the Defense Companies, which were stationed around Damascus. He filled these units with Alawi soldiers and gave them the best training and equipment. These were the parallel militaries that James Quinlivan describes, which serve as the primary force for internal repression and regime defense.44 Other minorities – such as Christians, Druze, and Ismailis – also served in important positions. All of these communities had stories of oppression under the Sunni, and over time developed a strong interest in the regime’s survival. Still, the regime could not field a full military with just the members of the minority communities, so Sunni were encouraged to join the army. This is the essence of a factionalized military structure. Sunni troops and even Sunni officers served in the armed forces, but they were distributed in such a way as to minimize their ability to challenge the regime. Sunni conscripts were placed in poorly equipped, poorly trained units remote from regime strongholds. They were treated and paid badly, stationed far from their homes, and were not in the army long enough to gain a sense of military professionalism. These conscripts were also used as free labor in private side-businesses run by their officers, and ‘treated more as indentured servants than professional soldiers.’45 They were stationed along the border and would be the first forces sent into combat against the powerful Israeli Army, absorbing losses while the better-equipped minority units were kept in reserve. The better-armed Alawi units were ‘placed in or near Damascus or in areas of potential unrest – such as Homs, Hama, Dar’a, and Palestinian refugee camps – not along Syria’s tenuous borders.’46


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Nonetheless, Syria’s military was more secure than Libya’s factionalized forces. Rather than allowing its weak units to turn into tribal or sectarian enclaves, with officers and leaders from the same background, the Syrian regime used an extra layer of protection: Sunni troops would have minority officers, while Sunni officers would be in charge of Alawi troops – ensuring that, even if the military broke down, whole units could not collude to defect or coup. The weaker, Sunni-dominated units would be hard pressed to organize any sort of coup attempt, and the regime-protection units stationed near Damascus were always ready to fight their own army if they did. Even the loyal, Alawi regime-protection units were monitored and set to block one another. Their areas of responsibility overlapped,47 meaning that they would be aware of one another’s movements and able to block any coup attempt. The military was clearly more interested in internal repression than external defense, with its most important units focused on regime protection rather than the powerful Israeli Army next door. The military was also highly corrupt, with individual officers engaging in private businesses – legal and illegal. Syria’s occupation of Lebanon seemed to be a lucrative opportunity for officers and regime figures, as they engaged in smuggling and the Lebanese drug trade.48 There was also direct patronage from above. However, unlike in Egypt, where the entire military was an organized, money-making enterprise, in Syria ‘the military’s involvement was made possible primarily through informal, uninstitutionalized and patrimonial means.’49 This left Syria’s military officers with a focus on internal issues, but without the independence from the leadership that Egypt’s massive military economy provides. As shown above, Sunni soldiers were treated poorly, but even Alawi troops were not well-off economically. Over time, the social prestige and salary of the army has fallen, and even soldiers from the presidential guard often had to work second jobs. As previously shown, the regime did not benefit all Alawi, and many remain poor – hence, ‘the desire of many in the Alawite community to serve in the military comes by default, since they have few other prospects of employment. Subsidized food, housing, and social clubs, coupled with “graft” on the side, usually contributed to a decent quality of life.’50 The Alawi are also heavily monitored for loyalty by the security forces, but much of the reason they remain 204

Syria: A Factionalized Military loyal is because, even if they are also victims of the regime, they are strongly identified with the Assad family and fear they would do even worse under a Sunni-dominated regime.51 Unlike Libya or Yemen, whose armies were mostly ill-equipped and trained, Syria’s military had at least a moderate level of expertise. Estimates differ for the size of the army, but a prewar strength of 200,000–250,000 seems likely. It was recognized as a capable military ‘by regional standards,’ but the best equipment and training was limited to ‘pockets of excellence’ in the Alawi regime-protection units and the elite Republican Guard.52 In the 1980s, the Soviet Union had stopped subsidizing new equipment for its Syrian ally, and much existing materiel was allowed to deteriorate. William Taylor interviewed a US military attaché to Syria before the uprising, who ‘recalled seeing more than one military convoy on the streets of Syria whose percentage of broken down vehicles was roughly 20 percent.’53 As Russia regained some of its influence and aggressiveness under Vladimir Putin in the 2000s, it began to ramp up arms sales, so that Syria acquired decent air defenses and some newer equipment.54 However, this limited amount of modern equipment went to only a few Alawi-dominated units. Analysts suggested early on in the uprising that only 50,000 Syrian troops were properly equipped and reliable.55 The Assads had also developed a stifling security apparatus. Depending on the source and criteria, Syria may have had anywhere from five to 15 different security agencies watching the population and one another.56 These agencies cast a pall of dread over much of Syria, engaging in torture and pervasive repression. During the 2011 uprising, the word shabiha came into international usage to describe the groups of criminals and thugs the regime hired to help with internal repression. These groups were strongly tied to the regime and needed it to survive. If the regime fell, these loyal torturers and thugs might one day have to pay for their crimes.57 These multiple militaries and overlapping security agencies created an uncommonly secure regime. After 21 years of coups and counter-coups, Hafiz al-Assad’s regime would manage to survive intact from 1970 until the 2011 uprising, even passing to his son. The Hama massacre in 1982 demonstrates how the factionalized military was designed to work. Sunni Islamists from the Syrian Muslim 205

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Brotherhood began to attack the regime in the late 1970s. Many still viewed the Alawis as a heretic sect and, while Assad made allies amongst the Damascene Sunni elite, many other Sunni groups were excluded from the benefits of his regime. There were numerous assassinations of Ba’athist officials by Muslim Brotherhood mujahidin, beginning in 1976 and continuing through the early 1980s. In 1982, Muslim Brotherhood insurgents took control of the city of Hama and killed several Ba’ath Party leaders. The regime responded by sending Rifat Assad’s loyal Alawi Defense Companies to Hama. Tribal allies guarded the escape routes, and the Defense Companies bombarded the city.58 The whole operation took three weeks and may have killed as many as 40,000 people. The key here is that the regime relied on its loyal, sectarian regime-protection units for internal repression. The Sunni military units were not used for fear they would resist. This is also what happened during the 2011 revolt. The regime sent its loyal units to suppress one hotspot and then another, rather than using the whole army, whose Sunni troops might revolt. In the face of a nationwide uprising, however, the loyal units turned out not to be enough. In terms of this study, the Syrian military was ‘moderately representative’ and ‘moderately subordinate’; it had ‘low distinctiveness’, ‘low bureaucratization’, ‘low cohesiveness’, ‘low external focus’, and ‘moderate expertise’ (see Table 6.1). The military was not subordinate or distinct from the regime; key military units were led by family members of the president and close allies. Thus, as shown in Table 6.2, at least some units were bound to try to protect the leadership. It had a ‘Weak Internal Structure’, however. The military was not a cohesive unit with a single command structure, and many units were not loyal to the regime. So, when the military tried to suppress a popular uprising, it splintered along sectarian lines. Its coup-proofing and factionalization were better designed than in Libya, however. Units were much more closely monitored and controlled, so whole units did not defect as they did in Libya and Yemen, but significant numbers of troops deserted, particularly Sunni conscripts and officers, some of whom joined a growing opposition. Most importantly, the regime could not use its full military strength to quickly contain the protests, which allowed the conflict to slowly turn into a full-fledged civil war. 206

Table 6.1 Syria’s Military Structure Representativeness


Most sectarian and national groups are represented in the military, but they are broken into separate units by sect, with the best equipment and training going to Alawi units.



The military is broken into sectarian units with different responsibilities and levels of training and equipment. There are separate regime-protection units with heavy weaponry, designed to fight regular army units if necessary.



The top of the military is led by family and close allies of the regime, and tribal allies of the Assads are put in special units or dispersed though the military to monitor less-loyal units.



Promotion and position are heavily influenced by family connections and internal balancing by the regime, not bureaucratic or meritocratic rules.



The military elite are from the same families and tribes as the regime leadership, and chosen for their loyalty and attachment to the regime. They are part of the regime leadership, not subordinate to it.



The military has pockets of military excellence among the key Alawi units, but Sunni units receive older and poorer equipment and less training, leaving the overall military with moderate expertise.

External Focus


The most well-equipped and trained parts of the military are more concerned with internal regime protection than fighting external wars. The core Alawi elite are also involved in myriad businesses – legal and illegal.

Table 6.2 Syrian Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Strong Internal Structure High Distinctiveness & Subordination

Military Coup Tunisia Egypt

Low Distinctiveness & Subordination

Successful Repression Bahrain

Weak Internal Structure

Military Split Libya Syria

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Instead, the military did what it could. It relied on loyal forces for repression, tried to minimize the danger of defection by sidelining units with dubious loyalty, and fought against those troops and civilians that rose up against it. At that point, Syria’s international support and the reluctance of the US and NATO to become directly involved ensured the regime’s survival. The regime used its ties to the Arab League, its historical role as a member of the popular ‘resistance front,’ and its alliance with Russia and China to blunt calls for Western intervention. As the conflict grew and Sunni regimes began to quietly fund local militias and foreign fighters, the regime received active military support from regional allies like Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah. The relative expertise of the Syrian military – and the fact that it retained control of its air force, heavy weapons, and chemical weapons – meant that the conflict was exceptionally destructive, even if the regime could not ultimately win on its own. In late 2017, with strong Russian support, it looks as if the regime will survive, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives, massive destruction of cities and infrastructure, and a redrawing of the internal map of the country.

The Uprising As the Arab Spring uprisings spread in early 2011, Bashar al-Assad claimed that his foreign policy made Syria immune, despite the minority nature of the regime and rising inequality and poverty.59 All the governments that fell early on were in the Western camp – or, in the case of Libya, opening up to the West – so Syria could plausibly claim only pro-Western regimes were being challenged. He asked, ‘Syria is stable. Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people. This is the core issue.’60 In fact, Syria did have some public support in the Arab world because of its resistance policies. This did not hold, however; Syria became part of a narrative of revolt against internal oppression that was largely removed from the Arab–Israeli conflict.61 Unlike in 1982 in Hama, people could see the government’s repressive tactics in mobile-phone videos. And with its closeness to an increasingly powerful Iran, Syria was seen by some as less part of the Arab camp versus the West and more as a part of a Shi’a axis against the Sunni. 208

Syria: A Factionalized Military The revolts were slow to come to Syria, and the initial calls for protest did not amount to much. What demonstrations did occur were small and quickly dispersed. Into March 2011, when NATO was already engaged in Libya and protesters in Bahrain were camped at the Pearl Roundabout, police outnumbered protesters at Damascus rallies and quickly ended demonstrations with clubs and arrests.62 Early on, the regime had decided that leaders in Tunisia and Egypt had been insufficiently repressive, leading to their downfall, and it would not make the same mistake.63 The strategy had been working, protests could not gain traction like they had elsewhere. The young urbanites who had driven the protests in much of the Arab world failed to get a foothold in Damascus. The regime also had real support, and the population had been successfully cowed by decades of repression. Everyone knew from Hama that the Syrian military, unlike the Egyptian, would definitely shoot protesters. It was only after several adolescent boys were arrested and tortured in the northern Sunni city of Dera’a that the protests began to spread. The Assad regime, which had gained power as a rural movement with some urban allies, had increasingly neglected the countryside, feeding resentment.64 In March 2011, a few boys aged ten to 15, inspired by the protests elsewhere, painted some anti-regime graffiti on a wall. Security forces arrested and tortured them, and spoke cruelly to the families that came to reclaim them. This led to a series of protests. The people chanted that they were peaceful, but the regime quickly cut the city off from the rest of the country and started using snipers to fire on crowds.65 The regime’s brutality fed into the region-wide sense of anger and possibility, and the protests began to spread into other outlying Sunni areas. With the new communication technology, or perhaps with the sense of possibility that the other uprisings had offered, the regime could not contain the protests as they had in Hama in 1982. The protesters burned down the Dera’a Ba’ath Party headquarters. Funerals for dead protesters turned into massive demonstrations, which the police attacked. Within days, the Republican Guard, led by Bashar al-Assad’s brother, Mahar, was called in and began shooting demonstrators.66 The government said the protesters were terrorists and claimed to find weapons in a Dera’a mosque. It is certainly possible that some protesters were arming themselves, though the 209

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring imam of the mosque denied it, but the mass protests were largely peaceful.67 As in other cases, Fridays became the biggest days for protests. Activists began giving each such protest a name, such as ‘Friday of Rage.’ People would gather at the mosque for noon prayers, which turned into protests. Within a month, the regime had banned the call to prayer and started to commandeer mosques, which they desecrated with empty alcohol bottles and graffiti like ‘Your God is Bashar.’68 For the first several weeks, Damascus was largely immune. The Syrian regime does have many supporters. Some Sunni business people benefitted from the regime’s policies, while other minorities, such as Christians and Druze, believed the regime was protecting them against Sunni domination and perhaps revenge. Raymond Hinnenbusch, Omar Imady, and Tina Zintl argue that as much as a third of Syrian society supported the regime. Thus, a negotiated solution might have been possible early in the process.69 The government retained a firm hold on Damascus, where its strongest units were based and where it was adamant about containing protests. Police and regime supporters dispersed several hundred protesters in the capital, and there were counter-demonstrations supporting Assad. The government announced weak concessions, but continued to fire on protesters. A Western diplomat thought the regime was sending a mixed message,70 but perhaps the message was intended for different audiences. Rhetorical concessions were for the international community and regime supporters; violence was for regime enemies. There were some small concessions to religious Sunni. The regime reinstated teachers fired for wearing the hijab and announced a new Islamic television channel. But in a speech to the parliament, Assad assured everyone that the protests were the work of a small group of foreign, sectarian agitators – not the Syrian people, who continued to love him and need his firm guiding hand.71 While the Dera’a protesters were mostly Sunni, the initial protests were economic and political, and ‘while sectarianism has become the vehicle of the Syrian conflict, it was never its impulse.’72 But because the regime reacted with immediate and escalating force – recruiting criminals and tribal allies as militias, and painting the protesters as Islamic extremists and terrorists – ‘the uprising gradually transformed into a full-fledged and increasingly sectarian civil war.’73 In some cases, sectarian violence by the 210

Syria: A Factionalized Military regime against Sunni seemed specifically tailored to provoke a sectarian response, frightening moderate Alawi and other minority groups who might otherwise have been open to supporting the opposition.74 Others argue that the sectarianism was just as much driven by the opposition as by the regime. It is likely that there were groups on both sides who believed their best option was to radicalize the conflict. From the Alawi point of view, ‘it turned sectarian much sooner than people think [...] Within two weeks, hints of sectarian language crept into the protest slogans. One of them was “We don’t want Iran, we don’t want Hezbollah, we want someone who fears God.”’75 Hinnebusch et al. also place more blame on the opposition than many early analysts did. They argue that the opposition tried to provoke the regime into greater repression, hoping the army would fracture, the population would turn against the regime, the economy would collapse, or international intervention would be provoked. This strategy involved killing significant numbers of regime troops and policemen.76 People on each side began to believe the other was driving sectarianism in the conflict and began to fear the other.77 This exacerbated sectarian tensions in the wider Middle East as well, and may have served the interests of Gulf states, which had already begun a crackdown on their own Shi’a minorities.78 This dynamic only intensified as the conflict escalated. The more the fighting turned sectarian, the more minority sects feared what would happen if the regime fell. Lower- and middle-class Sunni dominated early protests, but these also included Christians and Ismailis. Over time, the regime was able to sideline many of these minority groups. Most Christian leaders, after seeing many co-religionists chased out of Iraq during the US-led occupation, and seeing the violence against Copts in transitional Egypt, eventually sided with the regime. Druze leaders took a neutral position early on. Kurds, who originally sided with the protesters, were repelled by the dominance of Arabism amongst the opposition. The government offered citizenship to many Kurds, who had been previously denied it, and withdrew troops from some Kurdish areas. As expected, the Kurds reacted by taking control of their own enclaves rather than continuing their antigovernment protests.79 Eventually, as the revolution radicalized, Islamists began fighting the Kurds, diverting focus from the regime. The regime’s brutality convinced the Alawi that, should Assad lose, the Sunni would 211

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring seek revenge on the whole community – thus drawing them closer to the regime. Even many Sunni feared what would happen if the regime fell. By feeding fears of Sunni or Islamist domination, the regime might have retained the loyalty, or at least acquiescence, of as much as 50 percent of the population early on.80 By April 2011, however, the situation was getting out of hand. There were protests in more cities and on the outskirts of Damascus. Most of the protesters attempted to remain peaceful. They chanted ‘peaceful, peaceful,’ and even tried to get the army on their side with the chant the Egyptian protesters had used: ‘the people and the army are one hand.’81 The government continued to meet peaceful protests with violence, using police, troops, and shabiha thugs. Many of the latter were criminals released from prison to attack protesters. The government arrested and tortured thousands of people. The repression strategy was not working, however. The military could shoot down one protest, but not all of them. This was because the regime could not trust its whole military. Had this been Egypt or Tunisia, it is possible that the military would have quickly removed Assad and installed a civilian transitional regime or a military regime. If it had been Bahrain, the military would have been happy to use all the force at its disposal to end the challenge. Syria’s factionalized military, on the other hand, was showing cracks. As shown above, the Syrian military had a large percentage of Sunni troops who could not be trusted to repress protests. Where they were deployed, the military began to split, albeit more slowly and incrementally than in Libya. Unlike Libya, where out-group soldiers often had independent units with their own leaders, Sunni soldiers in the Syrian Army were heavily monitored. They would be deployed in mixed units with people they did not know or trust. Officers or mukhabarat (security/intelligence operatives) would kill soldiers who tried to flee or refused to shoot protesters.82 By April, soldiers were shooting one another. Troops began to defect, but monitoring and security made it harder for whole units to desert with heavy weapons. Unlike in Libya, where entire units collapsed almost immediately, Syrian troops had to leave in smaller groups over time, with only what they could carry. Since the regime had disarmed many Sunni troops, many probably left without even small arms. 212

Syria: A Factionalized Military The number of deserters was downplayed by the regime and exaggerated by the opposition, so the full extent of the defections is impossible to confirm; it was, however, significant. Emile Hokayem says that by mid-2012, 30,000–60,000 soldiers had defected, from an army of 200,000 regular troops.83 According to one source, ‘100,000 soldiers defected, and 99 percent of the soldiers from Hawran left military service and fled.’84 Steven Heydemann claims, ‘Tens of thousands of rank-and-file conscripts, together with more than fifty non-Alawite generals and other senior officers, defected rather than shoot fellow citizens.’85 Out of 12 army divisions, Assad could only use the three that were fully manned by Alawi for full-fledged repression.86 The regime might use the regular army to hold a perimeter, but had to rely on Alawi soldiers and shabiha thugs for the repression. In cases in which it did try to use Sunni conscripts for repression, it had to station snipers behind them to shoot disloyal soldiers.87 From the beginning, the regime publicized the deaths of soldiers as a means of discrediting the protests. It is likely that many of these early regime casualties were in fact disloyal troops killed by the security forces, or Alawi troops killed by deserting Sunni soldiers. Officers and security forces terrorized Sunni troops to induce them to fight; when that did not work, they confined the remaining ones to barracks. Many Sunni troops that remained did so because they feared what the regime would do to their families if they fled.88 Because of their limited numbers, loyal units mostly had to deal with one rebellious city at a time, moving from one hotspot to the next. ‘As a result, the regime waged its “war against terrorism” with only a small part of the army, perhaps 60,000 soldiers out of the whole Syrian military.’89 It could put down a protest, but could not hold the area and prevent protests from recurring. This also meant that one city might have time to build up its defenses while troops were dealing with another. The regime was also forced to use artillery and air power because it could not use its regular infantry to occupy the cities long term.90 This was due to the design of the factionalized military. The well-equipped, loyal units were strong enough to deal with a limited uprising or coup, but there might not be enough of them to repress the whole country at once. It would be difficult for any military to do that, but it is particularly hard when a regime can only use part of 213

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring its military strength. Phillipe Droz-Vincent says, ‘the main problem facing the Syrian military has been the shortage of officers and manpower rather than the collapse of its organizational structure.’91 However, that shortage of manpower was created by mutinies and desertions from the factionalized military, not inherent understaffing. This allowed the conflict to turn into a full-fledged civil war. Some of the defecting troops eventually formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a loose grouping of regional and local militias composed of former soldiers and volunteers. When it announced its existence in July 2011, the FSA asserted that it was only forming to defend protesters, but escalation on both sides led the conflict to become increasingly militarized. No one is clear how many soldiers the FSA had or how many were deserters from active duty versus former conscripts, but the number could have been as high as 10,000 at the end of 2011 and ‘by October 2011, the Free Syrian Army had enough fighters to begin organized attacks against the loyalists within the Syrian military.’92 The FSA and allied regional militias had some early successes. They were able to capture much of Homs and Aleppo in 2012, and challenge the regime in Damascus. The regime was forced to rely on indiscriminate bombing and sniper fire to contain the rebels’ advances and prevent them from building up local support. Civilians began fleeing the cities, which has led to increasing sectarian sorting. Alawis fled to their traditional enclaves in the Latakia region or other regime strongholds, while many people fled hard-hit Sunni areas for the countryside or across the borders into Lebanon, Turkey, or Jordan. At the same time, opposition politicians were meeting abroad to try to form a government-in-exile that could attract international support and funding.

Civil War Activists were reluctant to call the conflict a civil war because that implied a more even contest between government and opposition, both morally and materially, but by the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012 the violence was escalating to that point. By mid-2012, the international community was ready to call it a civil war,93 but the regime had already decided to treat it as one in early 2012. The regime withdrew from less-essential areas to 214

Syria: A Factionalized Military focus on the cities and ‘the strategic area linking Damascus, central Syria, and the coast instead of spreading its forces across the nation.’94 This meant abandoning many areas to rebels, who initially attempted to organize local governments. When the regime did try to retake a city, it used a ‘scorchedearth’ strategy, bombarding with artillery and air power, emptying the city of civilians and then sending in troops to eliminate fighters and further destroy the urban fabric so that no one would want to return.95 Once it became a full-fledged civil war, the stance of the international community became central, as it had in Libya. In the case of Syria, the regime had strong allies and its opponents were divided about what to do. The Arab League and Arab public opinion was more reluctant to ask for Western intervention in Syria than in Libya. Bashar al-Assad had supporters, while Qaddafi largely did not. Libya is also peripheral to the core political conflicts of the Arab world, while intervention in Syria would have meant foreign involvement in the heart of the Arab political world.96 The Arab League suspended Syria and tried sending in monitors, but they were ineffective and quickly left. Instead, individual countries and backers have supported various factions, helping to multiply problems on the ground. There were logistical reasons for NATO’s, and especially the United States’, reluctance to get involved militarily in Syria. In Libya, the rebels held a city and the regime troops were outside of it – exposed, in open desert. In Syria, the fighting was initially within the cities, making it hard to distinguish targets. The Syrian regime also had superior, if still relatively weak, air defenses and was ‘situated between multiple regional powers and some of the most militarized and tightly contested airspace in the world.’97 The US could have overcome these obstacles, but things would have been more difficult and dangerous than in Libya, with a greater potential both for NATO casualties and of hitting civilians and turning the population against NATO. Also, the US was wary about getting involved in another ground war after Iraq. The primary difference, however, was that Qaddafi had no allies, while Bashar al-Assad did. Russia felt it had been tricked into approving a humanitarian intervention in Libya that turned into a drive to overthrow the leader. It was also much more protective of Assad, who was a closer ally. With Russia adamantly against intervention, China had cover to block any 215

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring harsh UN resolutions as well. Russia also sent weapons to Syria despite the protests of Turkey and other regional powers. Iran began sending weapons, money, and fighters, including members of its international revolutionary Quds force, as early as April 2011.98 Syria is one of Iran’s few regional allies and Iran believed that ‘[a] serious challenge to Asad [sic] would tilt the regional balance of power against Iran more than almost any other conceivable development.’99 In 2012, Iran’s financial support helped keep the Syrian regime afloat. It also sent in large quantities of arms and sophisticated monitoring equipment to track rebel groups and online dissent.100 Assad could also rely on Hezbollah to back him within Syria, and ensure that Lebanon remained insecure and unable to act against him. Hezbollah was active in Syria beginning in 2011, but became a major actor in 2012 – starting with guarding the borders and training troops, and then leading major operations.101 Afshon Ostovar argues that with the entrance of Shi’a Iraqi fighters in early 2012, ‘it had become evident that Assad’s regime was being propped up by a broad, transnational Shiite alliance led by Iran and the IRGC’, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.102 On the other side, Sunni states tended to support militias and Islamist groups rather than push for full-fledged intervention. When it became clear NATO would not agree to a no-fly zone or a safe zone for Syrian refugees along its border, Turkey largely opened the border, allowing refugees to flow out of Syria and fighters to flow in.103 Other Sunni states resisted overt Western intervention, though many did try to support the burgeoning FSA and the political groups outside the country trying to speak with and for the protesters.104 The regime’s use of massive violence, and outside funding and fighters, helped further radicalize the conflict. Marc Lynch argues that international support for each side has increased the length and destructiveness of the war, as one side increased its involvement to match the other’s escalation. As such, all parties share some blame for the ongoing state of the war. Even so, ‘we should never lose sight of the core reality that it was Asad’s [sic] obstinate brutality which forced Syria into war and invited the carnage to come.’105 As in Libya, the remaining regime-protection units and shabiha militias could have kept Assad in power in Damascus indefinitely even if he lost control elsewhere. Without the flow of foreign weapons and fighters, it is 216

Syria: A Factionalized Military even possible the Syrian military would have eventually been able to take the rest of the country back on their own, though with only 60,000 loyal troops in a country of 22.5 million that is highly questionable. After their retreat from Sunni areas and the influx of surreptitious foreign support for the oppostion in 2012, ‘it was far from clear that the cohesion of the officer corps and security elites would prevent the overthrow of the regime.’106 In fact, international intervention rescued the Syrian regime on several occasions. Syrian troops were aided by police and shabiha militias, which formed into a paramilitary grouping called the National Defense Forces that received combat training in Iran.107 Droz-Vincent says Iran and Hezbollah ‘are instrumental in explaining the military’s surge in counterinsurgency efficiency during the course of 2013–2014.’108 Ostovar quotes a former leader of Iran’s Basiji militia, who claimed, ‘Syria had an army but it was not able to manage the war inside Syrian cities’, so the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Basiji helped it train a paramilitary force that could take over urban operations and free the military for other tasks.109 And in 2015, Russia sent an influx of troops that turned the tide of the worsening conflict back in Assad’s favor, seemingly decisively. Russia claimed it was leaving after stabilizing the situation in 2015, but it remained an active belligerent, bombing hospitals, aid convoys, and civilians on Assad’s behalf and providing both diplomatic and military cover against intervention from abroad.110 International support kept the regime afloat as it reoriented its army and state towards a more exclusive, sectarian strategy – what Heydemann calls ‘authoritarian restructuring.’ This included reconfiguring the regime’s social base, tightening its dependence on ‘global authoritarian networks’, adapting its economic governance, and restructuring its military and security apparatus.111 At the same time, individual Sunni countries and wealthy individuals supported the anti-regime militias and foreign fighters, helping them survive but also radicalizing and extending the conflict. As 2012 wore on, the regime retrenched and foreign fighters and funds started to flow in. The FSA was unable to control the various regional units, which had mostly local ambitions, or the fighters from other countries, who were often radical Islamists with international ambitions. By late 2012, the International Committee of the Red Cross counted as many as 1,000 different armed groups.112 Al Qaeda’s Iraq branch, which was to 217

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring become ISIS, fled Iraq and began to take territory in Syria. Various private donors and some Gulf countries began arming their favorite groups. Assad encouraged and allowed this. He largely ignored ISIS, while focusing on the more moderate fighters that the Western powers might want to assist. Assad released ‘Sunni jihadis from his prisons en masse, in hopes of turning the opposition into the terrorist front he had labeled it from the start.’113 The actions of the radical jihadists allowed Assad to successfully claim he was fighting terrorism, at least to some audiences. In addition, the opposition politicians were mostly outside the country, with limited contact and control over the FSA and militias. Infighting between moderates and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, interference from regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and reluctance to engage from the US meant the exiled opposition was completely marginalized and the FSA was overshadowed. Foreign fighters became more powerful, and what started out as a broad-based uprising turned ever more sectarian. The rebel groups began to turn on one another as ISIS and the Al Qaedalinked al-Nusra Front began to overshadow the regional and moderate FSA troops. These foreign groups were more interested in creating an Islamist enclave than overthrowing Assad. Instead of trying to take territory from him, they took it from other rebels and began instituting harsh rule – particularly ISIS. ISIS captured oil wells and other infrastructure and began to build up its strength. When it surged back into Iraq in 2014, and claimed its territory was a new caliphate, it became an international problem. The international community committed to fighting ISIS, while Assad focused on his weaker and more moderate enemies, taking back control of key areas. At the time of writing, the Syrian regime is in a strong position. Assad has control of the major cities and ISIS is in retreat. However, the regime has left significant territory to the rebels and Kurdish groups seeking autonomy. Because of the relative sophistication and expertise of its military, the death toll in the Syrian conflict has been very high. In May 2017, it was estimated at 465,000, with over half the country’s pre-war population of 22.5 million displaced from their homes and over 4 million living as refugees abroad.114 For all the brutality of ISIS, and the other militias and radical groups, the vast majority of the deaths are due to regime violence. 218

Syria: A Factionalized Military Unlike Libya, where Qaddafi’s military was largely destroyed, the Syrian regime has significant air power that it continues to use on its population. This includes crude barrel bombs dropped out of helicopters onto civilians, deliberate targeting of hospitals, and the continued use of chemical weapons.115 Help from international allies like Russia and Iran, and the relative expertise of the military, also reduces the chances the regime can be forced to negotiate in good faith without outside intervention. This is compounded by the international community’s disagreements over who amongst the opposition to support and over who must be defeated first: the regime or ISIS. As of 2017, Russia has become the dominant voice in international negotiations, but the end of the conflict is nowhere in sight. The regime may never regain full control of the entire Syrian territory, but Assad remains in power and any political solution will have to include him. Syria can never go back to the way it was. Millions of people have fled the country, millions more are displaced within it, and hundreds of thousands have died. A massive sectarian and ethnic sorting has occurred, as Alawis and other minorities gather in the regime’s cities and traditional Alawi areas. Militants from various groups hold territory, while the Kurds may be unwilling to give up the autonomy that they have gained and are fighting fiercely to keep. But the regime survives. Assad was not able to hold the whole country, but his regime-protection strategies worked: the military as a whole collapsed, but its Alawi core kept the regime in power until international help and the breakdown and radicalization of the opposition turned the war in its favor. The sectarian strategy has worked: Assad broke the unity of the opposition and regained the support of many of Syria’s minorities and moderates. And the internationalization strategy has worked: Assad has attracted international allies, and much of the international community is more concerned with his enemies than they are with him. This is not a case of regime continuity, however. Assad may remain, but Syria is broken. Heydemann says that ‘[c]onflict has erased the Syria that existed prior to the civil war,’ and it is likely that the regime that emerges from the war ‘will be darker, more repressive, more sectarian, and even more deeply resistant to democratization than in the past.’116 219

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Conclusion Syria is a divided society, with many religious and regional divisions and relatively new and contentious borders drawn by the French and British. While the French were in control of Syria, they exacerbated these divisions by temporarily granting self-rule to some minorities and encouraging them to join the military as part of their divide-and-rule policy. Like Libya, Syria did not gain its freedom through a long struggle, but was granted independence largely because of international politics. As such, Syria came to independence with a weak, colonially installed parliament and a divided army, both of which were discredited by the failure to defeat fledgling Israel in 1948. This led to two decades of coup politics during which various military cabals overthrew governments and one another. Eventually Hafiz al-Assad and his close allies emerged the winners. Assad created a strongly factionalized military with multiple overlapping security agencies and special regime-protection units for internal repression. Sunni were allowed to serve in the military, but they were relegated to weaker units and closely monitored. Loyal regime-protection units were there to fight other parts of the army should there be a coup attempt. The Syrian uprising was the last to start in 2011, but it eventually spread to much of the country. The most important parts of the military were not distinct or subordinate, but tied to the regime; as such, they fought to protect it – even at the cost of breaking the army. Because the military was not a coherent entity with a strong internal structure, it could not hold together sufficiently to use its full strength on the protesters. In particular, leaders could not trust the large numbers of Sunni conscripts to suppress protesters. The military relied on its regime-protection units for repression, but there were too many cities in revolt. Unlike Libya, where out-group soldiers served in relatively independent units, the Syrian Sunni were closely monitored. As such, it took longer for the Syrian army to splinter, and when troops defected it was as individuals or in small groups rather than whole units with their weapons. The military did begin to split, however, as defecting soldiers formed the Free Syrian Army and the conflict developed into a full-fledged civil war. After that, international politics became central to the conflict. Unlike Libya, however, Syria has friends as well as enemies.


Syria: A Factionalized Military Russia and China would not agree to an intervention even if NATO would consider it, and the Arab League was unwilling to abandon Assad the way it had Qaddafi. Iranian intervention was quick and probably decisive. FSA leaders say that the influx of troops and trainers by Hezbollah and Iran saved the regime in 2012 and 2013 and ‘believed the opposition would have won the war by early 2013 were it not for Tehran’s involvement.’117 After that, direct Russian military intervention, beginning in 2015, turned the tide decisively in the regime’s favor. The US, meanwhile, became focused on fighting ISIS and largely gave up on overthrowing the Assad regime. Turkey has been playing a double game. At first it allowed antiAssad fighters to use its territory, but later became more focused on limiting Kurdish influence in Syria and less concerned with the conflict against Assad. So the war drags on: international powers are deeply involved, both as active belligerents and by providing weapons to both sides; the opposition remains divided; ISIS remains active, if in retreat; the internal map of the country has changed; and millions have fled, many never to return.


7 Yemen: A Factional Military

Yemen’s military structure is divided, which means it was likely to split in the face of popular uprisings, but it differs from the factionalized military structures in Syria and Libya – and the bulk of the Arab world – because it is less the result of design than the inheritance of a weak state and strong tribal structure. Instead, Yemen’s military can be called factional. Factionalization is a coup-proofing strategy whereby leaders create parallel militaries, with loyal in-group soldiers getting the best equipment and training and outgroup soldiers relegated to poorly equipped secondary units or non-combat positions. While factionalization is intended to mitigate the effects of social divisions, it is a modern strategy meant to deal with modern civil–military requirements, including greater force numbers than can be provided by in-groups, and attempts to indoctrinate and integrate out-groups.1 That happened in Yemen, but Yemen’s military also has elements of a premodern tribal structure, the result of strong social groups confronting a weak state that is unable to fully disarm or disempower them. Like a factionalized military, in response to a large uprising, such a military is likely to split and begin to fight amongst itself, but the nature of that struggle is different. The Yemeni Government has never had complete control over the legitimate exercise of violence in its territory. Tribes are heavily armed and


Yemen: A Factional Military armed resistance, including a ritualized form of kidnapping and ransom, was considered a legitimate tactic for extracting concessions from the government. Meanwhile, the government depends on tribal levies to fight its wars and pays stipends to tribal notables to limit tribal resistance. It is a country balanced on a precarious system of alliances and patrimonial politics; President Ali Abdullah Saleh compared it to ‘dancing on the heads of snakes.’2 This weak government was never able, or willing, to form a distinct professional military. In the terms of the major variables in this study, Yemen looks like Libya and Syria. The military was not distinct or subordinate to the regime, so at least part of it tried to protect the leadership; but because the military did not have a strong internal structure, it split. There are key differences, however. Various tribal and political groups fought in the streets, but in Yemen this could be considered an extension of normal politics by other means. The military was never unified in the first place, so a split did not necessarily constitute an existential threat to the regime. As in Libya and Syria, once the military split, the international community helped determine the outcome. In this case, international negotiations led President Saleh to step down, but he remained free and influential within the country. In 2014, Saleh and his sons allied with their former Houthi rivals to take over the State, leading to a civil war and foreign intervention by Saudi Arabia and the GCC. Because of the relatively low expertise of the Yemeni military, and the low level of urbanization, the conflict has been less bloody than the Syrian civil war, but it has still meant significant hardship for the bulk of the already-poor Yemeni people.

Historical Background Yemen has rarely been a unified country, and when it has this usually meant northern domination and southern resistance. The country has vast differences in topography; mountain and desert barriers have made it difficult for one region to dominate all of modern Yemen.3 Northern Yemen, bordering the Red Sea, is mountainous and less fertile than the south. It is home to the Zaydi imams and the strongest tribes, the Hashid and Bakil. To the north and west is the massive Arabian Desert. The distinction between Saudi Arabia and Yemen has always been more a frontier than a border, 223

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring with tribes moving freely across it. It is only recently that Saudi Arabia has taken pains to reduce movement across the border. Southern Yemen is also mountainous, but over the centuries its people have terraced these mountains and relatively high levels of rainfall make it a very fertile area. Tribal practices here are strong, but the tribes tend to be sedentary farmers rather than the warriors of the less-prosperous north, who would traditionally venture south seeking plunder or fleeing the poor conditions in their own land. Southern Yemen is dominated by the Shafi school of Islam, which aligns with Sunni practices, while northern Yemen, mostly of the Zaydi school, is identified with Shi’a Islam. In practice, the differences between the two have not been great, but they do cause occasional sectarian tension. The Zaydi imams, part of a warrior–preacher tradition, have occasionally ruled over significant amounts of territory, but they have rarely been able to hold all of Yemen for very long. To the south-east, on the Indian Ocean shore, is the long canyon/wadi called Hadramawt. Hadramis have historically been oriented towards the Indian Ocean as traders, and many have family and business connections in India and South Asia. The Zaydis came from Iraq in the ninth century and settled in the northern Yemen highlands. Their imams claimed descent from Muhammad’s grandson, Husayn, whom they believe should have been the fifth imam. Zaydi are known as ‘Fiver Shi’a’. This distinguishes them from the ‘Twelver Shi’a’ of the northern Arab world and Iran, who have a much longer and more bitter feud with the Sunni. Stephen Day argues that both Shafi and Zaydi Islam are considered moderate in religious matters and that ‘ZaydiShafi’i politics were less a matter of religious sectarianism than they were a reflection of the age-old division between highland and midland/coastal regions of Yemen.’4 The Zaydi imams of various dynasties, with strong tribal allies and marginal lands, constantly tried to absorb parts of the more prosperous south and east, at times controlling significant areas. It was not until the seventeenth century that any one Zaydi dynasty controlled all of Yemen, and that only lasted a few decades until they were pushed out by southern resistance.5 The Ottoman Empire tried to conquer Yemen at various times, holding on to significant portions of the Red Sea coast and occasionally the capital, Sana’a, but was never able to exercise significant control. Yemen was 224

Yemen: A Factional Military known as ‘the graveyard of the Turks’6 for their frequent losses and the poor conditions of being stationed there. In 1904, Yahya Muhammed Hamid al-Din claimed the title of Imam and launched a rebellion against the Turks. When the Ottomans finally retreated in World War I, they encouraged Yahya to take possession of their former territory, which some identify as the establishment of modern Yemen.7 In the south, the British East India Company took the port of Aden in 1839, mainly as a coaling station on the way to India. As the East India Company was supplanted by formal British imperial control and the Suez Canal opened, Aden grew in importance and attracted northern Yemenis and many workers from elsewhere, particularly India. The British had little interest in the hinterland and mostly paid off local tribal leaders with guns and money. This was much the condition when the turmoil of the 1950s began to shake Yemen. Yahya’s dynasty controlled a small, tribally organized, personalist regime in the north; the British controlled booming Aden and paid the tribes surrounding it to keep the hinterland quiet.

Northern Yemen After World War I, northern Yemen was the only Arab country not under the colonization, protection, or patronage of one of the European powers. Yahya spread his authority through tribal wars and alliances, much as Zaydi imams had always done. He fought against rival Zaydi tribes who sought to retain their influence, as well as Shafi tribes to the south. Later Shafi writers claim this constituted a conquest of the Sunni Shafi by the Zaydi Shi’a. The Imam used religious language and claimed the right to rule as both a religious and military leader, but ‘one shaykh was used against another, one tribe against another, amid shifting complexity which the language of jihad obscures.’8 In the traditional fashion, Yahya took hostages to retain the loyalty of tribal rivals. He ‘had to be expert at dividing and ruling, at watching for rivals and plotting in an atmosphere of permanent and chronic insecurity and suspicion.’9 His power was limited in both scope and area, and well into the contemporary period many tribes avoided regular interaction with the State where possible. Many preferred to settle conflicts with small-scale, ritualized tribal warfare and traditional 225

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring mediation techniques. Government judges tended to require payment and rely on a harsher and more doctrinaire sharia than the more traditional and flexible tribal laws that developed in different areas. Local state representatives were often happy to stay out of tribal conflicts if they were paid a small fee and the tribes could contain the conflict.10 Yahya made use of some more modern techniques, however. He began to develop a small standing army, paid by him directly and trained by Turkish officers, to balance and complement the standard tribal levies.11 He tried to expand his territory in the north and west against the Saudis and to the south against the British. A 1934 treaty settled the southern border at the nineteenth-century Turkish–British line. In the north, an Arab peace delegation ended the conflict between Yahya and Ibn Saud and they signed a treaty setting Yemen’s northern border. Yahya also began to send some Yemenis abroad to learn modern subjects and established several schools to teach modern science and organization. He eventually created ‘rudimentary’ ministries, which he gave to his sons along with most of the country’s governorships. Mostly he ruled in a traditional style, however; ‘what divisions there were between state property and his own were listed in a notebook no-one saw but him.’12 There was a measure of peace, compared with the lawless, tribal areas of the south. ‘Hostages, fines and punitive action produced, in this ideal, public order. Authority was not devolved in bureaucratic style: rather, claims to prominence overlapped, rivalries were not discouraged, and the Imam in person intervened as he saw fit.’13 As Arab nationalism spread after World War II, a movement of ‘Free Yemenis’ developed to challenge the Imam’s rule. Many were concerned with what they viewed as Yemen’s backwardness, particularly liberals and Arab socialists who believed the old monarchies were inhibiting the development of a modern Arab Nation.14 A rival Zaydi family, with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups of liberal and modernist Yemenis, killed Yahya in 1948 and tried to set up their own imamate, though with some features of constitutional monarchy. Yahya’s son, Ahmad, was able to gather many tribes around him using traditional calls to defend the Imam, and quickly overthrew them. His tribal allies soon took Sana’a and, as was traditional, looted it. The liberals were imprisoned and Ahmad began to rule much as his father had, but modernization continued.15 226

Yemen: A Factional Military Imam Ahmad was an odd character, prone to fits of solitude and a lover of heroin and toys. He continued his father’s use of ministries, staffed by his brothers, and kept sending Yemenis abroad for training in modern practices, including the officers who would eventually overthrow his son. He was more open to the world than his father had been and took part in the wider Arab political realm that was developing under Nasser’s dominance. Paul Dresch argues that under Ahmad’s rule, the imamate was shedding some of its religious trappings and becoming a more secular kingship.16 A more modern opposition was emerging as well. Students returning from schools in Aden and elsewhere became frustrated with the monarchy, and Nasser’s Voice of the Arabs radio station denounced all traditional Arab monarchies as reactionary and backward. Day argues that, with the push of Arab nationalism, a new Yemeni nationalism was also developing. It was based on the idea that the Zaydi imams had migrated from Iraq (albeit 1,000 years before) and were thus not ‘real’ Yemenis like the large Hashid and Bakil tribes or the Shafi tribes south of Sana’a. It claimed ‘real’ Yemenis would eventually unite to overthrow the alien, backward Zaydi imamate. The key feature of the ideology was to split the powerful Hashid and Bakil tribes, who were Zaydi in religion but traced their ancestry back to Yemen, from the imams.17 The nationalists also hoped to unite the two Yemens. Meanwhile, Ahmad continued to rule in a patrimonial fashion. He paid off rivals and set them against each other, placed his brothers and allies in ministries, and government and personal funds were indistinguishable. Near the end of his rule he was selling the royal jewelry to pay his soldiers. Throughout his rule, there were plots to remove him – including one in which his own brother imprisoned him – and there were seven reported attempts on his life in 1961 alone.18 He was isolated and unloved, but managed to retain his power by balancing forces, promoting lesser sheikhs who had less independent prestige and thus were more dependent on him, and by making sure every decision had to be run through him, ‘even such tiny matters as whether a school could have ten inkwells.’19 Despite his many enemies, and personal idiosyncrasies, he was able to hold onto power for 14 years and die in office, but the imamate deteriorated under Ahmad. When he died, the ‘Kingdom of Yemen had no native doctors, no factories, a single paved road (thanks to China), and a handful of secular schools 227

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring for boys but only one for girls, run by the wife of the American chargé d’affaires.’20 His son’s rule would last just over a week. Ahmad died in his sleep on 18 September 1962 and his son, Al-Badr, succeeded him. On 26 September, a group of ‘Free Officers’ in the Yemeni Army launched a coup. Egyptian officers and trainers had been in northern Yemen for several years, and many Yemeni officers had been radicalized during their time training in Egypt. There is disagreement in secondary sources over whether Egypt planned the coup, but Nasser certainly approved of it and was quick to send in troops to support it.21 Al-Badr was able to escape an attack on his residence, but the plotters took control of Sana’a and declared a secular Yemen Arab Republic (YAR). Egypt quickly flew in troops and managers while Al-Badr fled north to the Saudi border, calling what tribal allies he could, and gaining the protection and support of the Saudi King. The war became known as ‘Nasser’s Vietnam’, as more and more troops and resources were spent against a guerilla enemy in near-impenetrable hideouts. It became a proxy conflict for both the US– USSR Cold War and the Arab Cold War, as Saudi Arabia tried to defend another traditional monarchy and drain Nasser’s resources, with financial and material support from the US and Britain.22 The Soviets supported Nasser. Some viewed the coup as the birth of a new Yemen, while others saw it as ‘a revolution planned by ‘Abd al-Nasir, [sic] with ‘Abd al-Nasir’s money and ‘Abd al-Nasir’s ideas […] its present and future for the benefit of ‘Abd al-Nasir.’23 The Egyptians ruled the YAR through a puppet president, whom they kidnapped at one point. The war overall proved disastrous for Nasser; it emptied his treasury and demoralized and corrupted his military. It also hurt his international reputation, as Egyptian troops bombed villages and used poison gas. As shown in Chapter 3, it also damaged his army’s fighting ability and readiness prior to the Six-Day War. As the socialist and traditional Arab regimes mended fences after the defeat of 1967, Saudi Arabia and Egypt came to an agreement on Yemen. The Egyptians left and, after an unsuccessful siege of Sana’a by royalist troops, an agreement was eventually reached through international negotiations amongst Arab states. Northern Yemen would remain ‘Republican’ and all the royalists except for the imam’s family would be allowed back into the fold. The war was a particular boon for the largest northern Zaydi 228

Yemen: A Factional Military tribes, the Hashid and the Bakil. They were paid by multiple combatants, and often switched sides to take advantage of new opportunities. After the war, the Zaydi tribes continued to rule without their imams. ‘Royalists and Republicans mingled easily at last in a new unelected National Assembly. The country, it was easily agreed, needed no political parties because it had its tribes.’24 As the YAR regime developed, leaders from the northern tribes spread their dominance first in the north and then to southern Yemen after unification in 1990. While in the south, the Marxist government redrew boundaries to divide traditional tribal enclaves, the northern borders ensured dominance by the largest tribes. District borders broke up Shafi areas and attached them to areas where northern tribes dominated, while letting the Hashid and Bakil tribes dominate their own districts. The northern government made other changes to increase Zaydi dominance over Sunni areas. Powerful northern tribal leaders were given provincial governorships and the most important posts in government. When the assembly was established, there was a balance between highland tribes and other groups, ‘but within a year the balance shifted, giving the highland group a two-thirds advantage, while midland/coastal officials were relegated to the least influential ministerial posts.’25 Over the following decade, the Yemen Arab Republic went through several presidents and myriad prime ministers. After two presidents were murdered in 1977 and 1978, few people expected the new president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to survive long in office.26 Saleh was a young major from the Sanhan tribe, one of the less significant groups in the Hashid federation. He served for a time in the Imam’s army, and then on the side of the Republicans during the civil war. A few Taiz merchants asked him to take the post and raced him to Sana’a before anyone else could claim the job.27 Victoria Clark relates a joke going around at the time: President al-Hamdi (1974–7), waiting in heaven when President al-Ghashmi (1977–8) arrives, berates the latecomer for not bringing the qat, a stimulant plant that is extremely popular in Yemen. Al-Ghasmi shrugs and says, ‘President Saleh has promised to take care of the qat – and he should be joining us any time now.’28 Saleh survived through a good deal of luck, but mostly through his ability to balance competing forces while extracting protection and resources 229

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring from the international system. Sarah Phillips calls his rule the ‘Politics of Permanent Crisis.’29 According to Phillips, Saleh retained power by keeping Yemen in a constant state of uncertainty, while trying to ensure he was the only one who could keep the system running. Nasserist officers tried to assassinate him in 1978, but the coup was put down. Early in 1979, Saleh’s northern enemies allied with the southern regime and attacked the north.30 It was the third war in a decade between the two Yemens. South Yemen, with its Soviet-trained military, quickly gained the upper hand against the new, weak president and his tribal military. A combination of Arab pressure and an influx of American weapons, delivered with a show of naval force, ended the conflict before the south could overtake the north, however. The north was never a particularly valuable ally, but the US Cold War containment policy meant every vaguely friendly regime had to be protected. Northern Yemen was always more significant as a Saudi client than an American one.31 As was usual by this point, some of the leaders and tribes who lost out in the northern power struggle moved to the south. Border skirmishes continued into the 1980s. Following the coup attempt and war, Saleh set out to stabilize his regime. He placed his brothers and other relatives in key posts. He tried to strengthen the army and conscription began, though it was never comprehensive in practice: elites preferred to fill the military with allies from the northern tribes.32 Saleh became a client and supporter of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The YAR was relatively prosperous at the beginning of the 1980s as Yemenis went abroad for work, particularly in Saudi Arabia, and sent back remittances. Little of this money went through the banks and almost none was taxed, so this wealth enriched the population at the expense of the State. The State largely ran on foreign aid, much of which was spent on corruption and stipends for tribal allies. At the same time, Saudi influence was growing. During his short presidency, Ibrahim al-Hamdi had invited Saudi Arabia to set up Wahhabi religious schools. At this time in the Arab world, most leaders were using religious activists against the threat of Marxism. With an avowed Marxist state in the south, the YAR had to be especially careful; its religious schools were meant to block southern influence.33 The Saudi schools were threatening to traditional Zaydi beliefs, however: Wahhabism is an uncompromising and puritanical version of Sunni Islam, while Zaydi 230

Yemen: A Factional Military Islam is a moderate form of Shi’ism. Wahhabism spread in the north, prompting a backlash by the Shi’a Houthi rebels in the 2000s and contributing to splits within the ruling bloc. Brigadier General Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, one of Saleh’s tribal kinsmen and a prominent military defector in 2011, was a supporter of Salafism and Osama bin Laden.34 Saleh’s system came to rely on three pillars: tribal leaders, a democratic façade, and limited oil wealth and the corruption it bought. Saleh used the formal institutions of government to extend his patron–client networks, while using the façade of democracy to extract resources from the West.35 The sheikhs and tribes were key supporters of the regime, but also powerful independent players with their own militaries who had to be accommodated. ‘Many of these Hashid subtribes are heavily armed with tanks and full artillery, which they operate independently of the state’s military.’36 Tribal levies could threaten the State, but also served as reserve military forces; tribal leaders could also marshal political and economic support for the president. They occasionally rebelled to gain some local advantage, but they could also serve as useful allies – and proxies – in electoral politics. Sheikh Abdallah, leader of the Hashid federation, was also the head of the Islamist Islah party – sometimes in competition, but more often in league, with Saleh’s party. Day argues the situation in Yemen was initially often misdiagnosed, with the Hashid and Bakil tribes seen as obstacles to the regime; ‘In reality, President Salih [sic] more often tipped his hand in favor of the highland shaykhs [sic].’37 When the regime was in danger in 2011, the Hashid leaders would break with Saleh, but other tribes remained strong supporters of his regime. The key to this period is that while individual tribal leaders remained powerful, Saleh was gaining more control over the levers of patronage, turning and shaping the tribal structure to his own advantage. Northern tribesmen were taxed at a much lower rate than other groups and tribal leaders were paid stipends, which tied them to the government but made them less responsive to their tribal constituencies. While it was built on the backs of an existing tribal structure, Robert Worth argues that the system ‘had almost nothing to do with traditional tribal life,’ which was bound by tradition, rules, and a jealously guarded freedom. Saleh ‘perverted the tribal system, discrediting sheikhs who threatened him and anointing 231

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring new ones with cash to suit his purposes.’38 In exchange for their support and delivering votes, strong sheikhs were allowed to completely dominate and exploit their areas in an almost feudal fashion.39 According to Day, ‘under President Salih’s [sic] later rule, tribal culture was no longer separate from the culture of the government. In fact, it came to define the government’s culture.’40 Tribal feuds were a common feature of life, most men went around armed and it was common practice for tribes to bargain using violence or threats of violence. Into the 1990s, conflict with the State often took on a pacifist, symbolic quality. Tribes would occasionally kidnap a Western tourist and hold them hostage until the government made some concession. The captivity was apparently quite luxurious. According to one tourist, ‘The kidnapping experience was our best time in the country. We highly recommend for tourists coming to Yemen: Try to get kidnapped.’41 In the mid-1980s, oil prices collapsed, drastically cutting remittances from Yemenis working abroad in the Gulf states. These remittances took another massive hit when Saleh backed Saddam Hussein in the 1990–1 Gulf Crisis following Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Saleh was a client of Iraq and, like many leaders, felt public pressure to back the Arab leader against Western intervention. He called for an Arab solution to the conflict; however, to Saudi Arabia that meant no solution, so the Saudis expelled all Yemeni laborers from the country. At the same time, Yemen had discovered a small amount of oil. Remittances had allowed citizens to improve their lives without depending on the government. However, as remittances dried up and oil revenues flowed in, the government became one of the few sources of wealth and the economy became dependent on government spending, which allowed Saleh to centralize the sources of government corruption and patronage. The government became Yemen’s main employer and the General People’s Congress (GPC), an association of village associations, ‘became most people’s best hope of a steady income, however small, and a vital means of securing people’s loyalty to the regime.’42 Many of these jobs did not pay much, but also did not require the holder to show up for work; they were simply a means of buying loyalty. The military also came to dominate large parts of the economy through the Military Economic Corporation (MECO) – now called YECO, the Yemen Economic Corporation, but still 232

Yemen: A Factional Military run by the military. The system runs on corruption, including smuggling weapons and diesel fuel subsidized by the government.43 At the same time, Saleh extracted money from the international system. Saudi Arabia was a major benefactor, and throughout the 2000s Western donors debated strategies to aid Yemeni development. The US became a major player in Yemen thanks to its War on Terror. Saleh took advantage of this to extract security rents and international protection. He might even have allowed some Al Qaeda prisoners to escape in order to show how dangerous Yemen was and extract more funds and support.44 All the while, the highland tribes continued to dominate the more prosperous, northern lowlands. After the unification in 1990, they dominated the south as well.

The People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen Southern Yemen went down a very different developmental path from the north, but ended up combining with northern Yemen and sharing many of its problems. In an attempt to save his rule, the southern president agreed to a quick merger with north Yemen in 1990. The southerners quickly regretted this and threatened to secede, only to lose a civil war and come under northern dominance. As stated above, the British held Aden beginning in the nineteenth century. They were mainly concerned with the port, and were content to pay off tribal leaders to keep the hinterland relatively quiet. These ‘treaty chiefs’ became dependent on Britain for guns and money, and were often not particularly peaceful with one another. Aden was full of immigrants – European and Indian, as well as Yemenis from the north – who feared and loathed the hinterland tribes, while the local Arabs resented the more prosperous lives of these foreigners.45 With the spread of Arab nationalism, it was clear Britain could not continue to rule as it had. Accordingly, it proposed a Federation of South Arabia, based on tribal areas, with Aden as part of the federation but still a British colony.46 The British formed a Federal National Guard and a separate Federal National Army, but the Federation elicited little loyalty. The hinterland tribes were divided, the Arab nationalists in Aden wanted nothing to do with it, and the Arab League and the broader Arab community disdained it. 233

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Groups of Yemeni nationalists had been living and training abroad in Egypt, which supported two groups of dissidents: the leftist National Liberation Front (NLF) and the more moderate Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY). The NLF, in particular, was very secretive about its politics, to the point that the British rarely knew who its members were or what they wanted.47 Both FLOSY and the NLF fought the British while also fighting one another. The Egyptians backed both, and tried to bring them together, but they proved too different. FLOSY was more urban and moderate, while the NLF was more radical. The British tried to hold out for a time, instituting elections, pouring in troops and money, and using torture. But their Federal Army was a ‘nursery of nationalism,’48 and no one trusted the treaty chiefs who constituted the last British allies – not the nationalists, communists, or the Egyptians. When the British abandoned Aden, FLOSY and the NLF fought for control, with the latter emerging victorious. It declared a People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) with the Command of the Political Organization of the National Front, or NF, as the sole, vanguard party. There could hardly have been a worse place on Earth at the time to declare a doctrinaire Marxist state. There were barely any peasants or workers, and the few capitalists left with the British or fled north. So instead of capitalism, the National Front set out destroy ‘feudalism’ and tribalism.49 It outlawed tribal conflict and drew up new district borders to break up traditional tribal territories. The NF wanted to transform the south from its backward condition and then take over the north.50 The PDRY did develop more quickly than the YAR. The south instituted large-scale schooling, and literacy increased; it tried to modernize its army using Soviet weaponry and techniques; the State became more reliable; and it pushed for women’s emancipation in some areas. There was constant conflict with the north, including three wars in the 1970s, and strained relations with the Soviets, who were unimpressed with the PDRY’s Marxism. The Saudis were constantly interfering as well, fearing a Marxist state would challenge their religious legitimacy. At the same time, the Saudis preferred a divided Yemen that they could influence to a united country.51 The PDRY had a stronger state and a better educational system than the north, and while it had not eliminated factionalism it had made some 234

Yemen: A Factional Military progress. It managed to minimize tribal conflicts but clashes persisted between leaders and factions within the ruling party, mainly based on regional groupings.52 A coup attempt by the President against the PDRY Politburo in 1986 led to large-scale fighting in Aden, and he was forced to flee to the north. By the 1980s, southern Yemen’s economy was a shambles. The south had yet to find oil. The Soviet Union was collapsing, and it had never been as committed to the PDRY as it could have been. There were internal conflicts, key figures were defecting to the north, and it became clear that the only options were an overhaul of the political system or unification with the north. Negotiations were dragging on when in 1989, to everyone’s surprise, the southern president, Ali Salem al-Bidh, offered to forego all the negotiations and unify based on the constitution Kuwait had suggested in 1980 in a previous attempt at reconciliation. Saleh quickly agreed. Al-Bidh was in desperate straits and accepted the vice presidency. Al-Bidh was offering unification to defend his own position. He hoped that the greater unity and mobilization potential of the southern Yemen Socialist Party (YSP) would eventually allow him to gain power in the north, while he believed that the superior bureaucratic and organizational features of the south would allow it to exercise greater control over the combined country and shape its policies. Under the agreement, the two countries would merge and trade bureaucrats. In the north, southerners would take the second position in the bureaucracies; in the south, northerners would take the second place. Army units were exchanged between north and south, and a huge 36-person combined cabinet was formed. They would hold elections in 1992. The Republic of Yemen was declared in 1990 to some concern, but great celebration.53

The Republic of Yemen Southern Yemen was much smaller than northern Yemen, with 2.9 million as opposed to the north’s 15.8 million people. Despite that, the agreement allowed for close to an even power balance between the YSP and Saleh in the new combined government. The YSP expected to do well in the 1992 parliamentary elections, but a series of assassinations began in 1991, directed at YSP leaders and apparently involving security officials from the north.54 The elections were postponed until 1993, and by that time the YSP was in 235

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring confusion. Al-Bidh was often absent, the assassinations took a toll, and the YSP did worse than expected in the elections. It received more than half of the votes that Saleh’s General People’s Congress got, but because of geographical concentration ended up with fewer than half the number seats as the GPC. The bulk of the independents and the Islah Islamist party could be counted on to support Saleh as well. Saleh eventually set up a coalition cabinet that overrepresented the YSP, but discontent was spreading in the south. The government was tilted towards the north and could not provide the same levels of jobs and services as the PDRY had. Families that had fled the Marxist regime tried to reclaim property taken by the PDRY, and Saleh and Islah encouraged the return of tribal practices to the south. Saleh placed his northern, tribal allies in important positions in the south and began moving northern troops into the south in 1993. The crisis led to talk of southern secession but, in 1994, Saleh attacked first. The southern troops in the north were trapped, while northern troops and tribal levies invaded the south. Troops were paid off and changed sides. Saudi Arabia had always supported the north, but preferred a divided Yemen and this time supported the south, partially out of revenge for Saleh’s support of Saddam Hussein.55 Northern troops surrounded Aden, and it finally fell on 7 June 1994. In a very old-fashioned move, the northern army and tribal militias were allowed to sack Aden in payment for their support. From this time onwards, many southerners felt that they had been colonized, calling it a ‘northern occupation.’ The north dominated the south in much the same way as it dominated the lowland Shafi areas of northern Yemen, through co-optation, coercion, and installing northern notables in dominant positions.56 Saleh’s regime gradually lost even the gloss of democratization. Elections continued, but the system became increasingly less free and more dominated by corruption. At the time of the 2011 uprising, Saleh’s military/tribal regime was dealing with three separate regional conflicts.

Southern Separatism A southern separatist movement began following the 1994 civil war. Noel Brehony writes, ‘the PDRY decision to end its existence was a voluntary act 236

Yemen: A Factional Military by its leaders, who did not view their move as a form of state suicide but as the achievement of a long-desired unified Yemen, in which they would play a leading role.’57 The people wanted unity as well, but both parties got less than they hoped for. The YSP was cut out of power in the north and the northern tribal/military structure took over the south, undoing many of the positives of the southern regime, including some bureaucratic regularity and the reduction of tribal power.58 After the civil war, the southern army and police were disbanded and southerners were purged from government agencies. Northern troops and tribes were sent south to watch the southerners and defend northern interests. The southern secessionist movement started out as a relatively amorphous group, calling itself the Sons of the South, in 2001, and was supported by many southern political leaders. Former military and police personnel became organized beginning in 2007, calling for better pensions and more employment opportunities. They chose to use peaceful tactics but were often met with regime violence.59 The initial demands were for access to government jobs, more local control, and a fairer distribution of resources, but by 2009 many were calling for secession.60 Actions included both nonviolent protests and attacks on southern outposts.

The Houthi Rebellion Yemen’s second major regional conflict was in the north, with a group calling themselves Ansar Allah, or ‘Supporters of God’, but largely known as the Houthi. They are a group of Zaydi tribes that began to protest against their exclusion from government and the creeping spread of Sunni Wahhabism. The movement started in 2004, when a charismatic preacher named Husayn al-Houthi began protesting to the government and complaining about Saleh’s relationship with the US, but it has turned into a wider, regional movement in the north. There were six recognized rounds of conflict before the 2011 uprising, each becoming more violent and drawing ever more government resources, including bombardment of cities. It also drew in Saudi troops on occasion.61 One key aspect is that the government left much of the fighting to the president’s kinsman and rival, Brigadier General Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar. The conflict is sometimes known as ‘Muhsin’s War’ as 237

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring he was given primary responsibility fighting the Houthi. Muhsin is from the same tribal confederation as Saleh, but was part of a more powerful family and had shifted towards Salafism. He was said to be the second most powerful person in the country and, for much of Saleh’s rule, was believed to be next in line for the presidency. However, beginning in the 1990s, it became clearer that Saleh was grooming his son to take control, and tension between Saleh and Muhsin increased. Muhsin’s First Armored Division is essentially a private, tribal army under a national flag; by denying Muhsin the best equipment and withholding reinforcements, Saleh used the Houthi conflict to drain Muhsin’s independent military strength and constrain the influence of his Salafism, even as Muhsin obligingly contained the Houthi threat. Some suspect the fighting in the north was also a cover for combat between Muhsin’s troops and the Republican Guard led by Saleh’s son. There are also rumours that Saleh tried to have Muhsin killed by a stray Saudi missile while he was fighting in the north.62

Al Qaeda Finally, Yemen has been dealing with Al Qaeda. A considerable number of Yemenis went to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and many returned radicalized and ready to challenge American influence and local Arab rulers. Originally named Al Qaeda in Yemen, it became Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) after joining with members of Al Qaeda who were chased out of Saudi Arabia. As stated above, Wahhabism and Salafism have been spreading in Yemen since the 1970s, when President al-Hamdi invited the Saudis to fund schools as a counterbalance to southern Marxist revolutionaries. There are also some strong supporters of Salafism in the Yemeni elite, including Ali Muhsin. Under the name Al Qaeda in Yemen, AQAP gained prominence in 2000 by attacking the USS Cole in Aden harbour and became a major focus of US policy after the 9/11 attacks. AQAP mounted attacks against tourist sites and government interests for a decade and developed a local following with a platform of protest against local government practices, outside of its global concerns. Al Qaeda also served as a means for Saleh to extort security rents. Yemen received significant funding and military support from the US and Saudi 238

Yemen: A Factional Military Arabia to fight AQAP. If Saleh felt the international community might cut off his funding or press him for change, he might release some Al Qaeda prisoners or engineer their escape, making Yemen dangerous once again. As Phillips says, ‘Saleh built his power on an informal system that runs on crisis, and Al Qaeda are agents of crisis.’63

The Military Yemen’s military structure prior to the Arab Spring was factional, rather than factionalized. While a factionalized military tries to balance preexisting social divisions, it is a modern strategy of civil–military control. Different groups are purposefully placed in different units and given different weapons and training. Yemen’s factional, tribal structure is based on the fact that the northern government never acquired the monopoly on violence in the country. The national army is small and there are large, independently armed tribes that can counterbalance the army or serve as tribal levies for the government in times of war. As stated earlier, the Hashid tribe has significant military resources, including heavy artillery. Wearing weaponry is a common feature of Yemeni manhood, particularly for the tribes, and an AK-47 is considered ‘part of the wardrobe.’ The government has used tribal levies in all its wars, including against the south in 1994 and against the Houthi in the north. Until the 1990s, it was common for tribes to use shows of military force to extract concessions from the government, including kidnapping tourists. At the same time, the government paid off many of these tribal leaders, partially to gain peace but also so they could use their resources in times of crisis. The Yemeni state never had full control over these myriad militaries or a strong bureaucratic structure, but what structure there was deteriorated in the 1990s as Saleh began to multiply the number of security forces and install his sons and family allies in military and security positions. It is notable that, rather than taking over existing units, Saleh created new units for his sons to command. He had the power to further fragment the military, but less power to displace existing commanders and power holders.64 The regular military was broken up along lines of tribal and personal politics, and Saleh placed relatives where he could. His two sons 239

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring commanded strong Republican Guard units that were not under even the nominal control of the Ministry of Defense. Saleh’s kinsman and rival, Ali Muhsin, had strong units under his command. Muhsin’s unit, though officially called the First Armored Division (Firqa) and ostensibly part of the national military, ‘was essentially a private tribal militia.’65 There were myriad security services, and tribal and private militias, under different ministries or outside the legal control of the State, and ‘all the internal security services competed with one another for influence over policy as well as for material resources and personnel.’66 It was certainly not a bureaucratic organization – with recruitment, position, and assignment determined by connections to tribes and leadership, not bureaucratic rules or meritocratic practices. Yemen’s military was also never concentrated on external defense. It was used for internal repression, elite negotiation, patronage, and fighting civil wars. Individual leaders engaged in corruption and smuggling as well as legal businesses. The official military also has significant business interests through YECO. The large size of the military was less for external defense and more a means to buy cooperation from leaders and tribesmen, ‘as a part of the regime’s politics of survival and co-optation.’67 Nor did these troops have much expertise. Some Republican Guard units had access to sophisticated weaponry, but only in units close to Saleh. There is no indication of strong military training or doctrine either. The fact that the government wages war using tribal levies with no official military training suggests there is not much account for doctrine or command structures. And the bulk of the military is poorly trained and poorly paid. By one account, it ‘was so corrupt and mismanaged that soldiers walked off the field in droves and sold their weapons to the rebels, or to Al Qaeda.’68 In short, like the factionalized examples, Yemen’s military had none of the features of professionalism: it was at best ‘moderately representative and subordinate’, and had ‘low internal cohesion’, ‘low distinctiveness’, ‘low bureaucratization’, and ‘low external focus’. It also had ‘low expertise’, considered as a whole, with many fighters acting as part-time tribal levies (see Table 7.1). The Yemeni military was not distinct or subordinate to the regime and it had a ‘Weak Internal Structure’. So, like the factionalized militaries of 240

Table 7.1 Yemen’s Military Structure Representativeness


Most social groups are represented in the military, but they are separated into different units by tribe and region.



The regular military is broken into various units with tribal affiliations. Tribes have their own independent militaries that act both as a counterbalance to the regular units and as additional forces that can be paid to fight for the regime.



Important military units are led by sons and other relatives of the leaders. Tribal and political leaders also have irregular tribal militaries under their control.



Promotion and position are heavily influenced by family connections and tribal affiliation. Tribal militaries have no bureaucratic structure.



The military elite come from the same families and tribes as the regime leadership. They are part of the regime leadership, not subordinate to it.



While there might be a few well-trained units, the country is poor and the military poorly trained and equipped. Tribal militias have no regularized military training.

External Focus


The military is almost entirely focused on internal warfare and regime protection. Most warfare in modern Yemen has been internal: including civil wars, insurgencies, and combatting terrorists.

Table 7.2 Yemeni Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Strong Internal Structure High Distinctiveness & Subordination

Military Coup Tunisia Egypt

Low Distinctiveness & Subordination

Successful Repression Bahrain

Weak Internal Structure

Military Split Libya Syria Yemen

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Syria and Libya, it was bound to split along societal fault lines when called to defend the regime, as shown in Table 7.2. In Yemen’s case, defection did not mean an excluded or marginalized population – and their brethren in the military – fighting against the government, but internal conflict between armed rivals within the government. There was combat between these armed groups, but in 2011 it was not a full-fledged civil war – more an intensification of existing factional politics. The militarization of the uprising did largely exclude the mobilized masses from the political process, however, and moved the negotiation to the elite level. Armed groups, like Al Qaeda, also used the distraction and chaos to intensify their activity. As in the other cases of military split  – Syria and Libya  – once the military camps started firing on one another, the role of the international community became a deciding factor in what would happen next. In the case of Yemen, which had many regional patrons but no strong regional enemies, the international community supported negotiation. The negotiations  – led by Saudi Arabia and the GCC, and backed by the US and the UN  – eventually convinced Saleh to step down, but left most of the regime and much of his power base intact. In 2014, with constitutional negotiations dragging on, Saleh and his sons aligned his loyal troops with his former Houthi rivals, setting off a full-fledged civil war. Only Saudi and GCC intervention stopped the Saleh–Houthi alliance from taking control of the whole country, and Yemen remains in a state of damaging, but lowintensity, internationalized civil war.

The Uprising Yemen was always in crisis, but in 2011 this took on a new form. Prior to 2011, the opposition was often violent, which allowed the government to paint them as illegitimate or part of an Al Qaeda plot. However, there were also attempts at peaceful protest. Southern separatist and veteran groups tried peaceful strategies in the 2000s. Beginning in 2009, the deteriorating economic and political situation led to calls, from both inside and outside the party system, for political reform.69 And in 2011 a group of Ja’ashin peasants camped in Sana’a to protest against the unjust rule of their tribal sheikh, months before the protests in Tunisia even began.70 As the Arab Spring spread, opposition 242

Yemen: A Factional Military groups chose to follow the mood of the time, tie themselves to the broader Arab Spring movement, and adopt a public and peaceful strategy for change. Many protesters were unaffiliated youths but, unlike elsewhere, Yemen’s political parties were part of the protests from the beginning.71 Unlike many other Arab leaders, Saleh seems to have been expecting protests after Ben Ali’s fall in Tunisia.72 His allies occupied Sana’a’s Tahrir Square in a show of support for the president and to pre-empt opposition demonstrations. Instead, the protesters camped near Sana’a University and called their camp ‘Change Square.’ Protest camps in other towns and cities also took that name. Some of the protesting groups, like the Islamist Islah Party, were allies of regime insiders taking advantage of the regional movement to extract concessions from Saleh. They used the slogans of the Tunisian and Egyptian protesters, but mostly wanted negotiations. They wanted Saleh not to run for president again and to promise his son would not succeed him. Salah almost immediately promised not to run in 2013 and offered economic concessions and negotiations, which seemed to satisfy these organized groups. They knew the precarious balance in Yemen and feared what a government collapse would do to the country.73 These regime figures were not outsiders interested in remaking the system; they were continuing the process of Yemeni politics by other means. However, previously unorganized groups of youths, inspired by the revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt, began to pressure the organized opposition. They did not want negotiation; they wanted the regime to fall. They did not believe Salah when he said he would step down in 2013: he had agreed not to run in 2005, and then changed his mind. They also wanted broader change. Many tribesmen broke ranks to join the more radical protesters, unhappy with a system in which their leaders were paid to keep the peace but the rank and file did not benefit and where tribes were set against one another to limit their power.74 Many were unemployed or underemployed; they wanted an end to regime corruption and an expansion of opportunity. As the young protesters grew in numbers and increased their demands, the organized parties were forced to follow suit and refuse concessions they would previously have accepted.75 This was the most serious threat to Saleh’s regime in decades. The youth protesters were breaking the normal rules of the game. They were 243

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring not simply jockeying for more, as the organized parties were; they were demanding the collapse of the regime and its tribal/patrimonial system. It also mattered that the Yemeni story was identified with the broader Arab Spring movement. Yemen was poor and disorganized, and always peripheral to the Arab world; in this wider context, however, it became a part of an ongoing story. Al Jazeera and other international news outlets covered it as part of the Arab Spring protests, automatically giving the protesters and opposition a rhetorical advantage.76 The Yemeni protesters also stuck to a non-violent strategy so they could not be lumped in with Al Qaeda or other threats. The US did not call for Saleh’s resignation at first, but it quickly called for negotiation with the protesters and eventually turned on Saleh. In the context of the War on Terror, Saleh could always threaten the US with instability in Yemen that would benefit Al Qaeda. When framed within the narrative of the Arab Spring, the US was forced to be more cautious with the protesters and less supportive of Saleh. In Sana’a, the protesters remained relatively peaceful. The opposition parties tried to contain the youth protesters, but were often unable to do so and often followed them rather than led.77 For months, protests would surge on Friday:  Saleh supporters would hold rallies in Sana’a’s Tahrir Square; opponents would gather after noon prayers and join protesters in Change Square outside Sana’a University, where a tent city had grown. The opposition included many unaffiliated students but also a growing number of tribespeople as well as the organized parties, led by Islah. Saleh supporters were often paid tribesman and security forces in plain clothes. There were occasional clashes between protesters and Saleh supporters, often including rock throwing, which the police sometimes tried to stop.78 Saleh claimed that it was the work of foreign agitators, as many regional leaders tended to do – even blaming Israel and the United States at one point. There was more violence at protests in the southern city of Taiz. The Shafi of Taiz were less central to regime power than the organized tribal confederations that dominated Sana’a, which meant the regime was less reluctant to use repression against them. Southern separatists also began protesting in Aden. These were not regime insiders, and the government quickly resorted to repression. 244

Yemen: A Factional Military Sheik Hamid al-Ahmar, a leader of the Islah Islamist party, soon turned on Saleh. Al-Ahmar was no protester and Islah was often a powerful ally of Saleh. In the politics of Yemen, an ally and a rival were often the same thing, however, and Islah would sometimes join the opposition against Saleh to extract concessions.79 Al-Ahmar was also the leader of one of the north’s most powerful tribal groups, the Hashid, and controlled large contingents of armed tribesmen as well as Islah – so this was a serious threat to Saleh’s position. But by joining the opposition, Al-Ahmar was also steering the more far-reaching demands of the unorganized opposition in a direction that would benefit traditional regime insiders. As the stalemate wore on, Saudi Arabia and the GCC, with US support, tried to negotiate a way out for Saleh. However, neither he nor the opposition could negotiate in good faith. Saleh was playing for time, sticking on points of protocol, and agreeing to step down and then backtracking. The opposition parties were negotiating behind closed doors, but were beholden to the street protesters who did not trust Saleh and wanted him tried for corruption and the deaths of protesters. At the same time, Al Qaeda was taking advantage of the government paralysis to seize territory, as were the Houthi in the north. On Saturday 12 March 2011, Saleh’s forces attacked protesters at Sana’a University. Police used water cannons and then live ammunition, and snipers shot protesters from rooftops.80 The protesters managed to remain mostly peaceful and stood their ground for several days. The early casualty counts were in the low fifties, but it began an escalation into armed conflict that marginalized the youth protesters and shifted the initiative to traditional power holders. Saleh allies, including ambassadors and cabinet members, began to defect. The most important defection was that of Ali Muhsin, First Armored Division commander and a sometime ally, sometime rival of Saleh. Muhsin announced that he would protect the protesters, and his soldiers set up around the university to defend them from Saleh’s troops. Muhsin’s division was the same size as Saleh’s Republican Guard, at 30,000 troops, but less well equipped.81 In any of the other countries discussed in this book, the defection of such a powerful military unit would have signaled a massive breakdown in regime coherence and the beginning of either government collapse or 245

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring all-out civil war. In the context of Yemen’s factional military, it was an extension of normal regime politics. Muhsin’s ‘defection effectively brought to an end the political settlement that had held the regime’s inner circle together for more than 32 years,’82 but it did not mean regime collapse. Conflict, even armed conflict, was part of the history of tribal and leadership negotiations in Yemen. This development meant there would have to be a rearrangement of the power structure, but in no way signaled the end of the military/tribal regime. It also meant that traditional power holders would dominate the opposition. The defecting military leaders would protect the revolutionaries, but ‘[t]his “protection” also limited their independence.’83 Worth writes that ‘from that point onward, the protests became the noisy backdrop to a power struggle inside the Yemeni elite.’84 Saleh’s Republican Guard, commanded by his sons, and Muhsin’s First Armored Division ‘established opposing checkpoints throughout Sana’a and there was sporadic (although initially small-scale) fighting between them.’85 Clashes continued in Taiz and Aden. As in the other cases of military split, the international community became a key player. Saudi Arabia and the US looked for a solution that could sideline Saleh without leading to a government collapse, which would empower Al Qaeda and increase instability on the Arabian Peninsula. The GCC put forth an exit plan for Saleh suggested by Yemeni politicians. Several times, Saleh agreed to conditional plans to step aside only to refuse at the last minute.86 Firing on protesters turned to tribal warfare in late May as Saleh’s loyal units, commanded by his sons and nephews, attacked the Sana’a compound of the Hashid federation leader. They fought for control of government buildings near the Hashid compound using small arms, mortars, and artillery. At the same time, they attacked Muhsin’s troops near the university. Yemenis thought this new fighting was a ploy by Saleh to increase the chaos, which had served him in the past, and to bait the peaceful opposition into violence.87 The young, unorganized opposition did not react with violence, but they were still marginalized. As the conflict turned violent, it became a contest between rival armed groups – but these were already key regime figures. Any solution they came up with would keep much of the regime structure in place. Muhsin could claim to be a democrat but he was a long-time political rival of Saleh, not a regime outsider. 246

Yemen: A Factional Military The fighting spread outside the capital, including to Taiz, where local tribes claimed to be protecting protesters. In the chaos, Al Qaeda seized the southern city of Jaar and declared an Islamic emirate, expanding its territory in the south over the next few months against the beleaguered and divided military.88 The conflict in Sana’a continued sporadically for weeks until a mortar shell hit Saleh’s compound, wounding him and many of his allies. He left for treatment in Saudi Arabia, while the various opposition groups tried to negotiate a transitional government and the US and GCC pressed hard for Saleh to resign. Many supporters hoped he would stay in Saudi Arabia with former Tunisian president Ben Ali. However, Saleh remained defiant. He still had tribal allies, though many of those supporters were paid for attending rallies; he retained resources to continue paying off allies, though he apparently also asked for loans from rich businessmen; and his sons and relatives retained control over significant military force. At the same time, the opposition were assuring the US that they would be allies against terrorism, hoping to undercut Saleh’s international support.89 The economy was collapsing as well. Rebels had attacked oil infrastructure, which meant electricity was scarce and water was not being pumped to Sana’a. The currency was collapsing, as anyone who could bought US dollars. It was rumoured Saleh had made off with the treasury. Fighting continued in various places: government troops against rebellious tribesmen, tribesman and government troops against Al Qaeda, and government troops firing on protesters in Taiz. The US finally lost patience with Saleh and threatened to ask for UN sanctions on the ruler and his relatives, as they had in Libya.90 In November, Saleh finally agreed to transfer power to his vice president.91 He would receive immunity and be able to move back to Yemen. The young opposition marched to protest against the deal, but the elite had made their decision. Once the various military factions had begun to take sides, the unorganized opposition lost control of the situation. As in many other transitions, the masses that started the uprising were pushed aside when the new system was inaugurated. In Yemen – a system built on a precarious balance of armed factions – political breakdown meant an end to the old bargain, but not the system. 247

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring

Negotiation, Breakdown, and Civil War Saleh finally stepped down in February 2012, but much of his regime remained in place. Saleh’s sons and nephews still controlled the Republican Guard, and protesters complained in 2012 that he was still exercising influence.92 The new president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, ‘had been Saleh’s obedient flunky for almost twenty years. He would inherit the office of president, but everyone sensed that the unfinished business between the Saleh and Ahmar clans would smolder under the surface until the time was right.’93 Negotiations on a new constitution dragged on into 2014, and behind the scenes the situation deteriorated. Helen Lackner applauds the fact that women and the young were able to demand participation in the national dialogue, but in 2013 April Alley argued that the dialogue revealed ‘no significant redistribution of resources or hard power outside the traditional elite.’94 At the same time, conflict continued. The southern independence movement grew more violent, and AQAP became more active in the confusion. The new president, Hadi, was a strong supporter of US counterterrorism efforts and approved the unpopular use of unmanned drones to kill suspected Al Qaeda members in Yemen. There were assassinations and growing sectarian tensions. The Houthi retained their weapons and increased their control in the north, even as they took part in the negotiations. Over time, Hadi did try to reorganize the security services. This was called an attempt to professionalize the military, but was mostly an attempt to increase Hadi’s control, reward new allies, and hamper Saleh’s influence. Hadi replaced many Saleh loyalists and relatives with his own allies, including people from his home province in the south.95 Like most new Yemeni leaders, Hadi was widely said to fear for his life, and he appointed many family members and old allies to security positions.96 Many Saleh loyalists were dismissed, but subsequent events would show that Saleh and his sons retained strong influence on parts of the military.97 Saleh continued to influence events from his mansion in Sana’a, and at some point made a secret alliance with the Houthi rebels. The Houthi are Zaydi Shi’a, like Saleh, and are also enemies of Muhsin and the strains of Salafism they see as threatening the Zaydi position. However, they are not


Yemen: A Factional Military close partners with Saleh, whose regime they fought for years. This is seen by many as a ‘cynical wartime alliance.’98 With the support of Saleh’s military allies, as well as many northern tribes, the Houthi increased their attacks in the north in 2014. In September 2014, they seized Sana’a. Many blamed Iran for the Houthi’s new dominance, but Lackner argues that Iranian support came only after the movement became more successful. She argues that the ‘so-called Huthi military forces are mainly those of the well-armed, welltrained, and well-equipped units that remain loyal to Saleh.’99 The new alliance then tried to push its control into the south, where it battled Al Qaeda and the Shafi groups traditionally hostile to Zaydi control.100 President Hadi was arrested in Sana’a, but eventually allowed to escape to Aden. In effect, the elite conflict that had begun in 2011 continued in negotiating rooms and Sana’a mansions until it broke out into violence again, with Saleh using his military alliances to return to power in the north. Regional actors seemed willing to accept Houthi control of the north. Various Zaydi tribal groups had always fought for control of Sana’a and northern Yemen. There was little talk of international intervention when they took Sana’a in 2014. But in early 2015, when the Houthi-Saleh alliance threatened to take control of Aden, and thus the whole country, regional actors became involved – particularly Saudi Arabia, which has historically preferred a weak and divided Yemen. The Saudis argued that the Houthi were an Iranian proxy, and assembled an alliance of Sunni states, led by the GCC with US technical support, to fight them.101 The Houthi have received supplies from Iran, but the extent of this connection is in doubt. The Saudi alliance managed eventually to push the Houthi-Saleh alliance back from Aden, primarily with widespread bombing leading to significant civilian casualties. The conflict largely stabilized in mid-2016, with Saleh and the Houthi in control of Sana’a and northern Yemen and President Hadi and the Saudi alliance in control of Aden and the south. Al Qaeda also remained dominant in many areas. There were multiple rounds of negotiations and some ceasefires. Sporadic fighting continued for most of 2017, with Houthi forces occasionally firing missiles and brutal bombings of civilian areas by Saudi Arabia.102 The internationally recognized government continued to try to advance into the north with the help of GCC forces and growing support from the new US presidential administration, despite 249

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring fears of the humanitarian consequences of such moves.103 However, the low expertise of the military forces on the ground, plus the relatively low level of urbanization, meant the death toll was comparatively low. More than two years into the conflict over 10,000 were estimated to have died in Yemen, mostly from air strikes by the relatively-advanced Saudi forces. This is compared with nearly 93,000 dead in the first 27 months of the Syrian civil war, despite Yemen’s slightly larger population.104 This is not to minimize the damage done by Yemen’s conflict; deaths are significantly fewer than in Syria, but the country was already poor, most of its food was imported, and many lived on the brink of subsistence even before the conflict. Before the Houthi–Saleh alliance emerged in 2014, 10 million Yemenis needed food aid.105 The damage and displacement of the conflict has only made the situation more dire – particularly in areas under Houthi control, which are more populous than those held by the internationally recognized Hadi Government but also more cut off from outside aid and vulnerable to blockade.106 In the summer of 2017, the largest cholera epidemic ever reported was raging in Houthi-controlled Sana’a, 17 million of the country’s 26 million people lacked sufficient food, 3.1 million were internally displaced and 3 million children were in peril of starvation.107 In late 2017, fighting intensified and the Houthi-Saleh alliance finally broke, signaling a change in the war, but likely no relief for the long-suffering Yemeni population.108

Conclusion In Yemen, the State has never had total control of the military forces in its territory. Instead, it had a factional military made up of competing tribal and regime units because the State had never had the power to disarm the many armed groups in society. What military there was had none of the features of professionalism; it was instead a competing arrangement of armed groups – some officially under government control, some not. Like Syria and Libya, the military was not distinct from the regime, so at least parts of it were bound to try to defend the ruler. However, it lacked the internal cohesion to do so successfully. But because of the distinctive nature of the Yemeni military, when it split, it did not collapse; a divided 250

Yemen: A Factional Military military is a feature of the system. Tribes are armed with heavy weapons, and inter-tribal and state–tribe conflict has been a regular and accepted means of settling disputes. Various factions control their own armed forces and could use them to extract resources. When protesters challenged Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime, these factions tried to gain control of the protests to advance their own interests. First the leader of Islah and the Hashid tribe changed sides, then a sometime rival and sometime ally of Saleh, Ali Muhsin, defected with his troops. This did not lead to all-out civil war, however, because each of these parties was used to using the threats of force and defection to bargain. The split in the military meant the international community became involved; internal defections and the loss of international support meant Saleh finally had to negotiate a way out. The protesters, who hoped the energy and example of the Arab Spring would lead to more drastic change, were shunted aside by traditional leading factions. They remained in their protest camps, but the negotiations went on without them. The parties to the negotiations did not want any major changes, so Saleh stepped down under international pressure but much of his regime remained in place. Saleh would probably have been able to exercise influence from behind the scenes indefinitely, but instead he allied with his former rivals in the rebellious Houthi movement to retake control. After that, the situation devolved into an internationalized civil war. The intensity of the conflict was mitigated by the relatively low military expertise of the competing factions on the ground, and the relatively low level of development, but it has led to many deaths, continued hardship, and state breakdown. Shortly before this book went to press, in December 2017, there was a major shift in the conflict. Reportedly following secret discussions with the GCC forces, Saleh announced the end of his alliance with the Houthi and support for negotiations. This led to fighting between Houthi and Saleh forces in Sana’a, in which Saleh was killed. In the near term, this will probably lead to intensified fighting and more suffering for the beleaguered Yemeni people. In the longer term, GCC powers Saudi Arabia and the UAE dominate the conflict, and the southern government, and any outcome will depend on what those powers can obtain and will accept.


8 Iran: A Sultanistic Military

Iran is included in this study, despite the fact that it is not part of the Arab Spring, to flesh out the logic of the book’s analytical framework. The most important goal is to show a different military type and outcome – that of a sultanistic military that collapses and allows for a utopian revolution. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 sent shockwaves through the international system and continues to shape regional politics. A relatively developed society with a repressive, pro-American leader and a strong army collapsed and became a violent revolutionary state, a stubborn US enemy, and a driver of regional conflict. This was the scenario that regional leaders and American policy makers feared when the Arab Spring broke out in 2010–11. This chapter will also briefly discuss the 2009 Green Movement, when the current, factionalized Iranian military was able to suppress large public protests. In 1978, the Iranian military appeared sturdy, but in fact it was shot through with sultanistic meddling. The Shah’s military had ‘High Distinctiveness & Subordination’, meaning it would have been in the military’s best interest to overthrow him, but its ‘Weak Internal Structure’ meant that leading officers could not agree to do so and, even if they had, they would have been unable to muster the organizational unity required. Instead of successfully defending the regime or overthrowing it, the military


Iran: A Sultanistic Military collapsed, leaving a security vacuum that was filled by competing factions and armed groups. These groups engaged in a contest of mobilization and violence that was eventually won by the faction around radical cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, who used his popularity and control to institute the revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran’s Islamic Revolution transformed the country’s civil–military relations from a sultanistic to a factionalized structure through the creation and development of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) and Basiji militia. Based on the Arab Spring cases this should have led to a military split when the regime suppressed the 2009 Green Movement protests, but even a factionalized military can successfully repress a peaceful uprising if it is small or geographically concentrated enough for the regime to rely on only its loyal units. However, in the long term, this book’s logic suggests that the Islamic Republic may be less secure than commonly assumed. If a peaceful protest goes beyond the ability of the IRGC to control it, Iran’s factionalized military could split between the Revolutionary Guards and the regular military, leading to civil war.

Historical Development Iran is a very diverse society; it has many regional, ethnic, and religious groups, which often erupt into conflict, but it has a long history as a political entity, which informs its social and military structure. It is important to note that ethnic and religious divisions do not automatically lead to divided militaries. Sectarian, ethnic, and tribal divisions can lead to divided states, where one group or alliance of groups gains control of the State and uses its position to exclude others. This is often the case where there are historically low levels of national identity prior to independence. While modern nationalism did not come to Iran until the nineteenth or twentieth century, Iran – or Persia – is a long-standing political entity that elicits real loyalty. It has experienced separatist movements and regional and ethnically based revolts, but these have just as often been attempts to take over the State as they were to break away. So, while there are divisions of consequence in Iranian politics these were largely obscured by the widespread nature of the uprisings during the revolts against the State in 1977–9 and 2009. 253

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Contemporary Iranian history is often said to start with the Safavid conquest, beginning in 1501. The new Safavid Shah, of Kurdish or Turkish origin, brought in Shi’a scholars (ulama) from Lebanon and Bahrain to convert Persia from Sunnism to Shi’ism, as a means to distinguish Persia from the Sunni Ottoman territories and reinforce Safavid rule. However, like many conquerors, the Safavids found that they could not rule Persia without its native bureaucrats, and the Persian-speaking bureaucracy and literary tradition kept Persian culture alive through repeated foreign conquests.1 The Safavids ruled until being overthrown by one of their chieftains in 1722. This led to a period of unrest until the Turkish Qajar dynasty was able to establish dominance in 1794. In the interim, with no strong shah, the Shi’a clergy was able to expand its influence as the rightful interpreters of Islamic law. The ulama controlled the zakat (tithe tax), education, and most of the legal system. Over time, they developed a distinct organizational structure. Each Shi’a was supposed to choose a ‘source of emulation,’ a religious leader whose opinions they would follow and to whom they would pay their religious taxes. This created a set of pyramidal structures wherein tax revenue went up through a series of lowerlevel clerics to the high-level ulama, and legal decisions and charity were transmitted downwards. The ulama were also large landowners, often controlling property donated through charitable waqf endowments, and had taxing capacity that rivaled the State. This made the ulama class a strong counterweight to later shahs, and a powerful interest group in Iranian politics. Unlike the Safavids, the Qajars made no claim of descent from the Prophet, so they lacked the ideological power to claim divine right. They also lacked the power to exercise their will over the entire Persian territory. At times they controlled ‘little beyond the gates of Tehran.’2 They had scant income and a small army, and they kept losing territory to the expanding great powers: the Russians in the north and the British in the east. The geography of Iran encouraged regional fragmentation, and largely autonomous tribes made up 25–30 percent of its population.3 To manage the divisions, the Qajar relied on divide-and-rule strategies, payoffs, assassinations, and hostage taking. Their weakness against external powers and half-hearted attempts to modernize encouraged political opposition. While political dynamics in Iran are often portrayed as led by the Shi’a ulama, when there is real unrest it is usually when the interests of religious classes coincide 254

Iran: A Sultanistic Military with those of other groups, like bazaaris (merchants) and the middle class.4 In 1906, these groups came together to force the Qajar Shah to accept a constitution giving parliament (the Majlis) control over budgets and foreign concessions.5 Foreign invasions discredited the parliament and the Shah disbanded it in 1911, but it was reinstated after World War I. During World War I, there was a significant amount of fighting and hardship in Iran. The country was officially neutral, but British, Russian, and Ottoman troops fought in various places in Iran and Central Asia. Between wartime disruptions, bad harvests, and the 1919 influenza outbreak, ‘as many as two million Iranians – including one quarter of the rural population – perished from war, disease, and starvation.’6 After the war, separatist and tribal revolts shook the country. Reza Khan’s Cossack Brigade was eventually able to defeat many of these revolts and bring the country under control. This brigade was one of the few modern parts of the Qajar military, and had been trained and led by Russian officers until 1920. In 1921, with the backing of modernizing politicians and probably the British,7 the new commander, Reza Khan, rode into Tehran and demanded the Shah designate a young reformer as prime minister and himself as commander of the army. In 1925, he had parliament depose the Shah and had himself named to the post, beginning the short-lived Pahlavi dynasty.

The Pahlavi Dynasty Reza Shah instituted a wide-ranging modernization and centralization programme, following the model of Atatürk in Turkey and, by some accounts, created the modern Iranian state.8 He increased the power of the bureaucracy and expanded state power into the countryside where it had not been felt for years. He created modern judicial, tax, and educational systems that, being under state control, would displace many of the ulama. He consolidated landholdings and increased the power of landlords. This allowed him to give away large estates as bribes, acquire great wealth for himself, and buy into the landed aristocracy. He tried to reduce British influence by canceling old treaties, bringing in American advisors, and looking to Germany for aid. 255

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring If Reza Shah had been from an excluded minority group or reliant on powerful family or tribal allies, he might have tried to create a more complex, coup-proofed regime or a sturdy family dynastic one, like those of the Gulf monarchies.9 But because he was part of the mulitinational Persian society and a self-made man, he relied instead on nationalism and centralization under his personal control. Like his son, much of his power and self-image would rest on control of a large, modernizing army and the support of a pampered officer class. ‘He emphasized his close personal relationship to the armed forces and effectively catered to the officer corps, providing them with high salaries, a sumptuous club in Tehran, and the opportunity to purchase land at reduced prices.’10 He used army conscription as a nationalizing tool: it required creating identity cards and family names and brought disparate groups together who had to learn Persian and ‘pay daily allegiance to the shah, the flag, and the state.’11 And like his son, he bought the best equipment he could but also undermined and overrode the bureaucratic structure of the military with intrusive personal control.12 Reza Shah was known to be sympathetic to Germany prior to World War II and, while he declared Iran neutral, the Allies did not trust him. They sent in troops and, to save his dynasty, Reza agreed to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammed Reza, who is still known in the West as ‘The Shah.’ After Reza’s abdication, parliamentary rule was restored under British tutelage. Notables dominated politics and the Shah lost control of much of the bureaucracy and patronage system.13 Abbas Milani argues that the young Shah was from the start determined to regain the power his father had held. He said all the right things about democracy and gave up much of his father’s ill-gotten wealth. But at the same time he built up a strong power base in the army, made public donations to religious causes, founded a newspaper to express the palace’s opinion, and tried to reconcile with the clergy as a means of building internal support and countering the communist Tudeh Party.14 As World War II ended and the Cold War began, political changes were coming. The war, economic changes, and the fighting over postwar separatist movements damaged the economy. Conservatives – backed by the British and Americans, and aided by electoral fraud – were in charge of the Majlis,15 but middle-class nationalists with strong bazaari support were 256

Iran: A Sultanistic Military gaining power. The conflict over oil interests, controlled by the British, led to a coup against nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq and the passing of absolute power to the Shah. Mossadeq, as head of the oil commission in the Majlis in 1949, fought the British over oil revenues and control of production. His determined stance made him very popular, and he formed a National Front in the Majlis with the backing of religious leaders and the middle classes. With wide support, and after the assassination of the previous prime minister, Mossadeq pushed through an act to nationalize Iranian oil. This put him in direct conflict with the British, who led a damaging international boycott of Iran’s oil and encouraged the Shah to overrule the Majlis.16 The Shah tried to balance British pressure, American resistance to the idea of a royal coup, and the challenge from Mossadeq, who wanted to undercut the Shah’s power and his role as an active, rather than ceremonial, monarch.17 The Americans initially tried to find a negotiated solution, but Mossadeq’s flirtation with the pro-USSR Communist Tudeh Party – combined with active British attempts to undermine him and threats to remove cooperation with the US elsewhere – led them to support a royal coup against Mossadeq in 1953. The coup was initially just a letter dismissing Mossadeq as prime minister, but it turned into several days of counter-mobilization between pro- and anti-Mossadeq crowds, some probably paid for by the US. The bulk of the military took the side of the Shah and arrested Mossadeq, who became a symbol of foiled nationalist and democratic aspirations. The conflict over the loyalty and control of the army was a key factor in the struggle between the Shah and Mossadeq, who each saw it as fundamental to the former’s power. After deposing his father in 1941, the Allies had kept the military in place and put it under the control of Mohammed Reza. Like his father, he ran the military personally, bypassing its chain of command and cultivating relationships with the officer corps.18 During their conflict, Mossadeq attempted to purge many pro-Shah officers while the Shah tried to retain control through his internal networks.19 The military eventually proved more loyal to the monarch. As he consolidated his rule, the Shah continued to view the army as a fundamental part of his imperial identity and power base, and exercised intrusive personal control. He felt emboldened by his newfound dominance after the coup, but many Iranians came to 257

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring view him as an American stooge. The Shah himself gave the US much of the credit for rescuing his throne and, ‘in 1978 the Shah and most Iranian government officials had an exaggerated view of the power of America and Great Britain to “direct events” in Iran.’20 He was to remain insecure and paranoid, and created a state that could not survive without him. Firstly using US aid and then oil funds, the Shah began a drive of crash modernization and centralization. He dealt harshly with his enemies, particularly the Tudeh Party, and took control of parliament. In 1963, he launched his ‘White Revolution,’ a modernization programme built around a rural literacy campaign, land reform, and women’s rights. The clergy objected to all three. Land reform broke up their waqf properties, the rural literacy campaign challenged their control over schooling, and women’s voting rights challenged their understanding of gender relations. Ruhollah Khomeini, an emerging leader at the time, led some clerical demonstrations until he was exiled. The Shah bribed and suppressed the rest of the clergy sufficiently to keep them relatively quiet, but they retained much of their influence and the mosque was there to serve as a tool for mobilization when another uprising occurred. The Shah was an isolated figure, without charisma or nationalist credentials. According to most, he owed his throne to the US. He also did not create a useful, mobilizational party. He had two government parties that garnered no loyalty; they were so ‘so tightly restricted that Iranians referred to the two organizations as the “yes” and the “yes sir” parties.’21 Economically, the White Revolution pushed for industrialization but it was heavily statist and did not create broad-based prosperity. And SAVAK, his secret police, were active and widely hated. Michael Herb argues that the Shah fell because of bad decisions and because he did not have independently powerful supporters that could bolster him in times of crisis.22 He modernized the country significantly, but in a way that exacerbated inequality, and he did not create the institutional structures necessary to absorb the discontent his changes were creating.

The Shah and the Military The weakness of this strategy is clear in how it affected the military. The Shah co-opted the generals and lavished wealth on the military, but did 258

Iran: A Sultanistic Military not give it enough independence to serve as a bulwark for the regime or his dynasty. His regime is best described as ‘sultanistic’, following the definition by H. E. Chehabi and Juan Linz.23 It was completely dependent on the Shah and his personal favor and input. Bureaucrats at all levels had to come to him for approval, and he made decisions on the smallest matters. This was especially true of the military, where the Shah took personal control: There was no normal chain of command; everything was dependent on the Shah alone. Thus the armed forces were technically weak and dependent and could not act effectively whenever the supreme commander himself was in trouble or out of the country […] ‘They were all responsible without having power’[…] ‘it was almost bound to disintegrate.’24

By all accounts, the Iranian military was representative, comprised people from all groups, and was not broken down by ethnicity or region. Under Reza Shah, it was made into a nationalist institution, teaching minorities Persian and instilling a shared Iranian identity. This nationalist conscription policy meant, however, that 90 percent of the military were conscripts who served only 18 months; these soldiers were often poorly paid and poorly treated by officers and retained connections to their civilian lives, making them more sympathetic to the opposition.25 Because of the representativeness of the military, soldiers were likely to identify with the population and it would be difficult for officers to convince them to shoot large numbers of protesters. At the same time, because the military was not broken up into ethnically or religiously based units,26 when it did collapse it collapsed as a whole, not into competing blocs. For the most part, the military was a single structure. There was a large Imperial Guard that was more loyal to the Shah because of indoctrination and favorable treatment, but it was not made up of separate ethnic, ideological, or religious groups, meaning it would not defend the Shah’s rule indefinitely. The military was also heavily monitored and penetrated by Iran’s internal-security services. Because of Iran’s oil wealth and strong ties to the Nixon Administration, the Shah could buy the best US equipment. The Iranian military was a regional power and recognized as extremely well equipped and relatively competent in military capabilities by regional standards, though Zoltan


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Barany maintains its training was mediocre and it was unable to effectively use much of the American equipment.27 The Iranian military considered itself professional, disciplined, and nationalist, and it was seen as a path to social advancement, but its history as a strong supporter of the Shah and its internal-security role undercut its image as a trusted national institution.28 The military was also subordinate and distinct from the regime leadership, which was essentially just the Shah. High-level officers were regime insiders but, unlike in regimes like Syria’s, they were not family of the Shah or independent figures with their own institutional power bases, and the military was not institutionally part of the ruling party or regime leadership. The Shah appointed serving high-level officers to positions in the cabinet and bureaucracy – and as governors, mayors, and ambassadors. He also used the military to help institute his White Revolution in the countryside and, whenever he declared martial law, the military and the gendarmerie under its control took on internal-policing and judicial roles. The highest-level generals had enrichment opportunities and there was corruption at the highest levels, though it was less prevalent than in the bureaucracy or other institutions.29 But even high-ranking officers were dependent on the Shah for their positions and could be shuffled or demoted at any time. He made sure his officers were never comfortable or displayed too much independence, and he ‘cultivated resentment and competition among his generals to ensure that they would never be in the position to challenge his rule.’30 This made the military and individual officers dependent on the Shah for their positions, but not integral members of the regime leadership because they could be dismissed at any time. It also prevented generals from acting together to defend the military as an institution or their collective interests as leading officers and a privileged class. Thus ‘the growing visibility and influence of the military in the 1970s […] was not an outcome of its internal dynamism or solidarity. Although well-equipped and numerous, the military in fact lacked the necessary esprit de corps that would have made it a credible political power center in Iranian politics.’31 Even the Shah’s closest allies were not independently powerful individuals; ‘The Shah’s closest friends were two senior generals, Hossain Fardoust and Mohammad Khatami, but his “divide and rule” modus operandi 260

Iran: A Sultanistic Military prevailed even over these two, whom he encouraged to be personal rivals.’32 Given these patterns, the Shah’s military can be described as having ‘high representativeness’, ‘moderate distinctiveness’, ‘high subordination’, ‘moderate cohesion’, ‘low bureaucratization’, ‘moderate external focus’, and ‘high expertise’ relative to other regional powers (see Table 8.1). Because of its ‘High Distinctiveness & Subordination’, the Iranian military probably should have tried to overthrow the Shah when faced with

Table 8.1 Iran’s Military Structure (in 1979) Representativeness


Iran is a diverse society, but its different groups were allowed and conscripted to serve throughout the military.



For the most part, there was a single national military, but there was a distinct Imperial Guard unit and the military was heavily monitored by secret police.



The military had its own schools and military identity but, at the highest levels, generals served in important political and government positions. They were dependent on the Shah and not independently powerful regime leaders, however.



The Shah took personal interest in the smallest details, ‘personally approved all promotions above the rank of major,’110 and played officers against one another. Officers often bypassed the chain of command.



The military was, legally and in actuality, totally subordinate to the whims of the Shah.



Relative to other regional powers, the Iranian military had high expertise. It had the best equipment and access to foreign training.

External Focus


The Iranian military was a regional power with many external responsibilities, but also had internal law-enforcement and repression duties, and individual officers had political roles.


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Table 8.2 Iranian Military Structure and Response to Mass Mobilization Strong Internal Structure

Weak Internal Structure

High Distinctiveness & Subordination

Military Coup Tunisia Egypt

Military Collapse Iran (1979)

Low Distinctiveness & Subordination

Successful Repression Bahrain

Military Split Libya Syria Yemen

massive popular protest, to protect its collective interests and the lives of its highest officers. However, because of its ‘Weak Internal Structure’, as shown in Table 8.2, the military leadership did not conclude that a coup was in its collective interest and, even if it had, the Iranian military lacked the cohesion necessary to either defeat the protesters or stage a coup. As such, ‘not only was the Shah himself ultimately left unprotected by the incapacitation of his armed forces, but these forces themselves proved unable to replace the Shah with a military regime (or a military-supported regime) that could preserve the integrity of the existing state organizations.’33 This led the military to engage in haphazard but ultimately ineffective repression during the uprising, and finally to collapse after the Shah left, leaving a security vacuum that was exploited by violent revolutionary groups. In order to fully understand the role of the military in democracy and revolution, it is important to appreciate that the Islamic Revolution led by Khomeini was not an inevitable result of the Iranian uprising of 1977–9, nor was it an outcome sought by many of the participants. Instead, it was the collapse of the military, and the ability of Khomeini and his allies to use mobilization and violence against other factions in the resulting security vacuum, that allowed Khomeini’s group to take full control and institute a utopian, revolutionary regime.34

The Uprising For years, high oil revenues and significant borrowing had pumped money into the Iranian economy  – money that it was unable to absorb given the Shah’s economic policies. These included investment in heavy 262

Iran: A Sultanistic Military industry, instead of more consumer-related industrialization; massive military spending; and reliance on highly paid Western employees for much of the high-technology work, which also created resentment amongst the Iranian population. When oil prices fell, the government sank into debt and inflation increased.35 Massive urbanization and migration from the countryside; uneven, state-led development; economic crisis; and political repression in this relatively developed society had created, by 1977, a situation of potential unrest. This was aggravated by international pressure on the Shah to liberalize. Newly elected US president, Jimmy Carter, announced he would make human rights a central part of his foreign policy, and Iran was under pressure from international human-rights organizations. Milani argues that, along with much of Iran, the Shah had come to believe in the ability of the Americans to direct outcomes there, as a result of the 1953 coup. Any sense that the US might be displeased put the Shah on the defensive. He was also gravely ill, though he concealed this, believing that the US would turn on him if it knew.36 These factors led the Shah to allow a limited opening in 1977 that developed into full-blown uprisings in 1978. In 1977, various societal groups became more active, publishing letters of dissent and reactivating dormant political societies. For many analysts, the first significant event of the Iranian Revolution was the furore surrounding several nights of poetry readings at Tehran University in 1977, which led to demonstrations, repression, and the closing of the Tehran Bazaar in protest. For others, the revolution really began on 8 January 1978, when the government printed an article attacking Ayatollah Khomeini, who was exiled in Iraq. Religious students in Qom rioted in protest, and the Qom bazaaris closed their shops.37 On 9 January, police fired on the crowd, killing some. This began the famous 40-day protest cycle that first propelled the Iranian Revolution. Demonstrators would protest or riot, bringing on government repression and deaths. After a 40-day mourning period, according to Shi’a tradition, there would be a day of commemoration (Arbayeen). This would turn into a further protest that the police or army would repress, causing more deaths and another round of protests 40 days later. On 18 February came the end of the 40-day mourning period for the 263

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Qom protests, which led to demonstrations in many cities. They turned into a riot in Tabriz, where protesters attacked banks, cinemas, and hotels. Soldiers took part in the repression, and several protesters were killed. On 27 March–3 April, the mourning period ended for the Tabriz deaths and protesters were killed in several cities. These were not the only events, of course; there were pro-government rallies, attacks by pro-government thugs and arrests of dissidents, an attack by protesters on the East German Embassy, and claims of foreign conspiracies. By the summer, events began moving faster. There were major Arbayeen protests on 6–7 May and 17 June, but there were other significant demonstrations in between. On 9–10 May, there was rioting in 34 cities and serious unrest on the campus of Tehran University at several points.38 One of the major differences between the successful Arab Spring uprisings and the Iranian one is the speed with which the leaderships were removed. What took a year in Iran took less than a month in Tunisia and Egypt. This partly explains why the Iranian Revolution became more radicalized. In the successful Arab Spring revolts, the military refused to repress the protesters early on, creating a sharp and immediate crisis. In Iran, the military was willing to use enough violence to disperse protesters at a particular demonstration but unwilling or unable to use enough force to frighten them into compliance. There also seems to have been no attempt by the protesters to capture and hold a large public space, causing an ongoing crisis that must be resolved – as with Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Instead, there was a creeping progression of protests that brought in more groups over time, encouraging radicals to expand their demands and radicalizing the population as the regime responded to protests with violence. Finally, the situation gave Khomeini, who was safely abroad, the opportunity to speak against the government without fear of reprisal and increase his visibility and support. The revolutionary opposition was never monolithic; there were many opposition leaders, particularly religious ones. Prior to the revolution, Khomeini had been neither the most senior nor the most respected among the ayatollahs in Iran. But living abroad and not being responsible for managing the situation on the ground, he was becoming the most visible and outspoken member of the opposition. Khomeini’s statements 264

Iran: A Sultanistic Military in exile, particularly during the mobilization against the Shah, espoused anti-imperialism and calls for social justice within an Islamic moral framework, but did not call for anything like the dictatorship eventually imposed. His statements abroad suggested an Islamic government would guarantee political freedom and ‘even Marxists would be free to express themselves.’39 According to Milani, he was able to present himself as a democrat because few people had access to his earlier statements or knew what he stood for: Selective public amnesia, prodded by a masterful publicrelations campaign  – including the audacious claim that his profile had appeared on the moon – made of him an ambiguous symbol, a tabula rasa, allowing each element of the radically disparate coalition against the Shah to see him not for what he was, but for what they dreamt he would be – for some a pious reincarnation of Mossadeq; for others, a Kerensky who would pave the way for their planned Bolshevik revolution.40

There were constant calls to ‘Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic!’ but those were contested terms with different meanings for different groups. Most viewed the idea of ‘Islamic Republic’ as a call for justice and faith in opposition to the Shah’s monarchy, not a particular form of government.41 Few had heard of or read Khomeini’s key essay ‘Islamic Government,’ in which he dismisses the idea of liberal democracy and lays out his vision of a society ruled by experts in Islamic law.42 It is true, however, that even without Khomeini’s Islamism the Iranian uprising would have been more radical than most of the Arab Spring protests. Iran’s protests showed a strong strain of anti-imperialism that was absent from the loudest rhetoric of the Arab Spring. Socialism and communism were also stronger ideologies at the time, though the Arab Spring revolts had their own calls for social and economic justice. This does not make the Iranian uprising essentially radical, though. It was an alliance of disparate groups and ideologies that was eventually captured by Khomeini’s radical movement. The most compelling accounts describe the Iranian Revolution as a ‘revolutionary struggle […] largely carried out by a coalition of classes and political groups, each mobilized by separate interests and conflicts.’43 The bazaaris, ulama, 265

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring liberals, communists, workers, and poor all had interests that coincided in opposition to the person of the Shah, and their mobilization activities worked together to end his rule. As the revolution wore on, Khomeini attracted the support of many other groups that wanted to attach themselves to his revolutionary legitimacy and form a united front. Because of his pro-democratic statements, liberals expected Khomeini to serve as a relatively moderate figurehead to help transition Iran to a more democratic society, while communists and other radicals hoped to use him to gain power and then sideline Khomeini and the clerics, whom they viewed as backwards. It was only after the fall of the Shah and the collapse of the army that Khomeini revealed the full extent of his ambitions and programme. The Shah responded to the ongoing protests by alternating liberalization and repression, though he was apparently unwilling to order massive violence.44 Many discussions of the Iranian Revolution argue the regime might have survived with more decisive repression, and suggest the Shah’s habit of alternating repression and concessions emboldened the opposition. Misagh Parsa argues that the Shah might have been able to shut down the protests with enough force early on.45 Barany argues that, even into autumn 1978, the protests could have been put down with minimal force; however, the Shah was reluctant to use the full force of his army on the protesters.46 Some of his advisors suggested a violent crackdown, but even in May 1978 other leaders were not sure the military could be trusted to carry it out.47 Like many dictators, the Shah was unaware of how unpopular he was. He also has the reputation of being indecisive in a crisis, and was convinced that the opposition against him was a Western plot.48 Barany places much of the blame for the Shah’s indecision on his illness. He was dying of cancer at the time of the uprising and became ‘increasingly lethargic and withdrawn as his disease progressed.’49 The confused messages coming from the Americans did not help either. The Shah was always nervous about American reactions and constantly looking to the US for signals, but the US National Security Advisor wanted him to crack down, the State Department wanted him to liberalize, and the US Ambassador used the vacuum of authority to make his own policy, which was undercut by his own ignorance about Iran.50 266

Iran: A Sultanistic Military Charles Kurzman disagrees that indecision was a major issue. He argues that the Shah’s alternation of concessions and repression was a valid strategy, and that the military did engage in significant repression.51 As shown above, the 40-day cycle of protests involved significant repression of individual demonstrations. Rather than indecision and concessions emboldening the protesters, as suggested by many, Kurzman argues repression increased the protests, and ‘after each atrocity the revolution lurched forward.’52 Activists used the violence to their advantage. They purposely provoked repression from security forces and played up numbers of casualties to anger and mobilize the population; demonstrators fraternized with troops at protests, giving them flowers and putting women in the front lines of protests to influence troops. In the autumn, there were increasing military defections. Protesters and strikers also behaved strategically: protests would disperse when troops arrived, only to return when they had gone. By November, individual protests events had turned into large-scale strikes, ongoing bazaar closures, and general non-compliance with the regime. Initially, the military tried to force strikers back to work, but they would work slowly when the troops were there and immediately stop when they left. Failing that, the military tried to run the industries itself but was unable to do so. Rather than insufficient repression being the determining factor, ‘in Iran in the fall of 1978 there were literally too many protesters to arrest.’53 The 10 December 1978 marches may have been ‘the largest protest event in [world] history.’54 Certainly, the question of why the Shah did not order a massive crackdown is an interesting one and highlights the role of chance and personal qualities in historical events. It is also an open question as to whether massive repression would have worked earlier in the year, as even in May some of the Shah’s generals feared the military would prove unreliable.55 Based on structural factors, including the representativeness and the weak cohesion of the military, this analysis suggests the military would have been unreliable for large-scale, nationwide repression even early in the revolution. It is possible the protests were tenuous and tentative enough early on that concerted effort by loyal units, combined with more extended policing duties by less-reliable units, could have been successful, but it is impossible to know. 267

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring The analysis in this book agrees with Kurzman that the protests had probably become too large by the autumn for the Iranian military to disperse them. It did not have the internal cohesion necessary to do so, even if the Shah had been willing to order it. However, given the military leaders’ distinct interest and subordination to the Shah, this book is also interested in why the military did not respond to the deteriorating situation by overthrowing the Shah, rather than attempting to use massive force to defend him. It argues that, as in the Tunisian case, a fully professional military would probably have chosen to act against the Shah early in the autumn, if not beforehand, to save the State and its own interests. Based on the weak internal structure of the Iranian military, it is unlikely the generals would have been able to organize a coup, but it is very curious that they do not seem to have even discussed it. The literature on the Iranian Revolution surprisingly contains almost no mention of military leaders discussing overthrowing the Shah. There were rumblings amongst the generals in December 1978 that ‘such a crisis “would have never happened under Reza Shah [the Shah’s father]”,’ and the Americans tried to get military leaders to negotiate directly with the opposition.56 It was probably too late by December: the revolutionaries had the upper hand and the military had already engaged in significant repression, so it is unlikely that talks would have succeeded. However, it is also unclear that there were ever real discussions amongst the generals about overthrowing the Shah to save their own lives and positions. In fact, most discussions about possible coups described in the histories refer to later talks between military leaders and the US about launching a coup against the interim government in January or February of 1979 to reinstall the Shah.57 It is true that top generals feared for their personal positions if the Shah fell; his system had allowed many to get rich, and they must have feared that a change in that system would be bad for them personally. However, military leaders should have recognized that it was in their collective interest to save the military, even if they could not save the Shah. This book focuses on structures, which in the Iranian case suggest the generals should have at least considered overthrowing the Shah. But perceptions also matter, and it is possible that the widespread view that the military was more a tool of the Shah than an honorable national institution58 meant that generals feared the people would not have accepted a 268

Iran: A Sultanistic Military military-led transition in the autumn of 1978. On the other hand, it is possible that overthrowing the Shah would have rehabilitated the military’s image. Perhaps the generals were so used to operating at the whim of the Shah and being set in competition against one another that they could not join together to act against him – or even see that it was in their collective interest to do so. Also, ‘unlike many other Middle Eastern armed forces, the Iranian professional military [had] little tradition or experience in initiating anti-regime coups.’59 There was also no clear ‘Tahrir Square moment’, when protesters captured and camped in a large public space, forcing the kind of brutal, public choice between massive repression and coup that the Egyptian military later faced. Instead, the uprising comprised a series of more disparate events and included large marches interspersed with times of reduced activity. As the protests grew in the autumn and winter of 1978, the army began to weaken. Some officers argued for massive repression, while others tried to keep their soldiers away from the protests for fear they would defect. Some dissident officers actually wanted their troops on the streets, hoping that would lead them to defect. Protesters tried to get the soldiers on their side and encouraged desertions, and there were instances of ‘large scale insubordination’ when soldiers refused to fire on demonstrators.60 In isolated cases in the autumn, soldiers were executed for refusing to fire on protesters, and some defected and attacked their former comrades or killed their officers. These were small movements at first, but pointed to a real problem if the military had to take drastic action in the autumn. By December, 1,000 troops a day were defecting, and by January whole units were deserting.61 Had the generals been able to overthrow the Shah earlier in the process, perhaps putting his young son on the throne in a constitutional monarchy, they might have protected their lives and at least some of their power. However, the military’s weak internal structure not only made a successful coup or repression unlikely, it possibly rendered the generals unable to agree on what was in their collective interest. A fire at a cinema in the city of Abadan on 20 August 1978 killed over 400 people. It was started by Islamists, but the opposition blamed government provocateurs. This resulted in more rioting and further suppression by the army. Days later, the Shah chose a new prime minister who 269

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring began offering massive concessions, even arresting some of the Shah’s own generals. Ayatollah Shariat-Madari, a moderate clerical leader, demanded parliamentary elections, while 200,000 demonstrators marched on 4 September calling for Ayatollah Khomeini to be made head of state.62 On 8 September 1978, the Shah and his cabinet declared martial law. The same day, soldiers fired on protesters in Zhaleh Square in Tehran, possibly after provocation by ‘professional agitators trained in Libya and Palestine.’63 The opposition called it ‘Black Friday’ and claimed thousands were killed, though it was almost certainly less than 500 and might have been only dozens. This was a major instance of activists using government violence to their own advantage by exaggerating casualty figures. In response, the government reprimanded the military for the deaths, probably damaging military morale. After that, ‘many officers ordered their soldiers to withdraw rather than to engage protesters, fearing further reprisals from their superiors.’64 Following the Black Friday killings, protests increased in size and frequency and brought in more groups. In particular, oil and industrial workers began staging strikes that crippled the economy. The protests and strikes increased throughout autumn 1978, and the Shah’s vacillation and the military’s inability to suppress the protests revealed a weakening regime. In November, the Shah finally called for a military government to take over. He was apparently planning to choose a general nicknamed the ‘Butcher of Tehran’, but the British and Americans pressured him to appoint someone less brutal.65 It was probably too late for massive repression, but this once again showed how dependent the Shah was on the US and how the latter, despite having influence, was unable to shape the outcome in its favor. People feared the Shah would allow his new prime minster to unleash the full force of the military to restore order, but the Shah continued to try to bargain and did not order a full use of military force.66 Still unable to calm the situation, in December the Shah changed course and appointed a prime minister from Mossadeq’s old National Front, Shapour Bakhtiar, to head a government of national reconciliation on the condition the Shah would leave the country. By then, the Americans, key advisors, and probably the Shah himself wanted him to leave, hoping it would calm things.67 The opposition denounced the new government, and Khomeini formed a Council of the Islamic Revolution as 270

Iran: A Sultanistic Military a shadow government, calling on civil servants not to obey the new prime minister. The Shah left, supposedly for a vacation, on 16 January 1979, but most knew this was the end of his dynasty. He was not able to find a permanent place to live abroad, and died in July 1980 of the cancer that had been killing him during the revolution. After some delay and negotiation, Khomeini was allowed to return to the country on 1 February 1979. Millions took to the streets to welcome his return. He immediately demanded the new Prime Minister resign and, days later, chose Mehdi Bazargan as the prime minister for a provisional government full of moderates and intellectuals. Khomeini remained as unofficial guide, but was actually the real power. The Shah had apparently thought his generals would work together to support Bakhtiar and protect the system so that he could one day return. However, his divide-andrule policy over the military made it impossible for his generals to work together. The military also had no loyalty to Bakhtiar, and the generals were unable to muster the will or control of their troops to bolster him against the elated public and revolutionary groups. There was discussion of a coup against Bakhtiar, but the military could not muster the unity required and did not believe it could control the population.68 Upon Khomeini’s return, demonstrations continued and revolutionary groups began attacking soldiers. Many soldiers joined the protests and those that did not returned to barracks, many fearing for their lives. After a final attempt by the Shah’s Imperial Guard to suppress an uprising by air force cadets, the army’s ability to act on behalf of the regime – or even itself – was crippled. The army declared neutrality and support for the people ‘and their demands’, and officially returned to its barracks.69

The Revolution Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe C. Schmitter call the high point of an uprising the ‘popular upsurge.’ It is a ‘euphoric moment’ when the all the active members of society are unified in action and purpose and can ignore their differences.70 But while at that moment they may all agree the government must fall, they disagree on what should follow. In any revolt, it is important to distinguish between uprising and transition. The uprising is when the 271

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring various social groups come together to overthrow the leader. The transition is what follows, when former allies fight over the design of the new system – and revolution, authoritarian resurgence, democratization, or fragmentation are possible. In Iran, the competing groups included liberals, nationalists, socialists, communists, Islamists, and regional-autonomy movements – all containing multiple factions. Both Parsa and Nikki Keddie argue that liberal and leftist groups never had the organization or support necessary to become leaders of the Iranian Revolution.71 This is certainly plausible, though the moderate groups might have had greater influence in a more peaceful transition overseen by the military, as in Tunisia. Even if the Islamists stayed the most popular group during the transition, had the military remained intact it would have prevented the radicals from taking full control, as happened in Egypt. But the collapse of the military created a vacuum of security and authority that allowed the group that was best organized, and best organized for violence, to capture the State. Instead of a democratic transition, or a military regime, Iranians got the repressive Islamic Revolution. After the Shah left and Khomeini returned, the revolution was no longer a two-sided conflict between regime and opposition, but a manysided struggle between various forces attempting to control the transition, many with violence. The battle between the Shah’s Imperial Guard and a group of air force cadets turned into a national confrontation, with thousands rushing to join the cadets and rebellious military units seizing weapons. Islamist and communist militias seized military garrisons and killed officers. At the same time, followers of Khomeini began to take control of state functions in many cities. When the military retreated, fighting continued between various revolutionary factions and remnants of the old regime. Marxist forces briefly seized the US Embassy before being driven out by armed Khomeini allies.72 Khomeini’s radical allies had gained control of the mosque network during the year of protests in 1978. It is important to note that most Iranian ulama were not radical prior to the revolution, and most senior clerics did not support Khomeini’s unorthodox views about the rule of the clergy. Nor were the mosques particularly radical. Kurzman shows that the mosques had been open to repression by the regime, and this had made most of 272

Iran: A Sultanistic Military their leaders fearful of protests. The year of mobilization in 1978 allowed radical members of the opposition and the young clergy to push the religious networks to be more radical. The mosque network ‘had to be commandeered before it could be mobilized.’73 This cut off the mosques as a tool for organization by other groups, allowed Khomeini’s allies to sideline more moderate ayatollahs, and served as a base from which to organize and indoctrinate radicals to fight for the new regime. When Khomeini returned from abroad, the newly empowered radicals used the mosque and religious networks to organized revolutionary courts and police and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Afshon Ostovar argues that the IRGC grew out of a long tradition in Shi’a religious organization of gangs associated with clerics: ‘These pressure groups could advocate for their cleric, his rulings, help collect his taxes, or even act in his honor.’74 Such alliances between gangs and Shi’a clerics had been associated with political upheaval in Iran throughout the twentieth century. The IRGC represented a combination of many of these groups, as the mosque network was captured and mobilized and more clerics and their followers aligned with Khomeini. These disparate groups were given official recognition by Khomeini as the IRGC, which allowed them to operate under a single banner and eventually form into a single organization. As such ‘The IRGC became the superstructure by which the impulse of pro-clerical activism was harnessed.’75 With the military and police absent, the newly formed IRGC made themselves responsible for overseeing the revolution – policing neighborhoods and attitudes, and prosecuting supporters of the old regime and ‘enemies of the revolution.’ The courts practised ‘revolutionary justice’, which did not require much in the way of evidence or procedure, and often ended in summary execution. When former allied groups, like liberal students and bazaaris, protested against the actions of the interim government and the developing Khomeini regime, Khomeini supporters attacked them and dispersed their protests. The latter formed the Islamic Republican Party (IRP), which the liberal opposition called ‘the party of club-wielders.’76 They also gained control of the media to push the Khomeini line and ignored the complaints of other groups.77 The industrial and oil workers, who had been so important to the uprising, 273

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring tried to organize to improve their working conditions and salaries. These challenges were championed by leftists, but were eventually put down with violence by the Revolutionary Guards and with new laws restricting strikes and mobilization. New Islamic Associations were formed to replace the unions and contain workers’ political activity.78 The revolutionary courts purged the military, mostly through retirements but there were also a significant number of executions. They then reconstituted the military as a tool of the new regime. Clergy were assigned to monitor troops; soldiers with revolutionary credentials were promoted; and previous leaders were retired, killed, or went into exile.79 Initially, the Revolutionary Guards were only supposed to take on an internal security role, leaving the military to concentrate on external defense, but soon the military was helping the IRGC put down autonomy movements in Iranian Kurdistan, the Turkoman region, and among the Arabs of Khuzestan.80 The IRGC was also essential for the war of mobilization and assassination that developed between revolutionary groups. At first, the communist Tudeh Party aligned with the Khomeini faction, hoping to use it to defeat the liberals and then take control from the clerics, whom they regarded as backwards.81 Instead, the Khomeini faction used the communists’ help to defeat the liberals and then turned on them. The Marxist-Islamist group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) also initially aligned with the Khomeini faction, but eventually fell out over the direction of the revolution. Both rivals were defeated in a violent war of assassination and street fighting by the IRGC and allied groups. The MEK survived by fleeing into Iraq and continues as an active terrorist group against the Islamic Republic. By most accounts, the hostage crisis at the US Embassy from 1979–81 was as much a result of this conflict between Islamists, liberals, and communists as an attack on the US. The moderate provisional government retained ties with the US, which initially hoped to be able to do business with the new Iranian regime. Khomeini had claimed to be a democrat and said he sought no position in government, and the moderates and liberals in the provisional government knew that they needed US support because of the number of American technicians in the oil industry, to keep the military’s American equipment in order, and to limit Soviet influence. Khomeini’s more radical supporters feared the US was plotting with the moderates 274

Iran: A Sultanistic Military to capture or overturn the revolution, and that the window was closing to make the radical changes they envisioned. To add to their suspicion, the provisional government met with the US in Algeria, and the US allowed the dying Shah to travel to New York for medical treatment. A group of students, encouraged by the Revolutionary Guard, planned to storm the US Embassy, make a statement denouncing American influence, and demand the return of the Shah. They hoped that, between whatever they found in the embassy and Khomeini’s support, the liberals would be discredited and the Islamists would take full control. They also wanted to do it quickly for fear that the communists would beat them to it. Most assumed that they would be there for a few hours until the government kicked them out, but that it would give them enough time to tip the scales away from the liberals and towards Khomeini.82 It worked better than they could have hoped. The provisional prime minister, Bazargan, wanted to immediately expel the intruders, but Khomeini refused and Bazargan resigned. It became more than the revolutionaries had bargained for, however, when no one came to remove them and they became responsible for holding American hostages for 444 days in the full glare of the international media. This led to a still-unrepaired break with the US that further radicalized the revolution. Combined with the invasion by Iraq, turning the US from a dubious ally to a firm enemy increased the power of the revolutionary government by ensuring there was always an enemy to fight and good reason for state surveillance and repression. The ongoing crisis also deflected attention from political conflicts over the constitution, which Khomeini’s allies were able to dominate.83 The new constitution included provision for a supreme religious guide to oversee the government – an innovation that was not openly discussed during the uprising and which most other ayatollahs would not agree was appropriate. This book argues that the collapse of the military was the key cause of the Iranian Revolution’s radical turn. The power vacuum created by the army’s collapse left the State and society unprotected, and, unlike in Tunisia or Egypt, it could not serve as a moderating or conservative influence that might have allowed for democratization, or at least protected the bulk of the regime institutions and social structure with a military coup. Instead, revolutionary groups fought for control of the streets and the State until 275

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring Khomeini’s faction eventually won and instituted a utopian, revolutionary project. Clerics and their allied enforcers became ubiquitous in public life. They closed the universities for two years, purged ‘undesirable’ professors and students, and rewrote the curriculums. They segregated the sexes in many areas of life and instituted strict codes of dress and behavior. Allies of the IRP took control of the bazaari guilds and demobilized that group. Old-regime elites, the rich, and many liberals fled or were imprisoned or executed, and clerics took control of the bureaucracy and much of the economy. Finally, the purges and reorganization of the military tamed it and neutered it as a potential counterweight to the revolutionaries. Iran’s sultanistic military could not act as a coherent unit either for or against the Shah, to save the regime, the State, or even itself. In the end, what might have been a democratic transition turned into the long, transformative, Islamic Revolution.

The Revolutionary Guards and the Islamic Revolution The Islamic Republic of Iran was created with the power of Ayatollah Khomeini in mind. He was instituted as Supreme Leader under a system of velayat-e faqih, or ‘governance of the jurist.’ The Supreme Leader is chosen, and supposedly overseen, by the Assembly of Experts – but, in practice, he exercises dominant control. There is an elected Majlis and president; initially, there was also a prime minister. Additionally, there is a Guardian Council that can vet candidates for elected office and various other courts and councils. The presidential and Majlis elections have real consequences and are sometimes hotly contested, but the Supreme Leader is dominant over the system and sets its limits and direction. Under Khomeini, this institutional power was augmented by his personal charisma and revolutionary legitimacy His successor, Ali Khamenei, is more reliant on institutional powers, the balancing of forces, and the accrued power of almost 30 years in office. The IRGC was formed during the revolution, became a large and formidable organization during the Iran–Iraq war from 1980 to 1988, and became an intensely political institution in the period afterwards. Because 276

Iran: A Sultanistic Military its revolutionary regime appeared weak, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980 and was initially able to take some territory. Costly human-wave attacks, undertaken by the IRGC and its Basiji militia, helped to drive the Iraqi troops out of Iran, though they were not able to overthrow Hussein and the war ended in a mutually destructive stalemate. Their central role in the conflict and the massive numbers required for their human-wave tactics turned the IRGC into a formidable organization with many members, institutional power, and revolutionary legitimacy. After Khomeini’s death in 1989, Ali Khamenei was chosen as supreme leader. He did not have Khomeini’s charisma or scholarly reputation, so he had to compete for influence with other powerful figures, like President Ali Rafsanjani (1989–97) and, later, the reformist president, Mohammad Khatami (1997–2005). Under Khatami, the IRGC significantly enhanced its political role. Khatami was viewed as a moderate and tried to liberalize the Iranian system, with more freedom in the religious and political sphere and greater openness to the international community. Khamenei and the IRGC viewed this as a threat to their more conservative vision and the future of the velayat-e faqih system. In this environment, the Basiji and IRGC were allowed to use violence to break up protests, shut down newspapers, and intimidate and assassinate politicians. This led to an increase in conservative power and disillusionment among moderates. The IRGC became a full member of the regime when one of its veterans was elected president in 2005: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was said to be particularly popular with the Basiji. Under this system, the IRGC became a fully formed second military, ‘tasked with both the defense of Iran and the much more amorphous safeguarding of Iran’s theocratic system.’84 Iran’s regular military has an estimated 350,000 troops, and the IRGC has around 125,000, with ground, naval, and air forces parallel to the regular military. The IRGC controls the country’s strategic-missile forces and its nuclear programme – as well as the Quds force, which is tasked with spreading the Islamic revolution and supporting foreign groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. It also oversees the paramilitary Basiji militia, which numbers perhaps 4 million and serves as a means of indoctrination, a morality police, and a force for suppressing protests. Additionally, the IRGC has massive business interests, with 277

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring control over several corporations and bonyads, the large Islamic charities that control wide swaths of the Iranian economy. The IRGC may, in fact, control from 25 to 35 percent of the economy.85 It also runs ports and border crossings, making a great deal of money from illicit trade. It has its own schools and academies, and Basiji programmes in towns, universities and other institutions throughout the country.86 The Basiji is a completely volunteer force. It is a large and lightly armed militia, and so useful for violent crowd suppression, guerilla warfare, or massed infantry assaults, but probably unable to fight a widespread uprising without the help of the better-equipped and trained IRGC. On the other hand, the IRGC is mostly made up of conscripts. While most US experts felt ‘that the high command of the IRGC would execute any orders to carry out internal security missions and that most units would obey orders’,87 the presence of a large number of conscripts always leaves room for doubt. Meanwhile, the soldiers of the regular army are largely conscripts, who serve bleak tours away from the capital, ‘a twenty-month waste of time, so pointless that in the barracks […] “some grown men [cry] at night”.’88 The regular military has historically been stationed near the border with Iraq, focuses primarily on external defense, and there is evidence that it has resisted orders to engage in internal repression in the past.89 The IRGC is extremely powerful but not yet dominant in the regime, though some analysts argue it will probably become so once Khamenei dies and must be replaced with an IRGC-approved candidate.90 Active and retired Basiji and Guards are key figures throughout the regime, and Abbas Milani argues there is an understudied habit of intermarriage within the Iranian elite, ‘an almost incestuous web of interlocking families in the regime’s upper reaches.’91 On the other hand, Ostovar argues that the IRGC is dependent for its role on the existence of the revolutionary regime and the leader, and it cannot take on a clearly leading role without damaging the ideological justification for its position: ‘The place of the leader in Iran’s Islamic system is the life force of the IRGC, and without it the organization would not have the legitimacy, status, or the pretensions of spiritual orthodoxy that it does today.’92 The current Iranian military continues to have ‘high representativeness’, because for the most part all social groups can take part in it – even in 278

Iran: A Sultanistic Military the IRGC, which is overwhelmingly made up of conscripts from the same national pool as the regular military.93 However, key parts of the military have ‘low distinctiveness’ because the IRGC has such close connections to the leadership and is dependent on the existence of the revolutionary regime. It has growing power and is approaching ‘moderate subordination’ because it is a key player in the regime and can make significant demands, including independently shutting down the new Imam Khomeini Airport in 2004 in opposition to a Turkish company being awarded the management contract.94 It has at best ‘moderate bureaucratization’, primarily in the regular military. It has ‘low cohesiveness’ because there are two parallel, fully armed militaries. It has ‘moderate external focus’ because the IRGC has both internal and external defense duties and business interests, but the regular military is externally focused. And it has ‘moderate expertise’ because it has pockets of excellence, but it is not particularly well equipped and the regular military is neglected. This gives the military ‘Low Distinctiveness & Subordination’ and ‘Weak Internal Structure’. Based on the Arab Spring cases, it should have had trouble suppressing the 2009 Green Movement protests. However, despite their large size, these protests never took control of a large public space, and the Basiji and IRGC were able to eventually contain them with violence and ongoing repression. This is because, even though factionalized militaries are prone to split, they are able to contain protests if they are small enough or concentrated enough in space and time for them to be suppressed by loyal forces alone.

The 2009 Green Movement The 2005 presidential elections, which brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, were marked by disillusionment by liberals and young people. Conservative resistance to the reformist President Khatami and the Guardian Council’s mass exclusion of reformist candidates led many to abstain from the election. By the time of the 2009 presidential election, economic problems, corruption, and international backlash against Ahmadinejad’s confrontational style had made him unpopular, but he still seemed likely to win against a dispirited opposition. However, perhaps inspired by the ‘color revolutions’ in Eastern Europe in preceding years, members of the liberal opposition tried 279

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring to re-energize the movement by adopting reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, prominently displaying the color green as a public signal of opposition and solidarity, and trying to drive up turnout.95 A surprisingly heated televised debate; a public outpouring of support; the prevalence of the color green on the street and people’s clothing; and the high, 85 percent turnout signaled to the opposition that they were likely to win. However, on election night early election returns showed Ahmadinejad the winner with an unbelievable 64 percent of the vote, and protesters took to the streets. The vote tallies were not credible to the opposition. The final result came out hours after polls closed instead of the next day, which was usual. Major irregularities were reported, including extra ballots and ballot stamps being ordered; there were shifts in voting patterns from previous elections that seemed impossible; the vote percentages were strangely consistent across regions; and the totals in minority-ethnic regions lay outside any sense or historical experience.96 An Interior Ministry employee who spoke to the New York Times claims, ‘They didn’t rig the vote […] They didn’t even look at the vote. They just wrote the name and put the number in front of it.’97 In addition, Khamenei had signaled Ahmadinejad was his choice; the Revolutionary Guard had been preparing for a ‘velvet revolution;’ and, prior to the vote announcement, the Guard had made a fortress of the Ministry of Interior where the ballots would be counted,98 and thousands of Basiji militiamen were mobilized to prevent any protests. ‘The blanket repression that followed was shocking in its scope, breadth, and its intensity.’99 On election night, Friday 12 June 2009, police and Basiji used tear gas to disperse Mousavi supporters who were demonstrating outside his campaign office and beat protesters on the street. The next day, marchers were attacked by pairs of Basiji on motorcycles, the passengers wielding truncheons. Security forces of every stripe beat demonstrators, collected licence plates, broke into apartment buildings to chase protesters, and worked to prevent any gatherings. According to Scott Peterson, who was in Tehran to cover the election, ‘Clashes and rioting continued into the night, blanketing entire districts in an acrid pall of black smoke.’100 Crowds fought back and protests occurred in other cities as well. On Monday, hundreds of thousands of people performed a massive, silent march into downtown 280

Iran: A Sultanistic Military Tehran’s Freedom Square. It was the largest demonstration in Iran since the 1979 revolution and bigger than anyone expected, such that the outnumbered security forces had to let it pass.101 But later that afternoon, the demonstrations became more violent as seven protesters were shot outside a Basiji facility, which the crowd then set on fire. Protests continued for several days, most marked by violence. Ahmadinejad supporters held a counter-rally on Tuesday, but could not match the Green Movement’s numbers. As demonstrations continued throughout the first week, the government agreed to a limited recount – but protest did not abate. Ayatollah Khamenei made the government’s position clear at the following Friday’s national prayer service when he denounced the protests and endorsed Ahmadinejad’s election. Khamenei said that the high turnout and Ahmadinejad’s large victory proved the results were democratic and fair. He blamed protests on foreign powers, said the opposition was challenging democracy, and warned demonstrators to desist.102 In defiance, the opposition staged a large march the next day, which was met with heavy repression. Basiji were given free rein to attack ‘enemies of the revolution’, which included the poor and middle class, the overtly religious and more Westernized. ‘On that day, basijis turned their fellow Iranian citizens into the equivalent of infidel enemies by rousing themselves up for battle with the chant: “Death to the opponents of velayat-e faqih!” ’103 The Green Movement protests were, in some ways, a preview of the Arab Spring. Social media helped to organize and mobilize people during the electoral campaign and the protests, and played a significant role in connecting the protesters to the outside world. Especially compelling was a camera-phone video showing the death of young female protester, Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot by a Basiji militiaman during the Saturday 20 June protests. Western regimes had little leverage or influence in Iran, and were often cautious about publicly siding with the protesters for fear of bolstering regime claims that the protests were foreign-inspired. However, the social-media campaign gained the protesters a great deal of international sympathy. The regime was aggressive about shutting down internet and messaging services at various points during the election and the protests, as during the Arab Spring, and some of the tools it developed 281

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring and used in Iran were later shared with the Syrian regime to help with its repression. After that bloody Saturday confrontation, protests continued for a few days and, in some cases, radicalized. People burned posters of Khamenei and protests began against the regime itself, rather than just the election. Protests dwindled under heavy repression until they comprised only a few, final stalwarts vastly outnumbered by security forces. Protests largely stopped after two weeks, though at various times the movement reemerged. Government repression continued through the following year, ‘[a]nd, just as the magnitude of the street protests had taken everyone by surprise, so did the brutality of the violent crackdown that followed.’104 There were occasional, large protests by the Green Movement on important dates, but the regime was usually ready with massive force to either preempt or contain them. The regime placed key figures like Mousavi under house arrest, and engaged in a widespread campaign of detentions, show trials, and torture that eventually blunted the protests. Many commenters argue that the Green Movement was not a revolution to overthrow the government but a reformist movement to transform the system from within that became a protest against a stolen election, and which has since transformed into a civil-rights movement. As a result, it should not be deemed a failure. Instead, it was an ideological victory and the beginning of a democratic movement in Iran.105 This could very well be true, but the more immediate question posed by this book is how military structure will predict the outcome of uprisings, and on that score the Iranian regime proved able and willing to engage in massive repression to stop peaceful protests, even with a factionalized military. The IRGC and the Basiji, because of their strong connections to the regime, were willing to engage in violent repression of large-scale protests in Tehran and elsewhere and ultimately defeat them. If they have sufficient numbers of loyal troops or the protests are geographically contained, even factionalized militaries can engage in significant repression and potentially stop protests before they spread. The protesters’ strategy also matters. The Green Movement was prior to the Arab Spring, and its protesters did not appear to attempt the ‘Tahrir model’ of capturing and holding a large public space, creating an ongoing crisis that requires massive 282

Iran: A Sultanistic Military and visible repression of peaceful protesters. It seems possible that this could have been tried during the 15 June silent march to Freedom Square, but it is impossible to know. In the aftermath of the protests, the regime became even more repressive and remains in control. A reformist president, Hassan Rouhani, was allowed to win the 2013 election to replace Ahmadinejad, reducing some of the tension in the system. He was re-elected in 2017, but one commentator, Mahsa Rouhi, suggest that this outcome was in the regime’s best interests because it will maintain some continuity in government and keep reformists engaged with the system and willing to vote, rather than taking their frustrations onto the streets.106 A long-term transition might be under way, but in the near term the regime maintains control. However, given Iran’s factionalized military structure, this analysis suggests the regime is vulnerable to future uprisings and breakdown. The IRGC is heavily invested in the regime and may have become even more central to it after the 2009 elections and crackdown.107 Some commentators believe that the IRGC has become a dominant, ‘praetorian’ military that could abandon or overthrow Khamenei to save the revolutionary system and its own position.108 Ostovar argues this is unlikely. He claims the relationship with the leader is central to IRGC identity, and replacing him, even to save the regime, would mean calling into question the whole nature of the velayat-e faqih and the IRGC’s place in the system.109 The structural features this book uses suggest the IRGC will defend the revolutionary regime no matter what. The regular military, on the other hand, is separate from the IRGC and oriented towards external defense. It has no strong investment in the survival of the revolution – nor is it particularly tied to, or dependent on, the regime leadership. Whether there will be another Green Movement-style uprising is unclear, but if protesters rise up against the regime again and the IRGC tries and fails to repress them, it is unlikely the regular military will help. From there, it is possible the military will split, opening the country up to civil war. This would open up a dangerous situation in a large and volatile country. The author heartily supports the democracy movement in Iran, but the analysis in this book suggests that, as under the Shah’s regime, the Iranian military is more fragile than it appears, which should possibly inform the strategy of any future protesters. 283

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring

Conclusion Iran is included in this book to fill out the argument, and the logic of the framework, by showing an outcome that did not occur during the Arab Spring: a military collapse that led to a utopian revolution. It also briefly discussed the 2009 Green Movement as a case of successful repression by a factionalized military. The Iranian military under the Shah was a representative institution, and while its generals were strong beneficiaries of the regime they were fully subordinate to the Shah and mostly had different interests from him. This meant that when faced with massive popular uprisings, it should have been in their collective interest to overthrow the Shah, perhaps installing his young son and overseeing a transition to a new regime that would protect their interests, or at least their lives. But because the Shah had so damaged military cohesiveness with his intrusive, sultanistic rule, the military could neither muster the unity to overthrow him nor engage in the massive repression necessary to defend his throne. And because it was not broken into ethnic enclaves, when the military failed, it did not split into competing factions but totally collapsed. This left a security vacuum in the transition period that was filled by competing, radical groups. The conflict was won by Khomeini and his allies, who instituted the radical Islamic Revolution. That government created Iran’s current, factionalized military structure, which was sufficient to suppress the 2009 Green Movement, but may prove weak in the future if widespread protests overwhelm the IRGC’s ability to suppress them and they have to call on the regular military. The regular military is less tied to the survival of the revolutionary regime and may choose to abandon it or defend the people, leading to civil war.



This book has shown how military structure, properly construed, can go a long way towards predicting outcomes of popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes. In order to demonstrate this, the book has presented a streamlined way to categorize military structure. Looking at the civil– military relations literature, it identified seven key features for judging the professionalization of a military: ‘Representativeness’, ‘Cohesiveness’, ‘Distinctiveness’, ‘Bureaucratization’, ‘Subordination’, ‘Expertise’, and ‘External Focus’. It then looked at the ways in which authoritarian governments, particularly in the Middle East, have undermined those features to protect their rule. This suggested a set of criteria with which to categorize each military feature on a scale of ‘low,’ ‘moderate,’ and ‘high,’ and suggested ways in which these features interact to produce the outcome of popular uprisings. The case studies delved into the history of each case to show how each military structure developed and how each military should be categorized under each feature. Using these measures, each set of military features was judged against the outcomes in two phases: 1) the uprising phase, when the military must decide whether to try to suppress large numbers of peaceful protesters and whether it proves to be successful; and 2) the transition or conflict phase that follows. The findings showed that


Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring in the uprising phase, four features, combined into two broad characteristics of civil–military relations, determined the immediate outcome of the uprising – whether coup, collapse, successful repression, or military split. The ‘Distinctiveness & Subordination’ characteristic combines those two features to measure how close a military is to its regime leadership, and how much it shares interests with the regime. If the military is distinct from the regime leaders, it is in its best interest not to defend the leadership against massive and peaceful popular uprisings. But if key parts of the military are strongly tied to the regime by blood, tribe, sect, or dependence on the regime’s revolutionary ideology and structure, parts of that military will seek to defend the regime even if that means the military as a whole will splinter. The ‘Cohesiveness’ and ‘Bureaucratization’ features combine to measure the strength of the military’s ‘Internal Structure’, which determines how likely it is that that military will be able to hold together under stress and reach its preferred outcome, whatever that is. It may be in the best interests of military officers to abandon and overthrow the regime; however, if a military does not have strong internal cohesion, its officers may not be able to see that doing so is in their collective interest and, even if they do, will probably not have the unity of command necessary to carry out a coup successfully. If parts of the military are tied to the regime but other parts or not, meaning they lack a strong internal structure, loyal troops will defend the regime and others will defect to the opposition, precipitating a military split and potentially civil war. This logic is shown in Table C.1, repeated from Chapter 1:

Table C.1 Military Response to Mass Mobilization Strong Internal Structure

Weak Internal Structure

High Distinctiveness & Subordination

Military Coup Tunisia Egypt

Military Collapse Iran (1979)

Low Distinctiveness & Subordination

Successful Repression Bahrain

Military Split Libya Syria Yemen


Conclusion After the initial uprising, other features determine the outcome. If the regime falls and the country enters a transition, it is necessary – though not sufficient – to have an intact military that is willing to accept democratization. If the military collapses, it is likely that a security vacuum will turn the transition into a competition of street mobilization or militia violence. If there are organized groups willing to use violence, it is possible these can marginalize moderates and capture the State to enact a utopian revolution or cause a fragmentation of authority that leads to state breakdown. If the military remains intact, its balance of external versus internal focus will go a long way towards determining whether there will be democratization. A military with a strong external focus will have few internal interests to protect, and can serve as a relatively honest moderator and check on extremism. However, even the most externally focused military may stage a coup if radicals take control of the transition and challenge the military’s core interests or external commitments.1 If a military is focused internally, it will attempt to hold onto power or manipulate a transition in such a way that its interests are protected. A strong, centrist opposition committed to democracy, with talented politicians and external support, may be able to democratize even if the military is reluctant,2 but an internally focused military will generally try to undermine that transition. If such a military does allow fair elections, it will be quick to take back power if its interests are challenged as a result. This logic is shown in Table C.2, repeated from Chapter 1: Table C.2 Post-breakdown Trajectories I – Overthrow Military Structure



Higher External Focus

Democracy Tunisia

Utopian Revolution Iran (1979)

Low External Focus

Renewed Authoritarianism Egypt

Fragmentation Libya (special case)

If a military splits, some level of conflict is likely to ensue. What happens then is determined by the nature of that conflict, the internal balance of power, and the intervention of outside actors. If a country has many 287

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring enemies and few allies, it is possible the international community will intervene to overthrow the regime, as in Libya. Yemen had many allies – or, at least, patrons – and few enemies, so the international community supported negotiations between its armed elites, which had some success until the former president used his military allies to overturn the bargain. If a government has both powerful allies and powerful enemies, large-scale intervention to overthrow the regime is less likely and it is probable there will be international intervention to defend the regime, as in Syria. In addition, the level of military expertise may affect the intensity of the civil war and the casualty figures. The civil war in Syria is much more destructive than the Yemen or Libya conflicts at least partly because the regime retained control of significant air power, which it has used against civilians. The effects of military expertise on the course of conflicts are not firm conclusions, but suggestive ideas. Countries’ levels of development, urbanization, foreign intervention, and other issues also have a strong impact on the intensity and length of civil wars. The case studies showed how the particular historical conditions, the international environment, social structure, and ruling strategies determined coup-proofing strategies and thus military structure. They then demonstrated how these militaries acted in the face of popular uprisings and the outcomes that followed. Military structure is highly contingent on history and changeable over time, but with a proper means of discerning and combining its constituent features it is possible to distinguish military types and broadly predict military behavior and the outcomes of popular uprisings. This book had five goals: (1) to explain how military structure determined military behavior and the ultimate outcomes of the Arab Spring; (2) to use those insights to create a flexible, analytical approach that can be used to study military behavior across regions and periods; (3) to show how each country in the study developed its distinct military structure and how, in some cases, those structures broke down; (4) to use these insights to offer some insights into the future stability of the Middle East; and 288

Conclusion (5) to present all this in a way that will be useful to experts and accessible to educated non-experts. The author believes the book succeeds on goals 1–3. Chapter 1 lays out the basic features of military professionalism and how Middle Eastern regimes have tried to undermine those qualities. It shows how those features can be measured and combined to determine outcomes in the face of mass popular uprisings and the subsequent transitions or civil wars. Chapters 2–7 look at key Arab Spring cases and explain how each country’s history, colonial experience, social make-up, and regime ruling strategy led to the military structure they had before their uprising, and how that structure led to the uprising’s outcome. Chapter 8 looked at Iran to show some outcomes that are not discussed, or did not occur, in the Arab Spring cases. It showed how the Shah’s sultanistic military collapsed in 1979, allowing for the Islamic Revolution, and how that revolution led to a new, factionalized military structure that was able to put down a popular uprising in 2009. This revealed an important caveat to the Arab Spring cases, which focused on instances in which protests had reached a critical mass that required massive violence to suppress. That is: it is possible for factionalized militaries to suppress large protests if they are geographically concentrated, the loyal parts of the military are large enough, or the protesters are not able to use the Tahrir model of capturing a large public space and daring the military to evict them with force. This leads into some thoughts about goal 4: what this analysis means for the future stability of Middle Eastern regimes. During the Arab Spring, both Algeria and Saudi Arabia were able to block protesters from using the Tahrir model. They monitored the social media where opposition leaders were planning their ‘Days of Rage,’ and on the day of the event they deployed overwhelming police and military force to intimidate protesters and physically prevent them from entering key areas. It also helped that both countries had historically been willing to use violence against protesters and were able to use oil wealth to buy off their populations.3 Morocco and Jordan were able to prevent protests from growing unmanageable because their kings retained support from key social sectors; they were judicious, rather than indiscriminate, in their use of repression; and they made early political concessions, which they 289

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring were able to shape towards their own interests over time.4 Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies also used their oil wealth to subsidize public payouts by their less-fortunate royal allies. So, while these countries were able to prevent massive uprisings or military splits by judiciously using repression and intimidation and pre-emptively giving political or economic concessions, the analysis in this book suggests that they may not always be able to do so. Most of the large countries whose regimes survived the Arab Spring have militaries that are factionalized in some fashion. This suggests that if there is another round of massive public uprisings at a time when oil prices are too low to allow for large payouts, many regimes could fracture. Jordan’s army is factionalized, with most combat units manned by East Bank Jordanians loyal to the king. Palestinian Jordanians, who represent a slight majority of the population, are allowed in the military but focused in the air force and technical positions.5 Such a military could collapse if protests are led by East Bank Jordanians and might split if significant protests are led by Palestinians. Iraq and Lebanon have democratic features and their states are not fully in control of their various militaries, so they do not totally fit with the other countries in this analysis – but they are fragmented societies, with competing militaries and militias. Morocco fragments its military, balancing the regular army with tribes loyal to the king.6 Saudi Arabia – which served as a financial and military bulwark to other, more insecure states during the Arab Spring – is also factionalized. It has serious problems of national unity and integration, and a divided army. The National Guard, which is responsible for much of the country’s internal repression and some external defense, is made up of tribes from the east that are historically loyal to the al-Saud family. The regular army is largely made up of groups from the western Hijaz region, which is less integrated into the regime power structure and less loyal to the al-Saud.7 Saudi Arabia has a sprawling royal family that is able to monitor many parts of the government and security forces, so any defections would probably be more piecemeal, as they were in Syria. However, if in the future Saudi oil revenue proved insufficient to dissuade protesters from taking to the streets in the Hijaz, there is a real danger the Saudi military could splinter. 290

Conclusion Turkey could also be moving down a dangerous path. The Turkish military has historically been a strongly unified institution, prone to coups against the democratically elected government but always institutionally sound. However, after a failed coup in 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has begun to significantly transform civil–military relations in the country. While this could prove a positive if Erdoğan brings the military under firmer civilian control, his personal history suggests this is unlikely. Erdoğan won his 2017 referendum to transform Turkey from a parliamentary regime to a strong, presidential one with himself as leader, and he has historically used his control of the governmental bureaucracy to install party allies and political cronies, damaging its professionalism and competence.8 His early moves suggest he may be doing the same to the military. He has split off its internal policing responsibility and placed it more firmly under civilian control. However, he is also installing officers loyal to him in top positions; pushing those with overt religious education and beliefs to join the historically insular and secular Turkish officer corps; attempting to create competition between service branches; and promoting those with a more Eurasia-focused ideology, rather than a firm commitment to NATO.9 If this proves to be the beginning of more robust civilian control, it will be good for Turkish democracy. If, however, it damages the internal cohesion of the military at the same time that Erdoğan is building a dictatorship, the Turkish military might not retain the necessary internal structure to defend his rule or the State against a future uprising. These are not predictions, they are possibilities based on the framework presented in this book. The book does not predict that there will be another regional uprising like the Arab Spring, though that is certainly possible. It does not attempt to explain everything about the Arab Spring, or to theorize why certain countries experienced massive uprisings and some did not. Given the studies cited in the introductory chapter, it does not seem like anyone has a single compelling explanation for this latter point, but it is possible some analyst will come up with a convincing set of variables to explain the variation. Given the vast differences in social structure between Arab countries, it seems unlikely that such an analysis will be able to explain both mobilization and outcomes, however. As such, 291

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring this study will remain a compelling explanation for how massive popular protests and military structures combined to lead to coup, successful repression, military collapse, or military split and then the later outcomes of political transitions or civil war. This book also focuses on cases in which a military is a key part of a regime rather than where it dominates that regime, as it does in Algeria. The logic of the framework, as presented, suggests that a military that dominates its regime should almost always be willing to use violence to defend it. But this has not always been true, historically. Cases from Latin America, in particular, show that ruling militaries can split internally to allow for democratization and, if their rule or their institutional cohesion are in trouble, may voluntarily withdraw from power in the face of public protests.10 This analysis has focused on two broad military characteristics to explain military behavior in the face of public protests: ‘Distinctiveness & Subordination’ and ‘Internal Structure’. When comparing cases in which the military rules, it might be necessary to arrange the variables differently or concentrate on features like external versus internal focus, expertise, and bureaucratization earlier in the analysis. It may be necessary to focus on other variables, such as international pressure or the impact of foreign-policy failures – as suggested in the transitions literature. It may also be worthwhile to continue using the same features but to adjust the approach, following Zoltan Barany by looking at the military features individually in order of importance11 rather than combining multiple features into broader characteristics, as this study does for the Arab Spring. This analysis may also have less to say in cases where the military is completely un-institutionalized. Some of the militaries in this study may not be strongly bureaucratic or coherent, but they are for the most part designed, paid, and trained. One can look at these militaries and make predictions based on identity and structural regularities. In other cases, like those in much of sub-Saharan Africa, militaries may not be even that regularized. Michael Bratton and Nicolas van de Walle, whose warning about ‘the men with guns’ opened Chapter 1, found that they could not predict what the militaries in this region would do, in most cases because it was impossible to predict what ‘the disorganized and poorly disciplined soldiery who pass for the national army’12 would do. Perhaps below a 292

Conclusion certain level of organization it is impossible to predict military behavior. On the other hand, perhaps the variables presented could yet prove useful in such cases. They generally predict a military split or collapse in cases of poor military cohesion. At that point, issues like military expertise, international intervention, and possibly the level of internal versus internal focus would prove helpful. This set of tools has not yet been used to look at sub-Saharan Africa, but the author’s knowledge about the democratization process in Africa in the 1990s suggests some of these variables might be useful. In the long term, these features might also work well with ‘fuzzy-set’ analysis. Fuzzy-set methodology uses qualitative analysis to create variables that can be used in mathematical analysis with larger numbers of cases. First, fuzzy sets make inexact concepts – like subordination – useful for large-scale analysis. Rather than a military being coded as subordinate or not, or measuring subordination using some sort of objective criteria such as who appoints a minister of defense, fuzzy-set analysis allows for shades of meaning across each feature without requiring exact numerical values. This enables analysts to use qualitative, historical methods to measure the features, and mathematical methods to compare them. This, in turn, allows for analysis of more cases, more variables, and more questions, such as using military variables and economic indicators to predict levels of mobilization. Second, fuzzy-set analysis allows for multiple pathways to different outcomes. Thus, it allows for ‘complex causal patterns’ wherein different sets of features and variables in different combinations lead to the same or different outcomes.13 The author plans to explore this possibility and invites other analysts to do so as well. On the matter of policy, this analysis suggests that the United States and international organizations should continue to push for military professionalization in their allies and dependent regimes. Insecure leaders will resist creating a countervailing institutional force, but it is important to try to press the issue where possible. Professional militaries are less likely to coup against democratic regimes, and when faced with public protests they may choose to defend the population against an authoritarian regime. Even if democracy is not the outcome, as ugly as military rule can be it is often preferable to military collapse and civil war. 293

Revolts and the Military in the Arab Spring More drastically, this analysis also suggests that it might be good policy to cripple the militaries of authoritarian states that slip into full-scale civil war. Early discussions about intervention in Syria called for setting up a no-fly zone that would remove the regime’s military advantage and force it negotiate. Even without the ability to force negotiation, it might be morally appropriate to simply cripple a regime’s ability to use air power or heavy artillery. The vast majority of the deaths in the Syrian civil war are the result of regime forces using air power and superior weaponry against civilians. Even if the international community did not want to attempt to overthrow the regime, as it did in Libya, it could have reduced the Syrian regime’s brutality by destroying its air power. This is an extreme suggestion and would require a great deal of debate. Decreasing the power of one side may open up space for vicious non-state actors like ISIS, and makes the international community responsible for an outcome in which members of the regime’s loyal population are killed. However, given the vast differences in the death tolls between Yemen, Libya, and Syria, it may be worth the major powers considering crippling the military power of authoritarian states in the event of civil war, just to reduce their brutality. The secondary effect might be to make the regime less confident in its ability to win, and thus render it more amenable to negotiation. On the fifth goal, presenting this material in a way that is useful to both experts and educated non-experts, the author can only hope. The analysis has tried to employ limited technical jargon and state the arguments in plain language. It has tried to be sparing with citations, focusing on areas that are controversial or where other works were quoted directly. The author can only hope that the outcome is accessible to a broad audience, and that the reader found the argument as understandable and compelling as was intended.


Notes Introduction 1. Nada Bakri, ‘Security Forces Restrained as Syrian Protests Spread’, New York Times, 28 May 2011. 2. May Ying Welsh, Bahrain:  Shouting in the Dark (Doha:  Al Jazeera English, 2011), television documentary. Video available at (accessed 23 May 2017). 3. Mujib Mashal, ‘Pakistani troops aid Bahrain’s Crackdown’,, 30 July 2011. 4. Walter Armbrust, ‘A revolution against neoliberalism?’, 24 February 2011. 5. Gilbert Achcar, The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Spring (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013), Kindle edition, pp. 53–95. 6. Hamid Dabash, The Arab Spring:  The End of Postcolonialism (London:  Zed Books, 2012), Kindle edition, pp. 1–15. 7. Adeel Shah and Sheheryar Sardar, Sandstorm:  a leaderless revolution in the digital age (United States: Global Executive Board, 2011), Kindle edition. 8. Dabash, End of Postcolonialism, pp. 4–6. 9. Marc Lynch, The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East (New York: Public Affairs, 2012), Kindle edition, pp. 10, 29–30. 10. John R. Bradley, After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), Kindle edition, pp. 1–3. 11. Clement M. Henry, ‘States and Bankers’, in Marc Lynch (ed.), The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), p. 128. 12. Philip N.  Howard and Muzammil M.  Hussain, Democracy’s Fourth Wave?: Digital Media and the Arab Spring (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), Kindle edition, p. 113. 13. Ibid., pp. 118–19. 14. Henry, ‘States and Bankers’, in Lynch, Arab Uprisings Explained, Kindle edition, pp. 127–41. 15. Vickie Langhohr, ‘Labor Movements and Organizations’ in ibid., pp. 194–5. 16. Quinn Mecham, ‘Islamist Movements’ in ibid., pp. 201–205.


Notes to Pages 6–11 17. Sean L. Yom and F. Gregory Gause III, ‘Resilient Royals: How Arab Monarchies Hang On’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 23, Number 4 (October 2012), pp. 85–6. 18. Ellen Lust, ‘Elections’, in Lynch, Arab Uprisings Explained, p. 226. 19. Jason Brownlee, Tarek Masoud, and Andrew Reynolds, The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), Kindle edition, pp. 28–33, 42. 20. David Patel, Valerie Bunce and Sharon Wolchick, ‘Diffusion and Demonstration’ in Lynch, Arab Uprisings Explained, pp. 59–60. 21. Patel, Bunce, and Wolchik, ‘Diffusion and Demonstration,’ in Lynch, Arab Uprisings Explained, p. 61. 22. Samuel P.  Huntington, The Third Wave:  Democratization in the Late 20th Century (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993), p. 105. 23. Steven Heydemann and Reinoud Leenders, ‘Authoritarian Learning and Counterrevolution’, in Lynch, Arab Uprisings Explained, p. 76. 24. Ibid., pp. 78–83. 25. Frédéric Volpi, ‘Algeria Versus the Arab Spring’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 24, Number 3 (July 2013), pp.  104–15; Stéphane Lacroix, ‘Is Saudi Arabia Immune?’ Journal of Democracy, Volume 22, Number 4 (October 2011), pp. 48–59. 26. Lynch, ‘Introduction’, in Lynch, Arab Uprisings Explained, p. 8. 27. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, p. 8. 28. Robert F. Worth, A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS (New  York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016), Kindle edition, p. 13. 29. Brownlee et al., The Arab Spring, p. 62. 30. F. Gregory Gause III, ‘Why Middle East Studies Missed the Arab Spring’, Foreign Affairs, Volume 81 (July/August 2011), p. 83. 31. Risa Brooks, Political–Military Relations and the Stability of Arab Regimes  – Adelphi Paper 324 (Abingdon: Routledge, 1999); Mehran Kamrava, ‘Military Professionalization and Civil-Military Relations in the Middle East’, Political Science Quarterly, Volume 115, Number 1 (Spring 2000), pp.  67–92; James T. Quinlivan, ‘Coup-Proofing: Its Practices and Consequences in the Middle East’, International Security, Volume 24, Number 2 (Autumn 1999), pp. 131–65. 32. Brownlee et al., The Arab Spring, p. 38. 33. Michael Makara, ‘Coup-Proofing, Military Defection, and the Arab Spring’, Democracy and Security, Volume 9, Number 4 (2013), pp. 345–53. 34. Hicham Bou Nassif, ‘Generals and Autocrats:  How Coup-Proofing Predetermined the Military Elite’s Behavior in the Arab Spring’, Political Science Quarterly, Volume 130, Number 2 (2015), pp. 247–9, 255–6.


Notes to Pages 11–18 35. Brownlee et al., The Arab Spring, pp. 38–9, 55. 36. Ibid., pp. 42, 55–6, 59–62. 37. William C.  Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings and the Future of Civil-Military Relations in the Middle East:  Analysis from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria (New  York:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), Kindle edition, pp. 46–51. 38. Aurel Croissant and Tobias Selge, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go? Comparing Military (Non-) Cooperation During Authoritarian Regime Crises in the Arab World and Asia’, in Holger Albrecht, Aurel Croissant, and Fred H. Lawson (eds), Armies and Insurgencies in the Arab Spring (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), pp. 101–4. 39. Eva Bellin, ‘Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Lessons from the Arab Spring’, Comparative Politics, Volume 44, Number 2 (January 2012), pp. 132–3. 40. Ibid., pp. 130–3. 41. Makara, ‘Coup-Proofing, Military Defection,’ pp.  349–50; Croissant and Selge, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ pp. 109–11; Bou Nassif, ‘Generals and Autocrats’, p. 270. 42. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 83, 144. 43. Ibid., pp. 156–8. 44. Brownlee et al., The Arab Spring, p. 22. 45. Bellin, ‘Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism’, pp. 130–3. 46. Bou Nassif, ‘Generals and Autocrats’, pp. 255–6, 260–8. 47. Croissant and Selge, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ pp. 99–104. 48. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 45–51. 49. Guillermo O’Donnell and Phillipe C. Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule:  Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 24–8, 34–6; Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 66–8. 50. Phillipe Droz-Vincent, ‘The Military Amidst Uprisings in the Arab World’, in Fawaz A.  Gerges, The New Middle East:  Protest and Revolution in the Arab World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 191–5, 183 and 199– 201, respectively. 51. Gause, ‘Why Middle East Studies Missed the Arab Spring’, pp. 84–5. 52. Zoltan Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions and Why (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016), Kindle edition, p. 18. 53. Ibid., pp. 24–39. 54. Brownlee et al., The Arab Spring, p. 13.


Notes to Pages 22–29 55. O’Donnell and Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, p. 5. 56. Michael Bratton and Nicolas Van de Walle, Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime Transitions in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 41–8.

Chapter 1: The Men with Guns 1. Michael Bratton and Nicolas Van de Walle, Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime Transitions in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 41–8. 2. O’Donnell and Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, pp. 17–21. 3. Timothy P.  Wickham-Crowley, Guerillas and Revolution in Latin America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 7. 4. Bratton and van de Walle, Democratic Experiments in Africa, p. 217. 5. See Huntington, The Third Wave, pp.  198–200; O’Donnell and Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, pp.  28–36; Bratton and van de Walle, Democratic Experiments in Africa, pp.  210–17; Eva Bellin, ‘The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East:  Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective’, Comparative Politics, Volume 36, Number 2 (January 2004), pp. 142– 7; Linz and Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, pp. 66– 8; Wickham-Crowley, Guerillas and Revolution, p.  7; Theda Skocpol, ‘Rentier State and Shi’a Islam in the Iranian Revolution’, Theory and Society, Volume 11, Number 3 (May 1982), p. 270; John Foran, Taking Power: On the Origins of Third World Revolutions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 20; Richard Snyder, ‘Explaining Transitions from Neopatrimonial Dictatorships’, Comparative Politics, Volume 24, Number 4 (July 1992), pp. 381–7. 6. Fred Lawson, ‘Armed Forces, Internal Security Services, and Popular Contention in the Middle East and North Africa,’ in Albrecht et  al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 54–70. 7. Peter D. Feaver, Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 149. 8. Samuel P.  Huntington, The Soldier and the State:  Theory and Politics of CivilMilitary Relations (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957), pp. 7–10. 9. Ibid., pp. 13–14. 10. S. E. Finer, The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2006), p. 25. 11. Ibid., pp. 28–30. 12. Michael C.  Desch, Civilian Control of the Military:  The Changing Security Environment (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), pp. 11–17.


Notes to Pages 29–35 13. Alfred Stepan, ‘The New Professionalism of Internal Warfare and Military Role Expansion’, in Authoritarian Brazil:  Origins, Policies, and Future (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973), p. 50. 14. Ibid., p. 58. 15. Bellin, ‘The Robustness of Authoritarianism’, p. 145. 16. Bou Nassif, ‘Generals and Autocrats’, pp. 248–9. 17. Joel S.  Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 206–37. 18. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, p. 10. 19. Robert Springborg, ‘A Shifting Role of the Military in Arab Politics? CrossRegional Perspectives and Implications for the Future of Civil-Military Relations in the Region’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 72. 20. United States Government – Various Bodies, 2011 Complete Guide to Bahrain (Progressive Management Services, 2011), Kindle edition, Kindle location 2,251. 21. Michael Eisenstadt and Kenneth M. Pollack, ‘Armies of Snow and Armies of Sand: The Impact of Soviet Military Doctrine on Arab Militaries’, Middle East Journal, Volume 55, Number 4 (Autumn 2001), pp. 570–1. 22. Malik Mufti, Sovereign Creations: Pan-Arabism and Political Order in Syria and Iraq (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), pp. 63–194; Lynch, The Arab Uprising, pp. 29–42. 23. Quinlivan, ‘Coup-Proofing’, p. 131. 24. Holger Albrect, ‘The Myth of Coup-proofing: Risk and Instances of Military Coups d’état in the Middle East and North Africa, 1950–2013’, Armed Forces & Society, Volume 41, Number 4 (2015), p. 660. 25. Holger Albrecht, ‘Does Coup-Proofing Work? Political–Military Relations in Authoritarian Regimes amid the Arab Uprisings’, Mediterranean Politics, Volume 20, Number 1 (2015), pp. 37–8, 43–7, 50. 26. Albrect, ‘The Myth of Coup-proofing’, p. 661. 27. Albrecht, ‘Does Coup-Proofing Work?’ p. 50. 28. Kevin Koehler, ‘Officers and Regimes:  The Historical Origins of PoliticalMilitary Relations in Middle Eastern Republics’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 52. 29. Joshua Stacher, Adaptable Autocrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), Kindle edition, pp. 1–5, 47–78. 30. Albrecht, ‘Does Coup-Proofing Work?’ pp. 40–1. 31. Also called ‘subjective control,’ in Huntington, The Soldier and the State, p. 83. 32. Center for Systemic Peace, ‘Coup d’Etat Events, 1946–2010’, 15 June 2011. Available at (accessed 26 May 2017). 33. Quinlivan, ‘Coup-Proofing’, p. 131. 34. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, pp. 32–3.


Notes to Pages 35–52 35. Makara, ‘Coup-Proofing, Military Defection’, p. 341. 36. Bou Nassif, ‘Generals and Autocrats’, pp. 256–7. 37. Holger Albrecht, ‘Cain and Abel in the Land of Sheba: Elite Conflict and the Military in Yemen,’ in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 129. 38. Quinlivan, ‘Coup-Proofing’, p. 141. 39. Ibid., pp. 149–51. 40. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, p. 41. 41. Dirk Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2012), Kindle edition, p. 10. 42. Michael Herb, All in the Family (Albany, NY:  State University of New  York Press, 1999), pp. 7–10, 34–5. 43. Bou Nassif, ‘Generals and Autocrats’, pp.  253–4; Makara, ‘Coup-Proofing, Military Defection’, p. 340. 44. Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States, pp. 214–17. 45. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, p. 35. 46. Homa Katollzian, ‘The Pahlavi Regime in Iran’, in H.  E. Chehabi and Juan J. Linz (eds), Sultanistic Regimes, (Baltimore. MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), p. 195. 47. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, p. 42. 48. Ibid., p. 28. 49. Bou Nassif, ‘Generals and Autocrats’, pp.  253–6; Makara, ‘Coup-Proofing, Military Defection’, pp. 340–1. 50. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, p. 43. 51. Kamrava, ‘Military Professionalization’, pp. 69–70. 52. Quinlivan, ‘Coup-Proofing’, pp. 152–3. 53. Steven R. David, ‘Soviet Involvement in Third World Coups’, International Security, Volume 11, Number 1 (Summer 1986), p. 29. 54. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 173–94. 55. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, p. 43. 56. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, p. 133. 57. Bellin, ‘The Robustness of Authoritarianism’, p. 143. 58. Huntington, The Third Wave, p. 199. 59. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, pp. 25–9; Bou Nassif, ‘Generals and Autocrats’, pp. 245–9. 60. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, pp. 83–5, 108–10. 61. Dorothy Ohl, ‘Bahrain’s “Cohesive” Military and Regime Stability amid Unrest’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 147–56. 62. Bellin, ‘The Robustness of Authoritarianism’, p. 143. 63. Quinlivan, ‘Coup-Proofing’, pp. 152–3. 64. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, p. 18. 65. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 125–6.


Notes to Pages 56–64 66. 67. 68. 69.


71. 72. 73. 74.

75. 76.

Brownlee et al., The Arab Spring, pp. 189–94. Ibid., pp. 204–9. Ibid., p. 190. Virginia Page Fortna, Does Peacekeeping Work? Shaping Belligerents’ Choices after Civil War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008); Huntington, The Third Wave, pp. 40, 91–100. Nancy Bermeo, ‘Myths of Moderation:  Confrontation and Conflict during Democratic Transitions’, Comparative Politics, Volume 29, Number 3 (April 1997), pp. 305–22; Steven Levitsky and Lucien Way, ‘International Linkage and Democratization’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 16, Number 3 (July 2005): pp. 20–34. Linz and Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, pp. 17–19. ‘State of emergency in Yemen’s Sanaa over cholera crisis’,, 15 May 2017. David Jolly, ‘Death Toll in Syrian Civil War Near 93,000, U.N. Says’, New York Times, 13 June 2013. Population Reference Bureau, ‘2011 World Population Datasheet’, p.  8. Available at (accessed 23 May 2017) Diana Al Rifai, ‘Syria’s de-escalation ones: “We don’t trust Russia”,’ AlJazeera. com, 9 May 2017. Mohamed A. Daw, Abdallah El-Bouzedi and Aghnaya A. Dau, ‘Libyan armed conflict 2011: Mortality, injury and population displacement’, African Journal of Emergency Medicine, Volume 5, Number 3 (September 2015), pp. 101–7. Available at (accessed 6 June 2017). (accessed 29 May 2017).

Chapter 2: Tunisia: A Professional Military 1. John P. Entelis, ‘Republic of Tunisia’, in David E. Long, Bernard Reich, and Mark Gasiorowski (eds), The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa: Sixth Edition (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2010), p. 509. 2. Christopher Alexander, Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb (New York: Routledge 2010), Kindle edition, p. 1. 3. Mounira M. Charrad, States and Women’s Rights: The Making of Postcolonial Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco (Berkeley, CA:  University of California Press, 2001), Kindle edition, p. 202. 4. Lisa Anderson, The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830–1980 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), pp. 40, 52–5.


Notes to Pages 64–74 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41.

Ibid., pp. 59–60. Ibid., p. 65. Ibid., p. 69. Charrad, States and Women’s Rights, p. 91. Alexander, Stability and Reform, p. 16. Ibid., pp. 14–18. Anderson, State and Social Transformation, p. 87. Elbaki Hermassi, quoted in Charrad, States and Women’s Rights, p. 116. Alexander, Stability and Reform, p. 20. Ibid. Anderson, State and Social Transformation, pp. 149–57. Charrad, States and Women’s Rights, p. 119. Anderson, State and Social Transformation, p. 150. Ibid., pp. 160–3. Alexander, Stability and Reform, p. 26. Ibid. Ibid., p. 27. Ibid., p. 28. Charrad, States and Women’s Rights, pp. 202–8. Alexander, Stability and Reform, p. 31. Charrad, States and Women’s Rights, pp. 208–9. Ibid., pp. 211–15. Eva Bellin, ‘Civil Society in Formation: Tunisia’, in Augustus Richard Norton (ed.), Civil Society in the Middle East: Volume One (Leiden: Brill, 2005), p. 126. Alexander, Stability and Reform, p. 28. Charrad, States and Women’s Rights, p. 201. James Gelvin, quoted in Risa Brooks, ‘The Tunisian Military and Democratic Control of the Armed Forces’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 205. Brooks, ‘The Tunisian Military’, in ibid. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, p. 136. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 74. Lewis B. Ware, Tunisia in the Post-Bourguiba Era: The Role of the Military in a Civil Arab Republic (Montgomery, AL: Air University Press, 1986), pp. 47–8. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, p. 136. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 74, 79. Ibid., p. 74. Ware, Tunisia in the Post-Bourguiba Era, p. 47. Alexander, Stability and Reform, pp. 46–7. Mohammed Elihachmi Hamdi, The Politicisation of Islam:  A  Case Study Of Tunisia (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998), pp. 43–4. Hamdi, The Politisation of Islam, 53–63.


Notes to Pages 75–82 42. Alexander, Stability and Reform, p. 3. 43. Brooks, ‘The Tunisian Military’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 209–14; personal interview in Tunisia, 1 March 2011. 44. Ibid., p. 208. 45. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 79–81. 46. Brooks, ‘The Tunisian Military’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 209. 47. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 74–6. 48. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, pp. 136–7. 49. Ibid., p. 137. 50. Brooks, ‘The Tunisian Military,’ in Albrecht et al. Armies and Insurgencies, p. 211. 51. Embassy Tunis, ‘Scenesetter for 22nd US-Tunisia Joint Military Commission (JMC)’, Wikileaks Cable:  07TUNIS615_a, dated 17 May 2007. Available at (accessed 23 May 2017). 52. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 75. 53. Personal interview in Tunisia, 1 March 2011. 54. Embassy Tunis, ‘Troubled Tunisia:  What Should We Do?’ Wikileaks Cable: 09TUNIS492_a, dated 17 July 2009 Available at cables/09TUNIS492_a.html (accessed 23 May 2017). 55. Bradley, After the Arab Spring, p. 21. 56. Alexander, Stability and Reform, p. 4. 57. Barany, ‘The Role of the Military’, p. 27; personal communication in Tunisia, May 2011. 58. Carlotta Gall, ‘Tunisian Discontent Reflected in Protests That Have Idled Mines’, New York Times, 13 May 2014. 59. Eric Gobe, ‘The Gafsa Mining Basin between Riots and a Social Movement: meaning and significance of a protest movement in Ben Ali’s Tunisia’, working paper, 2010, pp. 4–7. Available at halshs-00557826 (accessed 23 May 2017). 60. Ibid., pp. 14–15. 61. Ibid., pp. 18–20. 62. Michael J. Willis, ‘Tunisia’s Revolution and Civil Resistance,’ in Adam Roberts, Michael J. Willis, Rory McCarthy, and Timothy Garton Ash (eds), Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring: Triumphs and Disasters (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), p. 43. 63. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, p. 73; Bradley, After the Arab Spring, pp. 23–4. 64. Willis, ‘Tunisia’s Revolution and Civil Resistance’, in Roberts et al. Civil Resistance, p. 43. 65. ‘The Death of Fear’,, 10 March 2011. 66. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, pp. 10, 124. 67. ‘Tunisian protester dies of burns’,, 5 January 2011.


Notes to Pages 82–88 68. Elizabeth Day, ‘Fedia Hamdi’s Slap Which Sparked a Revolution “Didn’t Happen”,’ Guardian, 23 April 2011; Bouazizi’s family claimed it was dropping the charges ‘in a gesture of tolerance’. ‘Tunisia drops case that sparked uprising’,, 19 April 2011. 69. ‘Riots Reported in Tunisian City’, AlJazeera, 20 December 2010. 70. ‘14 Killed in Clashes With Police As Violence Spreads in Tunisia’, New York Times, 10 January 2011. 71. Willis, ‘Tunisia’s Revolution and Civil Resistance’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 36. 72. Ryan Rifai, ‘Timeline: Tunisia’s Uprising’,, 23 January 2011. 73. Yasmine Ryan, ‘The Massacre Behind the Revolution’,, 16 February 2011. 74. Ibid. 75. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 70. 76. Willis, ‘Tunisia’s Revolution and Civil Resistance’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 48. 77. Personal communication in Tunisia, May 2011; Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 71. 78. Bradley, After the Arab Spring, p. 47. 79. Levitsky and Way, ‘International Linkage and Democratization’, pp. 20–5. 80. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, p. 73. 81. Alfred Stepan and Juan J. Linz, ‘Democratization Theory and the “Arab Spring”’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 24, Number 2 (April 2013), pp. 22–3; Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 193–6. 82. Brownlee, et al., The Arab Spring, pp. 194–201. 83. Willis, ‘Tunisia’s Revolution and Civil Resistance’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 52. 84. Brooks, ‘The Tunisian Military’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 209–16. 85. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 80–1. 86. Personal communications in Tunisia, March 2011. 87. Personal communications and observations in Tunisia, February and March 2011. 88. Yasmine Ryan, ‘Former Tunisia minister warns of coup risk’,, 5 May 2011. 89. ‘Violence and censorship fuel Tunisia tensions’,, 7 May 2011. 90. Stepan and Linz, ‘Democratization Theory and the “Arab Spring” ’, pp. 23–4; Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 193–6. 91. Hamdi, The Politicisation of Islam, pp. 109–10, 163–73; Kasper Ly Netterstrøm, ‘The Islamists’ Compromise in Tunisia’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 26, Number 4 (October 2015), pp. 115–16. For a more drastic argument against


Notes to Pages 88–97

92. 93. 94. 95. 96. 97. 98. 99. 100. 101. 102. 103. 104. 105. 106. 107. 108. 109. 110. 111. 112. 113.

viewing Ennahda as moderate, see Karima Bennoune, ‘Killing the Arab Spring in Its Cradle’, New York Times, 29 July 2013. Personal communications in Tunisia, March 2011. Alfred Stepan, ‘Tunisia’s Transition and the Twin Tolerations’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 23, Number 2 (April 2012), p. 93. Bradley, After the Arab Spring, p. 7. Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis (New York: Pantheon Books, 2007). Personal communication in Tunisia, May 2011. Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 185. Yasmine Ryan, ‘Who Killed Tunisia’s Chokri Belaid?’, 12 September 2013. ‘Tunisia opposition figures “shot by same gun” ’, 26 July 2013. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 186–8. Yasmine Ryan, ‘Rifts threaten Tunisia’s governing party’,, 27 August 2013. Netterstrøm, ‘The Islamists’ Compromise in Tunisia’, pp. 116–18. Ibid., pp. 115–21. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 190–2. Ibid., pp. 194–6. Netterstrøm, ‘The Islamists’ Compromise in Tunisia’, pp. 121–3. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 198–200. Sarah Souli, ‘Why Tunisia’s top Islamist party rebranded itself ’, Al-Monitor. com, 23 June 2016. ‘Protests mark Tunisian revolution’s sixth anniversary’,, 14 January 2017. Sudarsan Raghavan, ‘A Tunisian family torn apart by ISIS’, Washington Post, 23 April 2017. Ahmed Nadhif, ‘Who protects Tunisian corruption whistleblowers?’, 29 June 2016. Naima Bouteldja, ‘Q&A: Amira Yahyaoui on press freedom and fake news’,, 19 April 2017. Brooks, ‘The Tunisian Military’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 207.

Chapter 3: Egypt: An Institutionalized/Corporate Military 1. William L.  Cleveland and Martin Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East:  Fourth Edition (Boulder, CO:  Westview Press, 2008), Kindle edition, p. 87.


Notes to Pages 97–105 2. Tarek Osman, Egypt on the Brink (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2011), p. 19. 3. Beth Baron, Egypt as a Woman: Nationalism, Gender, and Politics (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007), p. 23. 4. Osman, Egypt on the Brink, p. 21; Cleveland and Bunton, Modern Middle East, pp. 95–100. 5. Baron, Egypt as a Woman, pp. 29–31. 6. Ibid., pp. 166. 7. Joel Benin and Zachary Lockman, Workers on the Nile:  Nationalism, Communism, Islam, and the Egyptian Working Class 1882–1954 (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1998), p. 14. 8. Osman, Egypt on the Brink, pp. 36–8; Baron, Egypt as a Woman, p. 182. 9. Benin and Lockman, Workers on the Nile, p. 132. 10. Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 116. 11. Richard P.  Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brothers (New  York:  Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 30–4. 12. Steven A.  Cook, Ruling But Not Governing:  The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey (Baltimore, MD:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), Kindle edition, p. 66. 13. Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States, pp. 199–205. 14. Said K. Aburish, Nasser:  The Last Arab (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2004), p. 90. 15. Ibid., p. 90. 16. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 129. 17. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, pp. 45–6. 18. Peter Woodward, Nasser:  Profiles in Power (New  York:  Longman Group, 1992), p. 68. 19. Aburish, The Last Arab, p. 149. 20. Ibid., pp. 250–5. 21. David M. Witty, ‘A Regular Army in Counterinsurgency Operations: Egypt in North Yemen, 1962–1967’, Journal of Military History, Volume 65, Number 2 (April 2001), pp. 427–9. 22. Eisenstadt and Pollack, ‘Armies of Snow and Armies of Sand’, pp. 562–3. 23. Osman, Egypt on the Brink, p. 117. 24. Robert B.  Satloff, Army and Politics in Mubarak’s Egypt (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1988), pp. 5–6. 25. LTC Stephen H.  Gotowicki, US Army, ‘The Role of the Egyptian Military in Domestic Society’, Foreign Military Studies Office Publications (1997). Available at (accessed 23 May 2017).


Notes to Pages 105–110 26. Satloff, Army and Politics in Mubarak’s Egypt, p. 6. 27. Imam Harb, ‘The Egyptian Military in Politics:  Disengagement or Accommodation?’ Middle East Journal, Volume 57, Number 2 (Spring 2003), p. 282. 28. Phillipe Droz-Vincent, quoted in Chérine Chams El-Dine, ‘Egypt: From Military Reform to Military Sanctuarization’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 189. 29. Satloff, Army and Politics in Mubarak’s Egypt, p. 3. 30. Gotowicki, ‘The Role of the Egyptian Military in Domestic Society’. 31. Osman, Egypt on the Brink, p. 118. 32. Ibid., pp. 90–109. 33. Albrecht, ‘Does Coup-Proofing Work?’ p.  46; Brooks, Political–Military Relations, pp. 27–8. 34. Satloff, Army and Politics in Mubarak’s Egypt, pp. 26, 38–9. 35. Ibid., p. 32. 36. Albrecht, ‘Does Coup-Proofing Work?’ p. 46. 37. Stacher, Adaptable Autocrats, p. 6. 38. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 130. 39. Embassy Cairo, ‘Academics See the Military in Decline, but Retaining Strong Influence’, Wikileaks Cable:  08CAIRO2091_a, dated 23 September 2008. Available at (accessed 23 May 2017). 40. Embassy Cairo, ‘Scenesetter for MINDEF Tantawi’s Visit to the U.S. March 24–28’, Wikileaks Cable: 08CAIRO524_a, dated 16 March 2008. Available at (accessed 23 May 2017). 41. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 134–5. 42. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, p. 46. 43. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 132. 44. Ibid., p. 129. 45. Albrecht, ‘Does Coup-Proofing Work?’ p. 44. 46. Harb, ‘The Egyptian Military in Politics’, pp. 282–7. 47. Satloff, Army and Politics in Mubarak’s Egypt, p. 2. 48. Cook, Ruling But Not Governing, pp. 73–4. 49. Embassy Cairo, ‘Academics See the Military in Decline’, Wikileaks Cable: 08CAIRO2091_a. 50. Makara, ‘Coup-Proofing, Military Defection’, pp. 345–6; Bou Nassif, ‘Generals and Autocrats’, pp. 260–3. 51. Embassy Cairo, ‘Academics See the Military in Decline’, Wikileaks Cable: 08CAIRO2091_a. 52. Ibid.


Notes to Pages 111–122 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82.

Risa Brooks, quoted in Harb, ‘The Egyptian Military in Politics’, p. 282. Bellin, ‘Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism’, p. 133. Eisenstadt and Pollack, ‘Armies of Snow and Armies of Sand’, p. 574. Quoted in Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 126. Mona El-Naggar and Michael Slackman, ‘Arab Leaders Keep an Eye on Tunisia, Hoping Revolutionary Fever Won’t Spread’, New York Times, 19 January 2011. Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 120. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, pp. 85–6. David D.  Kirkpatrick and Michael Slackman, ‘In New Role, Egypt Youths Drive Revolt’, New York Times, 27 January 2011. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 9–10. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 120. Mecham, ‘Islamist Movements, in Lynch, Arab Uprisings Explained, pp. 202–5. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 11–12. David D.  Kirkpatrick, ‘Mubarak Orders Crackdown, With Revolt Sweeping Egypt’, New York Times, 29 January 2011. David D.  Kirkpatrick, ‘Egyptians Defiant as Military Does Little to Quash Protests’, New York Times, 30 January 2011. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 127. Ibid., p. 126. David D.  Kirkpatrick, ‘Mubarak’s Grip Is Shaken as Millions Are Called to Protest’, New York Times, 1 February 2011. Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 16. David D. Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim, ‘Mubarak’s Backers Storm Protesters as US Condemns Egypt’s Violent Turn’, New York Times, 3 February 2011. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, p. 95. Bradley Hope, Last Days of the Pharaoh (Amazon Digital Services, 2012), Kindle edition, Kindle location 586. Stacher, Adaptable Autocrats, p. 158. M. Cherif Bassiouni, ‘Egypt’s Unfinished Revolution’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 62. Ibid., p. 64. Chams El-Dine ‘Egypt’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 195–6. Stacher, Adaptable Autocrats, p. 159. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp.  115–16; Jehane Noujaim, The Square (United States: Netflix, 2014), film. Mark Levine, ‘Breathless in Egypt’,, 10 May 2011. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 128–9. David D Kirkpatrick, ‘Muslim Brotherhood Demands Military Cede Power in Egypt’, New York Times, 9 February 2012.


Notes to Pages 122–126 83. David D Kirkpatrick, ‘Judge Helped Egypt’s Military to Cement Power’, New York Times, 3 July 2012. 84. Stephanie McCrummen and Abigail Hauslohner, ‘Egypt’s Morsi, looking to army for support, pushes charter that enshrines military power’, Washington Post, 6 December 2012. 85. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp.  129–31; Nathan J.  Brown, ‘Egypt’s Failed Transition’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 24, Number 4 (October 2013), p. 51. 86. Bassiouni, ‘Egypt’s Unfinished Revolution’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 65. 87. David D Kirkpatrick, ‘Judge Helped Egypt’s Military to Cement Power’, New York Times, 3 July 2012. 88. Ben Hubbard and David D Kirkpatrick, ‘Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi’, New York Times, 10 July 2012. 89. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 130–4. 90. Bassiouni, ‘Egypt’s Unfinished Revolution’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 66. 91. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 135–9. 92. David D Kirkpatrick, ‘Turnout Rises in Egypt, but the Vote Raises Doubts’, New York Times, 28 May 2014. 93. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 139–47. 94. ‘Blast outside Cairo University wounds 11’,, 22 October 2014; ‘Egypt’s Brotherhood urges revolt after members killed’,, 2 July 2015; ‘Egypt’s Sinai hit by worst violence in years’,, 2 July 2015; Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 152–5. 95. Stacher, Adaptable Autocrats, p. 160. 96. Ahmed Fouad, ‘Rivals jockey for control in Egypt’s parliament’, Al-Monitor. com, 30 December 2015. 97. George Mikhail, ‘Egyptians ponder: How much military control is too much?’, 22 September 2016. 98. ‘Egypt’s Sisi celebrates Morsi’s ouster’,, 30 June 2016. 99. Liam Stack, ‘A Gloomy Egypt Sees Its International Influence Wither Away’, New York Times, 2 August 2016. 100. Ayah Aman, ‘Protesters return to Egypt’s streets’,, 17 April 2016. 101. Shahira Amin, ‘6 years on, Egypt’s revolution still alive’,, 24 January 2017. 102. Amr Hamzawy, ‘How Sisi is using the law as a tool to restore Tyranny’,, 9 May 2017; Amr Hamzawy, ‘The tragedy of Egypt’s stolen revolution’,, 25 January 2017. 103. Muhammed Magdy, ‘Why Egyptians lost interest in Mubarak’s case’,, 16 March 2017.


Notes to Pages 127–135 104. Huntington, The Third Wave, p. 41. 105. O’Donnell and Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, pp.  28–36; Wendy Hunter, ‘Politicians against Soldiers:  Contesting the Military in Postauthorization Brazil’, Comparative Politics, Volume 27, Number 4 (July 1995), pp. 425–43.

Chapter 4: Bahrain: A Ruler/Mercenary Military 1. Population Reference Bureau, ‘2011 World Population Datasheet’, p. 7. 2. Jane Kinninmont, ‘Bahrain’, in Christopher Davidson (ed.), Power and Politics in the Persian Gulf Monarchies (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), p. 31. 3. Ibid., p. 32. 4. David F. Winkler, Amirs, Admirals, and Desert Sailors (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2007), p. 11. 5. 2011 Complete Guide to Bahrain, Kindle locations 1,495–6. 6. Kinninmont, ‘Bahrain’, in Davidson, Power and Politics, p. 32. 7. Abd ul-Hadi Khalaf, ‘Labor Movements in Bahrain’, MERIP Reports, Number 132 (May 1985), p. 24. 8. Herb, All in the Family, pp. 7–8. 9. Ibid., p. 8. 10. Ibid., p. 35. 11. Ibid., pp. 8–10. 12. 2011 Complete Guide to Bahrain, Kindle location 1,553. 13. Kinninmont, ‘Bahrain’, in Davidson, Power and Politics, p. 46. 14. Emile Nakhleh, Bahrain:  Political Development in a Modernizing Society (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011), p. 63. 15. Ibid., pp. 124–5. 16. Ibid., pp. 134–52. 17. Khalaf, ‘Labor Movements in Bahrain’, p. 25. 18. 2011 Complete Guide to Bahrain, Kindle location 317. 19. Joe Stork, ‘Bahrain’s Crisis Worsens’, Middle East Report, Number 204, (July– September 1997), p. 34. 20. Khalaf, ‘Labor Movements in Bahrain’, p. 28. 21. 2011 Complete Guide to Bahrain, Kindle location 2,508. 22. Sandy Russell Jones, ‘The Battle over Family Law in Bahrain’, Middle East Report, Number 242 (Spring 2007), p. 36. 23. Herb, All in the Family, p. 175. 24. 2011 Complete Guide to Bahrain, Kindle location 2,162. 25. Winkler, Amirs, Admirals, and Desert Sailors, pp. 82–111.


Notes to Pages 135–140 26. Herb, All in the Family, p. 173. 27. Anthony Shadid, ‘Bahrain Boils Under the Lid of Repression’, New York Times, 15 September 2011; ‘The Stories that Aren’t Being Covered’,, 6 May 2012. 28. Françoise De Bel-Air, ‘Demography, Migration, and the Labour Market in Bahrain’, Gulf Labour Markets and Migration Explanatory Note No. 6/2015, European University Institute and Gulf Research Center, 2015. Available at bitstream/ handle/ 1814/ 35882/ GLMM_ ExpNote_ 06_ 2015. pdf?sequence=1 (accessed 23 May 2017). 29. Rob Franklin, ‘Migrant Labor and the Politics of Development in Bahrain’, MERIP Reports, Number 132 (May 1985), p. 10. 30. Labour Market Regulatory Authority, Bahrain Labor Market Indicators, 2011Q1. Available at (accessed 23 May 2017). 31. Franklin, ‘Migrant Labor’, p. 11. 32. Stork, ‘Bahrain’s Crisis Worsens’, pp. 34–5. 33. Tony Thompson, ‘Britain silent on “Butcher of Bahrain”,’ Observer, 29 June 2002. 34. Stork, ‘Bahrain’s Crisis Worsens’, p. 35. 35. Anoushiravan Ehteshami, ‘Reform from above: The Politics of Participation in the Oil Monarchies’, International Affairs, Volume 79, Issue 1 (January 2003), p. 57. 36. Ibid., pp. 53–61. 37. Naomi Sakr, ‘Reflections on the Manāma Spring: Research Questions Arising from the Promise of Political Liberalization in Bahrain’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 28, Number 2 (November 2001), p. 229. 38. Ehteshami, ‘Reform from above’, p. 68. 39. 2011 Complete Guide to Bahrain, Kindle location 344. 40. Al-Bandar, Saleh, Al-Bandar Report, English translation, 30 September 2006, p. 11. Available at (accessed 23 May 2017). 41. ‘Poll success for Bahrain Shia bloc’,, 24 October 2010. 42. Gregg Carlstrom, ‘A World Away from Manama’,, 10 March 2011. 43. ‘Bahrain Dissidents Charged’,, 6 September 2010. 44. 2011 Complete Guide to Bahrain, Kindle location 2,239. 45. Ibid., Kindle location 3,098. 46. Ibid., Kindle location 2,251. 47. Ohl, ‘Bahrain’s “Cohesive” Military’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 158–9. 48. ‘Pakistani troops aid Bahrain’s crackdown’,, 30 July 2011. 49. 2011 Complete Guide to Bahrain, Kindle location 293.


Notes to Pages 140–149 50. Welsh, Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark. 51. Ohl, ‘Bahrain’s “Cohesive” Military’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 162. 52. Ibid., p. 160. 53. Ibid. 54. Ibid., pp. 149–56. 55. Ibid., p. 163. 56. Ahmed Kanna, ‘The Arab World’s Forgotten Rebellions: Foreign Workers and Biopolitics in the Gulf ’,, 2 June 2011. Available at pages/ index/ 1735/ the- arab- worlds- forgotten- rebellions_ foreignworke (accessed 23 May 2017). 57. 2011 Complete Guide to Bahrain, Kindle locations 418, 2,251. 58. Kinninmont, ‘Bahrain’, in Davidson, Power and Politics, p. 58. 59. ‘Bahrain doles out money to families’,, 11 February 2011. 60. Michael Slackman and Nadim Audi, ‘Police Attack in Bahrain, Keeping Protests in Disarray’, New York Times, 15 February 2011. 61. Ibid. 62. Elham Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 90. 63. Bilal Randeree, ‘Deaths heighten Bahrain tension’,, 18 February 2011; Michael Slackman and Nadim Audi, ‘Police in Bahrain Clear Protest Site in Early Morning Raid’, New York Times, 17 February 2011. 64. Slackman and Audi, ‘Police in Bahrain Clear Protest Site’, New  York Times, 17 February 2011. 65. Michael Slackman and Nadim Audi, ‘Bahrain Forces Open Fire, First on Protesters, Then on Arriving Ambulances’, New York Times, 19 February 2011. 66. Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 90. 67. Michael Slackman and Mark Lander, ‘Bahrain Turmoil Poses Fresh Test For White House’, New York Times, 18 February 2011. 68. ‘Protesters retake Bahrain center’,, 20 February 2011. 69. Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, pp. 90–1. 70. Thomas Fuller, ‘Bahrainis Fear the U.S. Isn’t Behind Their Fight for Democracy’, New York Times, 5 March 2011. 71. Michael Slackman, ‘Dim View of U.S. Posture Toward Bahraini Shiites Is Described’, New York Times, 22 February 2011. 72. ‘Bahrain Forces Fire at Protesters’,, 18 February 2011. 73. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hard Choices:  A  Memoir (New  York:  Simon & Schuster, 2014), pp. 342–4. 74. Levitsky and Way, ‘International Linkage and Democratization’, pp. 20–34. 75. Clinton, Hard Choices, pp. 357–60. 76. Michael Slackman and Nadim Audi, ‘Bahrain King in Saudi Arabia to Discuss Unrest’, New York Times, 24 February 2011.


Notes to Pages 149–155 77. Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 103. 78. Thomas Fuller, ‘Bahrain Opposition Leader Returns From Exile, Pressing for Fall of the King’, New York Times, 27 February 2011. 79. ‘Protesters Retake Bahrain Center’,, 20 February 2011; Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 114. 80. Carlstrom, ‘A World Away from Manama,’, 10 March 2011. 81. Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 93. 82. Kinninmont, ‘Bahrain’, in Davidson, Power and Politics, p. 58. 83. Welsh, Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark. 84. Michael Hudson, ‘Leadership deficit on both sides prolongs the unfinished uprisings’,, 12 May 2012. 85. Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 95. 86. Ethan Bronner, ‘Antigovernment Protesters Seal Off Bahrain’s Financial Center’, New York Times, 14 February 2011. 87. Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 95. 88. Kinninmont, ‘Bahrain’, in Davidson, Power and Politics, pp.  54–5; Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 95. 89. Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 97. 90. ‘Arrests follow deadly Bahrain crackdown’,, 17 March 2011. 91. Welsh, Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark. 92. Shadid, ‘Bahrain Boils’, New York Times, 15 September 2011. 93. Ibid. 94. Welsh, Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark. 95. Gregg Carlstrom, ‘Bahrain opposition struggles with next steps’, AlJazeera. com, 27 November 2011. 96. Shadid, ‘Bahrain Boils’, New York Times, 15 September 2011. 97. Mujib Mashal, ‘Pakistani troops aid Bahrain’s crackdown’,, 30 July 2011. 98. Carlstrom, ‘Bahrain opposition struggles’,, 27 November 2011. 99. Anthony Shadid, ‘Bahrain Nervously Awaits Revolt Report’s Findings’, New York Times, 21 November 2011. 100. ‘Bahraini king proposes constitutional reforms’,, 15 January 2012. 101. ‘Is Bahrain Truly on the Path to Reform?’, 10 January 2012. 102. Matthew Cassel, ‘Suppressing the Narrative in Bahrain’,, 16 February 2012. 103. Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 114. 104. Shadid, ‘Bahrain Nervously Awaits’, New York Times, 21 November 2011. 105. Souad Mekhennet and Joby Warrick, ‘U.S. increasingly sees Iran’s hand in the arming of Bahraini militants’, Washington Post, 1 April 2017. 106. Fakhro, ‘Revolution in Bahrain’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 108.


Notes to Pages 155–163 107. Giorgio Cafiero, ‘Bahrain’s ongoing political crisis threatens stability’,, 21 May 2017. 108. Karim Fahim and David D.  Kirkpatrick, ‘Saudi Arabia Seeks Union of Monarchies in Region’, New York Times, 14 May 2012; David Roberts, ‘Gulf Disunion’,, 2 May 2012. 109. Kareem Fahim, ‘As Hopes for Reform Fade in Bahrain, Protesters Turn Anger on United States’, New York Times, 25 June 2012.

Chapter 5: Libya: A Factionalized Military 1. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 3. 2. Ronald Bruce St John, Qaddafi’s World Design (London:  Saqi Books), pp. 12–13. 3. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 16. 4. Anderson, State and Social Transformation, pp. 70–2. 5. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 31. 6. Anderson, State and Social Transformation, p. 9. 7. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 41. 8. Ibid., pp. 40–1. 9. Anderson, State and Social Transformation, p. 183. 10. Herb, All in the Family, p. 191. 11. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 77. 12. Dirk Vandewalle, Libya Since Independence (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), pp. 86–7. 13. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 101. 14. Ibid., p. 3. 15. Hanspeter Mattes, ‘Formal and Informal Authority in Libya since 1969’, in Dirk Vandewalle (ed.), Libya Since 1969:  Qadhafi’s Revolution Revisited (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), p. 55. 16. Muammar al-Qaddafi, The Green Book (unknown edition), pp.  8, 10. Available at (accessed 23 May 2017). 17. St John, Qaddafi’s World Design, pp. 131–2. 18. George Joffe, ‘Civil Resistance in Libya’, in Roberts et  al., Civil Resistance, p. 117. 19. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 105. 20. Anthony Shadid, ‘Free of Qaddafi’s Rule, Town Struggles to Build New Order’, New York Times, 7 March 2011. 21. Mattes, ‘Formal and Informal Authority’, in Vandewalle, Libya Since 1969, pp. 57–8.


Notes to Pages 163–172 22. Ibid. 23. Luis Martinez, The Libyan Paradox (New  York:  Columbia University Press, 2007), p. 1. 24. Mieczystaw P.  Boduszyski and Duncan Pickard, ‘Libya Starts from Scratch’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 24, Number 4, (October 2013), p. 87. 25. Martinez, The Libyan Paradox, pp. 86–7. 26. St John, Qaddafi’s World Design, p. 125. 27. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 159. 28. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 101. 29. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 161. 30. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 120. 31. Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men: A Novel (New York: Dial Press, 2008). 32. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 149. 33. St John, Qaddafi’s World Design, pp. 36–7, 95–6. 34. J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins, Africa’s Thirty Year’s War: Libya, Chad, and the Sudan, 1963–1993 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999), p. 221. 35. Ronald Bruce St John, ‘The Soviet Penetration of Libya’, World Today, Volume 38, Number 4 (April 1982), p. 135. 36. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 168. 37. St John, Qaddafi’s World Design, p. 137. 38. Martinez, The Libyan Paradox, p. 55. 39. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 168. 40. Alison Pargeter, ‘Qaddafi and Political Islam’, in Vandewalle, Libya Since 1969, pp. 86–94. 41. Martinez, The Libyan Paradox, pp. 70–1. 42. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 165. 43. Ibid., pp. 169–70. 44. Vivienne Walt, ‘Syria’s Air-Defense Arsenal: The Russian Missiles Keeping Assad in Power’,, 3 June 2013. 45. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, pp. 147–8. 46. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 163, 169–70. 47. Ibid., pp. 163–4. 48. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, p. 149. 49. David D. Kirkpatrick and Mona El-Naggar, ‘Son of Qaddafi says Libya Faces Civil War Peril’, New York Times, 21 February 2011. 50. Alison Pargeter, ‘Libya: Reforming the Impossible?’ Review of African Political Economy, Volume 33, Number 108 (June 2006), pp. 219–35. 51. Joffe, ‘Civil Resistance in Libya’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 129. 52. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 165–6. 53. Joffe, ‘Civil Resistance in Libya’, in Roberts, et al., Civil Resistance, pp. 130–1; Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 146–8.


Notes to Pages 173–177 54. Alan Cowell, ‘Libyan Unrest Spreads to More Cities, Reports Say’, New York Times, 18 February 2011. 55. Anthony Shadid, ‘Clashes in Libya Worsen as Army Crushes Dissent’, New York Times, 19 February 2011. 56. Anthony Shadid, ‘Cycle of Suppression Rises In Libya and Other Nations’, New York Times, 20 February 2011. 57. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 148–9. 58. Ibid., pp. 165–6. 59. David D. Kirkpatrick and Mona El-Naggar, ‘Qaddafi’s Forces Strike with Fury as Unrest Grows’, New York Times, 22 February 2011. 60. Pargeter, ‘Libya: Reforming the Impossible?’ p. 225. 61. Colin Moynihan, ‘Libya’s U.N. Diplomats Break With Qaddafi’, New  York Times, 22 February 2011. 62. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 151–2. 63. Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick, ‘Qaddafi Massing Forces in Tripoli’, New York Times, 24 February 2011. 64. Kirkpatrick and El-Naggar, ‘Qaddafi’s Forces Strike with Fury’, New  York Times, 22 February 2011. 65. Martinez, The Libyan Paradox, pp. 25–8. 66. Kareem Fahim, ‘Rebels in Libya Hope for Qaddafi’s Fall but Remain Fearful of an Onslaught’, New York Times, 24 February 2011. 67. Embassy Tripoli, ‘Libya Interested in US Weapons, Ambivalent on Other Military Cooperation’, Wikileaks Cable: 08TRIPOLI992_a, dated 31 December 2008. Available at (accessed 23 May 2017). 68. Kirkpatrick and El-Naggar, ‘Libya Faces Civil War Peril’, New  York Times, 21 February 2011. 69. Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, pp. 1–10. 70. Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick, ‘Qaddafi Orders Brutal Crackdown as Revolt Grows’, New York Times, 23 February 2011. 71. Fahim and Kirkpatrick, ‘Qaddafi Massing Forces in Tripoli’, New York Times, 24 February 2011. 72. Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick, ‘Libyan Rebels Repel Qaddafi Forces Near Tripoli’, New York Times, 25 February 2011. 73. Boduszyski and Pickard, ‘Libya Starts from Scratch’, pp. 91–3. 74. Virginie Collombier, ‘Building an Army to Build the State? The Challenge of Building Security Institutions in Post-Qaddafi Libya’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 226. 75. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 151–2. 76. Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick, ‘Qaddafi’s Forces are Hitting Back at Libyan Rebels’, New York Times, 1 March 2011.


Notes to Pages 177–183 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89. 90. 91. 92. 93. 94. 95. 96. 97.

98. 99. 100. 101. 102. 103. 104.

Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 154. Ibid. Ibid., pp. 154–5. Kareem Fahim and David D.  Kirkpatrick, ‘Libyan Rebels Said to Debate Seeking U.N. Airstrikes Against Qaddafi’, New York Times, 2 March 2011. Ethan Bronner and David E.  Sanger, ‘No-Flight Zone In Libya Backed By Arab League’, New York Times, 13 March 2011. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, p. 168. Joffe, ‘Civil Resistance in Libya’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 133. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, p. 173. Ibid., pp. 170–1. Joffe, ‘Civil Resistance in Libya’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 140. James Risen, Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt, ‘U.S.-Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell Into Jihadis’ Hands’, New York Times, 15 December 2012. Marc Lynch, The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East (New York: Public Affairs, 2016), Kindle edition, p. 85. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 157 Ibid., p. 158 Ibid. Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 34. ‘Doubts cast on official Gaddafi death account’,, 22 October 2011. Karim Fahim and Rick Gladstone, ‘Qaddafi, Son and Former Defense Aide Buried in Secret Place’, New York Times, 25 October 2011. Joffe, ‘Civil Resistance in Libya’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, pp. 118–19. Collombier, ‘Building an Army to Build the State?’ in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 225–40. Kim Ghattas, ‘Hillary Clinton Has No Regrets About Libya’, ForeignPolicy. com, 14 April 2016; Jeffrey Goldberg, ‘The Obama Doctrine’, Atlantic, April 2016; Lynch, The New Arab Wars, pp. 88–90. Collombier, ‘Building an Army to Build the State?’ in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 226. Lynch, The New Arab Wars, p. 88. Boduszyski and Pickard, ‘Libya Starts from Scratch’, pp. 91–3. Collombier, ‘Building an Army to Build the State?’ in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 227–8. Worth, Rage for Order, pp. 41–2. Collombier, ‘Building an Army to Build the State?’ in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 228. ‘Libya Poised for Post-Gaddafi Power Transfer’,, 8 August 2012.


Notes to Pages 183–191 105. Collombier, ‘Building an Army to Build the State?’ in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 232. 106. Scott Shane and Jo Becker, ‘The Libya Gamble’, New  York Times, 27 February 2016. 107. Collombier, ‘Building an Army to Build the State?’ in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 236. 108. Ibid., p. 238. 109. Lynch, The New Arab Wars, pp. 183–7. 110. Joffe, ‘Civil Resistance in Libya’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 136. 111. Shane and Becker, ‘A New Libya, With “Very Little Time Left”’ New York Times, 27 February 2016. 112. Lynch, The New Arab Wars, pp. 187–8. 113. Mustafa Fetouri, ‘Libyan government, parliament enter into standoff ’,, 29 April 2016; Declan Walsh, ‘Tripoli, a Tense and Listless City with Gunmen and a Hugo Boss Outlet’, New York Times, 6 March 2016. 114. (accessed 2 June 2017). 115. Daw et al., ‘Libyan armed conflict 2011’, pp. 101–7. 116. Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017, (United States, Human Rights Watch, 2017), p. 407. Available at (accessed 25 November 2017). 117. Mustafa Fetouri, ‘Four years after Gadhafi, is Libya better off ?’ Al-Monitor. com, 12 October 2015; Walsh, ‘Tripoli, a Tense and Listless City’, New York Times, 6 March 2016. 118. ‘UN backed Libya government “to move to Tripoli in days”,’, 18 March 2016. 119. Mustafa Fetouri, ‘What, if anything, will come of meeting between Libyan rivals?’, 11 May 2017; Zena Tehan, ‘In Libya “there are no winners today” ’,, 17 November 2016.

Chapter 6: Syria: A Factionalized Military 1. Martin Evans, Algeria: France’s Undeclared War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), Kindle edition, p. 19. 2. Lynch, The New Arab Wars, pp. 126–35; Steven Heydemann, ‘Syria and the Future of Authoritarianism,’ Journal of Democracy, Volume 24, Number 4 (October 2013), 70 3. Albert Hourani, quoted in Nikolaos Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria (New York; I.B.Tauris & Co., 2011), p. 3. 4. Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria, p. 5. 5. Cleveland and Bunton, Modern Middle East, pp. 84–6.


Notes to Pages 192–199 6. Ibid., p. 206. 7. Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, CA:  Hoover Institution Press, 2012), Kindle edition, p. 20. 8. Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria, p.  9; Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 68–70. 9. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, p. 20; Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 71. 10. Cleveland and Bunton, Modern Middle East, p. 207. 11. Moshe Ma’oz, quoted in Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria, p. 5. 12. Amos Perlmutter, ‘From Obscurity to Rule: The Syrian Army and the Ba’ath Party’, Western Political Quarterly, Volume 22, Number 4 (December 1969), p. 845. 13. Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria, pp. 26–7. 14. Perlmutter, ‘From Obscurity to Rule’, p. 831. 15. Ibid., p. 830. 16. David Roberts, The Ba’ath and the Creation of Modern Syria (New  York:  St Martin’s Press, 1987), p. 36. 17. Robert W. Olson, The Ba’ath and Syria, 1947 to 1982: The Evolution of Ideology, Party and State (Princeton, NJ: Kingston Press, 1982). 18. Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 71. 19. Moshe Zeltzer, Ideologies of the Near East:  1946–1972 (New  York:  Vantage Press, 1975), p. 120; Perlmutter, ‘From Obscurity to Rule’, p. 833. 20. Michel Aflaq, Choice of Texts from the Ba’ath Party Founder’s Thought (Baghdad: Unity Freedom Socialism, 1977), p. 35. 21. Mufti, Sovereign Creations, p. 91. 22. Hanna Batatu, quoted in Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria, p. 28. 23. Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria, p. 31. 24. Avraham Ben-Tzur, ‘The Neo-Ba’th Party of Syria’, Journal of Contemporary History, Volume 3, Number 3 (July 1968), p. 164. 25. Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria, pp. 31–6. 26. Ibid., pp. 37–44. 27. Eisenstadt and Pollack, ‘Armies of Snow and Armies of Sand’, pp. 560–2. 28. Sheila Ryan and Joe Stork, ‘The U.  S.  and Jordan:  Thrice-Rescued Throne’, MERIP Reports, Number 7 (February 1972), p. 4. 29. Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria, 68 30. Ibid., pp. 68–70. 31. Mufti, Sovereign Creations, p. 180. 32. Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria, pp. 68–70, 123–5. 33. Alan George, Syria:  Neither Bread nor Freedom (New  York:  Zed Books, 2003), p. 71. 34. Ibid., pp. 141–3. 35. Ibid., p. 1.


Notes to Pages 199–208 36. David W. Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), Kindle edition, p. 11. 37. Raymond A  Hinnenbusch, ‘Does Syria Want Peace? Syrian Policy in the Syrian-Israeli Peace Negotiations’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Volume 26, Number 1 (Autumn 1996), p. 50. 38. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, p. 166. 39. Stacher, Adaptable Autocrats, p. 93. 40. Joshua Stacher, ‘Reinterpreting Authoritarian Power:  Syria’s Hereditary Succession’, Middle East Journal, Volume 65, Number 2 (Spring 2011), p. 211. 41. Joshua Landis and Joe Pace, ‘The Syrian Opposition’, Washington Quarterly, Volume 30, Number l (Winter 2006–7), pp. 47–8; Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, pp. 7–9; Lesch, The Fall of the House of Assad, pp. 8–9. 42. Raymond Hinnenbusch, Omar Imady and Tina Zintl, ‘Civil Resistance in the Syrian Uprising’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 225. 43. Emile Hokayem, Syria’s Uprising and the Fracturing of the Levant (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013), Kindle edition, Kindle locations 559–61. 44. Quinlivan, ‘Coup-Proofing,’ p. 141. 45. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 108. 46. Ibid., p. 103. 47. Ibid., pp. 103–8. 48. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, p. 47–55. 49. Albrecht, ‘Does Coup Proofing Work?’ p. 44. 50. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 110–11. 51. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 47–81. 52. Andre de Nesnera, ‘Syrian Army is Capable Military Force, Say Experts’, Voice of America, 13 June 2012. 53. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 110. 54. Vivienne Walt, ‘Syria’s Air-Defense Arsenal:  The Russian Missiles Keeping Assad in Power’,, 3 June 2013. 55. ‘The Squeeze on Assad,’ Economist, 30 June 2011. 56. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, p. 38; Quinlivan, ‘Coup-Proofing’, p. 152. 57. Quinlivan, ‘Coup-Proofing’, pp. 150–1. 58. Dawn Chatty, ‘The Bedouin in Contemporary Syria: The Persistence of Tribal Authority and Control’, Middle East Journal, Volume 64, Number 1 (Winter 2010), p. 30. 59. Bassem Haddad, ‘Syria’s Curious Dilemma’, Middle East Report, Number 236 (Fall 2005), p. 4. 60. Lesch, The Fall of the House of Assad, p. 40. 61. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, p. 182. 62. ‘In Syria, Demonstrations Are Few and Brief ’, New York Times, 17 March 2011. 63. Heydemann, ‘Future of Authoritarianism’, p. 62.


Notes to Pages 208–214 64. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, pp. 69–73; Hokayem, Syria’s Uprising, Kindle location 745–7. 65. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, pp. 72–4. 66. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 91. 67. ‘Protesters Are Killed in Syrian Crackdown’, New York Times, 24 March 2011. 68. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, p. 74. 69. Hinnenbusch et al., ‘Civil Resistance in the Syrian Uprising’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, pp. 228, 246. 70. Michael Slackman, ‘With Thousands in Streets, Syria Kills Protesters’, New York Times, 26 March 2011. 71. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, pp. 74–7. 72. Alia Malak, ‘The Syria the World Forgot’, New York Times, 8 June 2013. 73. Heydemann, ‘Future of Authoritarianism’, p. 62. 74. Ibid. 75. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 48, 56. 76. Hinnenbusch, et al., ‘Civil Resistance in the Syrian Uprising’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, pp. 231–6. 77. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 55–6. 78. Malak, ‘The Syria the World Forgot’, New York Times, 8 June 2013. 79. Hokayem, Syria’s Uprising, Kindle locations 765, 801–20. 80. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, p. 175. 81. Nada Bakri, ‘Security Forces Restrained as Syrian Protests Spread’, New York Times, 28 May 2011. 82. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, pp. 144–6. 83. Hokayem, Syria’s Uprising, Kindle location 1,415. 84. All4Syria, quoted in Droz-Vincent, ‘The Syrian Military and the 2011 Uprising’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 173. 85. Heydemann, ‘Future of Authoritarianism’, p. 66. 86. Hinnenbusch et al, ‘Civil Resistance in the Syrian Uprising,’ in Roberts, et al, Civil Resistance, 232 87. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 93–4. 88. Droz-Vincent, ‘The Syrian Military’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 173. 89. Ibid., p. 170. 90. Hokayem, Syria’s Uprising, Kindle location 984–6. 91. Droz-Vincent, ‘The Syrian Military’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 173. 92. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, pp. 97–8. 93. ‘Red Cross declares Syria conflict a civil war’,, 16 July 2012. 94. Taylor, Military Responses to the Arab Uprisings, p. 100. 95. Ibid., pp. 100–1.


Notes to Pages 214–223 96. Lynch, The New Arab Wars, pp. 111–19. 97. Ibid., p. 126. 98. Droz-Vincent, ‘The Syrian Military’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 179–80. 99. Lynch, The New Arab Wars, p. 105. 100. Hinnenbusch et al., ‘Civil Resistance in the Syrian Uprising’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 233. 101. Afshon Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), Kindle edition, Kindle location 4,885–97. 102. Ibid., Kindle location 4,921–2. 103. Lynch, The New Arab Wars, p. 111. 104. Ibid., pp. 119–25. 105. Ibid., pp. 128–9. 106. Heydemann, ‘Future of Authoritarianism’, p. 66. 107. Ibid., pp. 63–4. 108. Droz-Vincent, ‘The Syrian Military’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 180. 109. Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam, Kindle location 4,744–6. 110. Ibid., Kindle location 5,242–61; Julia Ioffe, ‘Russia’s Game Plan in Syria Is Simple’,, 25 September 2015; ‘Russia under fire at Human Rights Council’,, 26 October 2016; ‘Russia and China veto UN resolution on Syria sanctions’,, 28 February 2017. 111. Heydemann, ‘Future of Authoritarianism,’ pp. 61–3. 112. Hokayem, Syria’s Uprising, Kindle location 1,409. 113. Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 54. 114. Al Rifai, ‘Syria’s de-escalation ones’,, 9 May 2017. 115. ‘Syria’s civil war: “Chlorine gas dropped on Idlib town”’,, 2 August 2016. 116. Heydemann, ‘Future of Authoritarianism’, p. 72. 117. ‘FSA rebels: We would have won if not for Iran’,, 10 October 2017.

Chapter 7: Yemen: A Factional Military 1. Quilivan, ‘Coup-proofing’, pp. 131–51. 2. Victoria Clark, Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010), Kindle edition, p. xi. 3. Stephen W. Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), Kindle edition, p. 28. 4. Ibid., p. 33. 5. Ibid., pp. 28–35.


Notes to Pages 223–231 6. Paul Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 6. 7. Ibid., pp. 5, 9. 8. Ibid., pp. 28–30. 9. Clark, Dancing on the Heads of Snakes, p. 25. 10. Shelagh Weir, A Tribal Order:  Politics and Law in the Mountains of Yemen (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2007), Kindle edition, pp. 143–8. 11. Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen, pp. 30–1. 12. Ibid., p. 48. 13. Ibid., p. 38. 14. Clark, Dancing on the Heads of Snakes, pp. 53–5. 15. Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen, p. 36; Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen, pp. 54–7. 16. Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen, pp. 65–9, 77–84. 17. Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen, pp. 36–7. 18. Clark, Dancing on the Heads of Snakes, pp. 60–2. 19. Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen, pp. 65–81. 20. Clark, Dancing on the Heads of Snakes, p. 62. 21. Ibid., pp. 91–2. 22. Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen, p.  39; Witty, ‘A Regular Army in Counterinsurgency’, p. 406. 23. ‘Abd al-Malik al-Tayyib, quoted in Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen, p. 90. 24. Clark, Dancing on the Heads of Snakes, pp. 98–9, 101. 25. Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen, p. 62. 26. Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen, p. 147. 27. Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen, p. 92. 28. Robert D. Burrowes, quoted in Clark, Dancing on the Heads of Snakes, p. 111. 29. Sarah Phillips, Yemen and the Politics of Permanent Crisis (Oxon: Routledge, 2011), Kindle edition, pp. 12–13. 30. Noel Brehony, Yemen Divided:  The Story of a Failed State in South Arabia (London: I.B.Tauris, 2011), pp. 112–13. 31. Ibid., p. 113; Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen, pp. 148–9. 32. Albrecht, ‘Cain and Abel in the Land of Sheba’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 131–2, 138–9. 33. Clark, Dancing on the Heads of Snakes, p. 104. 34. Ibid., pp. 159, 249. 35. Phillips, Politics of Permanent Crisis, p. 55. 36. Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen, p. 94. 37. Ibid., p. 95. 38. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 95–6. 39. Ibid., pp. 82–4.


Notes to Pages 231–240 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61.


63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71.

Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen, p. 96. Ibid., p. 11. Clark, Dancing on the Heads of Snakes, p. 123. Phillips, Politics of Permanent Crisis, pp. 35–6. Ibid., p. 14. Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen, pp. 58–62. Brehony, Yemen Divided, pp. 9–10. Clark, Dancing on the Heads of Snakes, pp. 87–8. Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen, p. 109. Ibid., p. 120–2. Brehony, Yemen Divided, pp. 9–10. Ibid., pp. 64–85. Fred Halliday, quoted in Day, Regionalism and Rebellion, p. 74. Brehony, Yemen Divided, pp. 168–82. Ibid., p. 188. Ibid., pp. 195–6. Ibid., pp. 209, 211. Ibid., p. 211. Ibid., p. 209. Helen Lackner, ‘The Change Squares of Yemen’, in Roberts et  al., Civil Resistance, pp. 151–2. April Longley Alley, ‘Yemen Changes Everything … And Nothing’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 24, Number 4 (October 2013), p. 75. Barak A. Salmoni, Bryce Loidolt and Madeleine Wells, Regime and Periphery in Northern Yemen:  The Huthi Phenomenon (Santa Monica, CA:  RAND Corporation, 2010), Kindle edition, pp. 1–3. Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen, pp.  217–18; Phillips, Politics of Permanent Crisis, pp.  99–105; Alley, ‘Yemen Changes Everything … And Nothing’, pp. 75–6. Phillips, Politics of Permanent Crisis, p. 139. Albrecht, ‘Cain and Abel in the Land of Sheba’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 134–6. Ibid., p. 136. Lawson, ‘Armed Forces, Internal Security Services’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, p. 67. Khaled Fattah, 2010, quoted in ibid., p. 65. Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 95. Alley, ‘Yemen Changes Everything … And Nothing’, pp. 76–7. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 82–5. Lackner, ‘The Change Squares of Yemen’, in Roberts et  al., Civil Resistance, pp. 153–5.


Notes to Pages 242–248 72. Albrecht, ‘Cain and Abel in the Land of Sheba,’ in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 130–1. 73. Anthony Shadid et al., ‘Waves of Unrest Spread to Yemen, Shaking a Region,’ The New York Times, 28 January 2011. 74. Laura Kasinof, ‘Weakening Web of Tribal Support Softens Yemen Leader’s Grip’, New York Times, 24 March 2011. 75. Laura Kasinof and Nada Bakri, ‘Facing Unrest, Yemen’s Leader Says He Will Step Down in 2013’, New York Times, 3 February 2011. 76. Lynch, The Arab Uprising, pp. 105–7. 77. Laura Kasinof and David Goodman, ‘Yemen Youth In Protests Square Off With Forces’, New York Times, 14 February 2011. 78. Laura Kasinof and David Goodman, ‘Police Try to End Clashes in Yemen’, New York Times, 17 February 2011. 79. Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen, pp. 156–64, 210–11. 80. Laura Kasinof, ‘In Yemeni Capital, Security Forces Attack Protesters’ Encampment’, New York Times, 13 March 2011. 81. Albrecht, ‘Cain and Abel in the Land of Sheba’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 135–6, 139. 82. Phillips, Politics of Permanent Crisis, p. 126. 83. Lackner, ‘The Change Squares of Yemen’, in Roberts et  al., Civil Resistance, p. 155. 84. Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 99. 85. Phillips, Politics of Permanent Crisis, p. 126. 86. Lackner, ‘The Change Squares of Yemen’, in Roberts et  al., Civil Resistance, pp. 157–8. 87. Robert F.  Worth, ‘After Talks Collapse, Yemeni Tribesmen Battle President’s Forces in Streets’, New York Times, 24 May 2011. 88. Worth, A Rage for Order, pp. 100–3. 89. Laura Kasinof, ‘Islamists Seize A Yemeni City, Stoking Fears’, New York Times, 30 May 2011. 90. Nasser Arrabyee and J. David Goodman, ‘Clashes in Yemen Spread to Tribes Beyond Capital’, New York Times, 27 May 2011. 91. Karim Fahim and Laura Kasinof, ‘Yemen Leader Agrees to End 3-Decade Rule’, New York Times, 24 November 2011. 92. ‘Yemen:  Protesters Denounce Ex-Leader’s Influence’, New  York Times, 3 August 2012. 93. Worth, A Rage for Order, p. 106. 94. Lackner, ‘The Change Squares of Yemen’, in Roberts et  al., Civil Resistance, p. 167; Alley, ‘Yemen Changes Everything … And Nothing’, p. 79. 95. Albrecht, ‘Cain and Abel in the Land of Sheba’, in Albrecht et al., Armies and Insurgencies, pp. 140–1.


Notes to Pages 248–254 96. ‘Yemen, Hailed as Model, Struggles for Stability’, New  York Times, 18 February 2013. 97. Robert F. Worth, ‘Even Out of Office, a Wielder of Great Power in Yemen’, New  York Times, 31 January 2014; Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, ‘Yemen’s President: A Path to Peace’, New York Times, 28 March 2016; Lackner, ‘The Change Squares of Yemen’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 161. 98. Kareem Fahim, ‘Bitterness Abounds in Yemen’s North, a Houthi Stronghold’, New York Times, 13 October 2015. 99. Lackner, ‘The Change Squares of Yemen’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, p. 161. 100. ‘Yemen’s Houthis give ultimatum to president’,, 31 October 2014. 101. Saeed Al-Batati and David D. Kirkpatrick, ‘Houthi Forces Move on Southern Yemen, Raising Specter of Regional Ground War’, New York Times, 27 March 2015. 102. Mathew Rosenberg and Mark Mazzetti, ‘U.S. Ship Fires Missiles at Yemeni Rebel Sites’, New  York Times, 12 October 2016; Shuaib Almosawa and Ben Hubbard, ‘Saudi Led Airstrikes Blamed for Massacre at Funeral in Yemen’, New York Times, 8 October 2016. 103. Laura Rozen, ‘Critics say operation to take port could spell more catastrophe for Yemen’,, 30 March 2017. 104. David Jolly, ‘Death Toll in Syrian Civil War Near 93,000, U.N. Says’, New York Times, 13 June 2013. 105. Alley, ‘Yemen Changes Everything … And Nothing’, p. 80. 106. Amal Nasser, ‘The human cost of the siege of Sanaa’,, 4 April 2017. 107. ‘State of emergency in Yemen’s Sanaa over cholera crisis’,, 15 May 2017.

Chapter 8: Iran: A Sultanistic Military 1. Nikki R.  Keddie, Modern Iran:  Roots and Results of Revolution  – Updated Edition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 21. 2. Cleveland and Bunton, Modern Middle East, p. 102. 3. Ervand Abrahamian, A History of Modern Iran (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2008), Kindle edition, pp. 11–12. 4. Arang Keshavarzian, Bazaar and State in Iran:  The Politics of the Tehran Marketplace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 228–55. 5. Keddie, Modern Iran, pp. 67–8. 6. Abrahamian, History of Modern Iran, p. 59.


Notes to Pages 255–262 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34.


Keddie, Modern Iran, pp. 80–1. Abrahamian, History of Modern Iran, pp. 65–8. Herb, All in the Family, pp. 21–50. Cleveland and Bunton, Modern Middle East, p. 173. Abrahamian, History of Modern Iran, p. 77. Ibid., pp. 68–70. Ibid., p. 99. Abbas Milani, The Shah (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), Kindle edition, pp. 96–100. Keddie, Modern Iran, pp. 106–14. Ibid., pp. 124–6. Milani, The Shah, pp. 144–5. Abrahamian, History of Modern Iran, pp. 97–8. Milani, The Shah, pp. 152–69. Ibid., p. 391. Cleveland and Bunton, Modern Middle East, p. 272. Herb, All in the Family, pp. 209–23. H. E. Chehabi and Juan J. Linz, ‘A Theory of Sultanism I: A Type of Nondemocratic Rule’, in Chehabi and Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, p. 7. Katollzian, ‘The Pahlavi Regime in Iran’, in Chalabi and Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, pp. 195–6. Misagh Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989), Kindle edition, p. 247; Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, pp. 50–1. Nikola B. Schahgaldian and Gina Barkhordarian, The Iranian Military Under the Islamic Republic (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1987), pp. 38–9. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, pp. 52, 54–5. Schahgaldian and Barkhordarian, The Iranian Military Under the Islamic Republic, pp. 34–6. Ibid., p. 48 Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, p. 53. Schahgaldian and Barkhordarian, The Iranian Military Under the Islamic Republic, pp. 12–13. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, p. 50. Skocpol, ‘Rentier State and Shi’a Islam’, p. 267. Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam, Kindle locations 992–1,035; Fred Halliday, ‘Iran’s Tide of History:  Counter-Revolution and After’, in Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel (eds), The People Reloaded:  The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2010), Kindle edition, pp. 53–9. Parsa, Social Origins, pp. 82–4.


Notes to Pages 262–270 36. Milani, The Shah, pp. 375, 384–6, 393. 37. Parsa, Social Origins, p. 110. 38. Nicholas M. Nikazmerad, ‘A Chronological Survey of the Iranian Revolution’, Iranian Studies, Volume 13, Number 1/4, Iranian Revolution in Perspective (1980), pp. 327–31. 39. Parsa, Social Origins, p. 217. 40. Milani, The Shah, p. 406. 41. Asef Bayat, ‘Iran:  a green wave for life and liberty’, 7 July 2009. Available at article/ iran- a- green- wave- for- life- and- liberty (accessed 23 May 2017); Keddie, Modern Iran, p. 234. 42. Ruhollah Khomeini, ‘Islamic Government’, in Ruhollah Khomeini, Islam and Revolution, trans. and ed. Hamid Algar (Berkeley, CA:  Mizan Press, 1981), pp. 27–168. 43. Parsa, Social Origins, pp. 112–14. 44. Charles Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), p. 108. 45. Parsa, Social Origins, p. 113. 46. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, p. 65. 47. Milani, The Shah, p. 388. 48. Ibid., pp. 384–6. 49. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, pp. 65, 69–74. 50. Milani, The Shah, p. 386. 51. Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution, pp. 111–22. 52. Ibid., p. 117. 53. Ibid., p. 111. 54. Ibid., p. 122. 55. Milani, The Shah, p. 388. 56. Ibid., p. 338. 57. Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution, p. 157; Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, pp. 60–1. 58. Schahgaldian and Barkhordarian, The Iranian Military Under the Islamic Republic, pp. 36–7. 59. Ibid., p. 50. 60. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, pp. 65–6. 61. Parsa, Social Origins, pp.  241–3; Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution, pp. 114–16. 62. Nikazmerad, ‘A Chronological Survey’, p. 333. 63. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, p. 58. 64. Ibid., pp. 58–9. 65. Milani, The Shah, p. 396.


Notes to Pages 270–278 66. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, p. 59. 67. Milani, The Shah, p. 400. 68. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, pp.  60–1; Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution, p. 157. 69. Parsa, Social Origins, p. 247. 70. O’Donnell and Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, pp. 53–4. 71. Parsa, Social Origins, p. 169; Keddie, Modern Iran, pp. 215–16. 72. Nikazmerad, ‘A Chronological Survey’, pp. 348–9. 73. Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution, pp. 33–49. 74. Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam, Kindle location 327–8. 75. Ibid., Kindle location 347–8. 76. Enghelab-e Eslami, 9 March 1981, quoted in Parsa, Social Origins, p. 295. 77. Parsa, Social Origins, p. 312. 78. Ibid., pp. 267–73. 79. Gregory F.  Rose, ‘The Post-Revolutionary Purge of Iran’s Armed Forces: A Revisionist Assessment’, Iranian Studies, Volume 17, Number 2/3 (Spring– Summer 1984), pp. 154–5. 80. Parsa, Social Origins, pp. 257–9. 81. Mohsen M. Milani, ‘Harvest of Shame: Tudeh and the Bazargan Government’, Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 29, Number 2 (April 1993), p. 311. 82. Mark Bowden, Guests of the Ayatollah (New York: Grove Press, 2007), Kindle edition, pp. 9–14. 83. Parsa, Social Origins, p. 254. 84. Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam, Kindle location 222. 85. Elliot Hen-Tov and Nathan Gonzalez, ‘The Militarization of Post-Khomeini Iran: Praetorianism 2.0’, Washington Quarterly, Volume 34, Number 1 (Winter 2011), p. 52. 86. Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam, Kindle location 217–67. 87. Anthony H.  Cordesman, Iran’s Military Forces in Transition:  Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1999), pp. 134–5. 88. Scott Peterson, Let the Swords Encircle Me:  Iran  – a Journey Behind the Headlines (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), Kindle edition, p. 164. 89. Cordesman, Iran’s Military Forces, pp. 93–9, 135. 90. Hen-Tov and Gonzalez, ‘The Militarization of Post-Khomeini Iran’, p. 55. 91. Abbas Milani, ‘Cracks in the Regime’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 20, Number 4 (October 2009), p. 13. 92. Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam, Kindle location 399–401. 93. Cordesman, Iran’s Military Forces, p. 129. 94. Frederic Wehrey, Jerrold D. Green, Brian Nichiporuk, Alireza Nader, and Lydia Hansell, Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s


Notes to Pages 279–289 Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2009), Kindle edition, Kindle locations 175–85, 1,483–1,503. 95. Peterson, Let the Swords Encircle Me, pp. 449–50. 96. Kaveh Ehsani, Arang Keshavarzian, and Norma Claire Moruzzi, ‘Slaps in the Face of Reason: Tehran, June 2009’, in Hashemi and Postel (eds), The People Reloaded, pp. 31–4. 97. Bill Keller, ‘Memo From Tehran: Reverberations as Door Slams on Hope of Change’, New York Times, 13 June 2009, quoted in Peterson, Let the Swords Encircle Me, p. 522. 98. Peterson, Let the Swords Encircle Me, pp. 494–504. 99. Mehran Kamrava, ‘The 2009 Elections and Iran’s Changing Political Landscape’, Orbis, Volume 54, Number 3 (Summer 2010), p. 409. 100. Peterson, Let the Swords Encircle Me, p. 512. 101. Ali Afshari and H.  Graham Underwood, ‘The Green Wave’, Journal of Democracy, Volume 20, Number 4 (October 2009), p. 8. 102. Haroon Siddique, ‘Iran elections:  Khamenei warns protesters to stay off streets’,, 19 June 2009. 103. Peterson, Let the Swords Encircle Me, p. 534. 104. Kamrava, ‘The 2009 Elections’, p. 409. 105. Hooman Majd, ‘Think Again:  Iran’s Green Movement’,, 6 January 2010; Akbar Ganji, ‘Iran’s Green Movement Five Years Later  – “Defeated” But Ultimately Victorious’,, 9 June 2014. 106. Mahsa Rouhi, ‘Why Rouhani will likely win second term’,, 2 May 2017. 107. Kamrava, ‘The 2009 Elections’, pp.  410–11; Hen-Tov and Gonzalez, ‘The Militarization of Post-Khomeini Iran’, p. 53. 108. Majd, ‘Think Again’,, 6 January 2010. 109. Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam, Kindle location 360–90. 110. Ibid.

Conclusion 1. O’Donnell and Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, p. 27. 2. Bermeo, ‘Myths of Moderation’, pp. 314–19. 3. Volpi, ‘Algeria Versus the Arab Spring’, pp. 104–15; Lacroix, ‘Is Saudi Arabia Immune?’ pp. 48–59. 4. Jacob Amis, ‘Hirak! Civil Resistance and the Jordan Spring’, in Roberts et al., Civil Resistance, pp.  169–93; Driss Maghraoui, ‘Morocco:  Obedience, Civil Resistance, and Dispersed Solidarities’, in ibid, pp. 194–223. 5. Brooks, Political–Military Relations, pp. 32–3.


Notes to Pages 290–293 6. Kamrava, ‘Military Professionalization’, p. 68. 7. Karen Elliot House, On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – and Future (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2012), p. 10; Quinlivan, ‘Coup-Proofing’, pp. 142–3; United States Government – Various Bodies, 2011 Complete Guide to Saudi Arabia (Progressive Management Services, 2011), Kindle edition, Kindle locations 5,121, 9,309–10, 9,444–5, 9,550. 8. Pinar Tremblay, ‘Why is Erdogan rushing into a referendum now?’ Al-Monitor. com, 28 February 2017. 9. Ali Bayramoglu, ‘What is happening in the Turkish military?’, 9 March 2017; Metin Gurcan, ‘After massive purge, what’s next for Turkish armed forces?’, 1 August 2016; Ali Bayramoglu, ‘Is Turkish military’s role in politics over?’, 17 January 2017; Metin Gurcan, ‘How Turkey is reforming its military’,, 8 August 2016; Metin Gurcan, ‘Turkish military faces secularism test’,, 9 May 2016. 10. O’Donnell and Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, pp.  15–27, 34–6; Linz and Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, pp. 66–8; Ruth Berins Collier and James Mahoney, ‘Adding Collective Actors to Collective Outcomes: Labor and Recent Democratization in South America and Southern Europe’, Comparative Politics, Volume 29, Number 3 (April 1997), pp. 285–303. 11. Barany, How Armies Respond to Revolutions, pp. 16–40. 12. Michael Chege, in Bratton and Vandewalle, Democratic Experiments in Africa, p. 221. 13. Howard and Hussain, Democracy’s Fourth Wave?, pp. 106–14.


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Index Note: Page numbers in bold denote tables and charts. Abdallah, Sheikh 231 Aburish, Said 102 Aden (Yemen) 225, 233–4, 236, 246 Aflaq, Michel 196, 198 Agha-Soltan, Neda 281 Ahmad b. Yahya, Imam 226–8 Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud 277, 279–80, 281 al-Ahmar, Ali Muhsin 231, 237–8, 240, 245–6 al-Ahmar, Hamad 245 air power no-fly zones 179, 182–3, 216, 294 Syrian military 215, 219, 294 Albrecht, Holgar 32, 33–4, 35 Alexander, Christopher 66, 68, 75 Algeria measures to pre-empt protest 8, 289 war of independence 70 Amer, Hakim 101, 103, 103–4 Ammar, Rachid 84, 87 Ansar Sharia (Tunisia) 90 April 6 Youth Movement (Egypt) 113–14 Arab League 175, 179, 180, 215 Arab Spring causes 4–5 early analyses 9–11 early optimism 3–4

military structure and outcomes 17–29, 18, 52–3, 53, 55, 286 post-breakdown trajectories 57–9, 57, 60, 287 regional diffusion 7–9 regional variations 5–6 see also uprisings al-Assad, Bashar 148, 202, 215–17 al-Assad, Hafiz 190, 198–202, 203 al-Assad, Rifat 203, 206 Ayat (poet) 152 Ba’ath Party (Syria) Alawi influence 198, 199, 200 foundation 196 Hama massacre (1982) 205–6 ideology 196, 198 indoctrination of society 199, 200 post-independence coups 197 Al-Badr, Muhammed, Imam 228 Bahrain 128–56 Al-Wefaq opposition 138, 146, 150, 151, 153–4 citizenship 139, 140 concessions to protesters 145, 149 constitution 132–3, 138, 154 corruption 138 dynastic monarchy 130–1 elections 133, 138–9


Index Bahrain (cont.) foreign troop involvement 151 historical development 129–34 independence 132–3 internet 149, 152 intimidation and torture of protesters 152–3 and Iran 151, 155 Islamism 150 migrant labor 132, 136, 142 National Assembly 133 negotiations 150, 151 oil 130 political reforms 138 pro-regime support 149 protests and repression 18, 132, 136–7, 144, 154–5 reliance on US for external defense 135, 140 and Saudi Arabia 129, 151, 155 sectarian divisions 130, 133–5, 138, 150 Shi’a exclusion 128, 129, 135–6, 139 trade union (GBFTU) 146, 147 uprising 1, 55, 144–52 and US 142, 147–8, 155–6 Bahraini military bureaucratization 143, 144 cohesiveness 141–2, 143 identification with regime 19 loyalty 15 mercenaries 1, 19, 128, 140, 141–2, 153 representativeness 142, 143 repression 18, 144 Shi’a exclusion 128, 129, 136, 139 structure 48, 49, 53, 54, 54, 129, 141–4

US support 142 violent response to protests 146, 151–3 Bakhtiar, Shapour 270, 271 Bakil tribe (Yemen) 223, 227 Al-Bandar, Saleh 138 al-Banna, Hassan 99–100 Barany, Zoltan 16, 42, 73, 76, 266 Basiji militia (Iran) 35, 217, 277, 278, 280–1, 282 Bazargan, Mehdi 271, 275 Bellin, Eva 12, 14, 30, 111 Ben Ali, Leila 83 Ben Ali, Zine al-Abidine corruption 77–8, 81 early liberalization 74 oppressive police state 75–6, 77–8 overthrow 84–5 presidential guard 75–6, 83, 84 regime brutality 83–4 Ben Youssef, Saleh 69–70 Benghazi 177, 183, 184 al-Bidh, Ali Salem 235, 236 al Bitar, Salah al-Din 196 Bou Nassif, Hicham 10–11, 14–15, 30, 35, 37, 39, 110 Bouazizi, Muhammed 7, 80, 81–2 Bourguiba, Habib Bourguibism 64, 70–1 foreign policy 71 and Islam 71 and the military 73–4 removal from power 74 Tunisian independence struggle 68–70 women’s rights and family law 71 Bratton, Michael 22, 25, 26


Index Britain Aden control 225, 233–4 Bahraini protectorate 132 and Egypt 100–1 Egyptian protectorate 98–9 and Iran 257 Libyan intervention 180–1 Pan Am bombing 169, 172 Brooks, Risa 35, 38, 72, 76, 111 Brownlee, Jason et al. (Masoud and Reynolds) 6, 9, 11, 13, 56, 86 bureaucratization 17 Bahraini military 143, 144 definition 45–6 Egyptian military 108–9, 112 Iranian military 261, 279 Libyan military 171 and military type 48 Syrian military 207 Tunisian military 63, 76, 79 Yemeni military 241 Camp David Accords (1978) 105, 118 Carter, Jimmy 263 Change Square (Yemen) 243, 244 characteristics see distinctiveness and subordination characteristic; internal structure characteristic Charrad, Mounira 67, 71 China, and Syria 8 civil war and breakdown in cohesion 3 death tolls 186–7 external interventions 58–9 Libya 58, 172, 176, 181–2, 185–7 military expertise impact on intensity 20, 59–60, 288

see also Syrian uprising/civil war; Yemeni civil wars/disturbances civil–military relations, and military professionalism 27–31 Clinton, Hillary 148–9 cohesiveness affected by expertise 40 Bahraini military 141, 143 decision making factor 10–11, 14–15 definition 43–4 Egyptian military 112 Iranian military 35–6, 261, 279 Libyan military 171 maintenance at expense of power 26 and military type 48 restraints 11 Syrian military 206, 207 Tunisian military 63, 79 and uprising outcomes 17 Yemeni military 241 see also internal structure characteristic conscription 76, 102, 106, 203, 256, 259, 278 coup-proofing disputed concept 32 dual militaries 35–6 factionalism 222 family/tribal loyalties 34–5 fragmentation and surveillance 34–8 internal vs external security forces 37 overlapping strategies 33–4 presidential protection units 36 Qaddafi 164–6, 168–9, 188 Syria 203–4, 206 coups, Middle East and North Africa 34, 41


Index Croissant, Aurel 11, 13, 15 Cromer, Lord 98 Cyrenaica 159, 160, 161, 165, 168 Days of Rage 8, 113–14, 210 death tolls 59–60, 186–7, 218, 250, 294 defections, military Iran 269 Libya 13, 173–4 Syria 12–13, 14, 212–14 Yemen 245–6 democratization 19–20, 25–7, 55–7, 57, 287 distinctiveness Bahraini military 143 definition 44–5 Egyptian military 112 Iranian military 261 Libyan military 171 and military type 48 Syrian military 207 Tunisian military 79 Yemeni military 241 distinctiveness and subordination characteristic Bahraini military 144 Egyptian military 111, 112, 119 Iranian military 262, 279 Libyan military 170, 171 predictor of uprising outcome 17–18, 18, 52–3, 53, 55, 286 Syrian military 207 Tunisian military 78, 79 Yemeni military 240, 241 see also distinctiveness; subordination Droz-Vincent, Phillipe 15–16, 105, 214, 217

Eastern Europe 26, 40 Egypt 93–127 anti-Morsi protests 123–4 Battle of the Camels 117–18, 148 Camp David Accords (1978) 105 constitution 120–1 continuing repression 126 democratization possibilities 127 elections 113, 120–2, 123, 124 historical development 96–101 independence 18, 19 internal security services 107–8 and Libya 185 Al-Nour Party 119, 121 political parties 103 regime brutality 114–15, 117–18 renewed authoritarianism 56–7 Saudi Arabian land transfer 125–6 uprising 113–18 US response to uprising 7, 116, 118, 124–5, 147–8 Wafd Party 99 see also Mubarak, Hosni Egyptian military bread riots (1977) 105–6 bureaucratization 108–9, 112 Christians 102 conscription 102, 106 coup (1952) 101 economic interests 39, 106–7, 108, 111, 120 Free Officers 100 Morsi coup (2013) 123–4 Mubarak coup (2011) 20, 55, 118 Muhammed Ali modernization 97 and Muslim Brotherhood 119, 121–3 nationalism 98–9


Index non-violent response to protests (2011) 115–18 repression 119–20, 123, 124, 125 Sinai insurgency 123, 125 Six-Day War (1967) defeat 103–4 size 105 structure 48, 53, 54, 102–3, 111, 112, 119 subordination under Nasser 101–2 subordination under Sadat 104–5 Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) 108, 109 under Mubarak 103, 107–11 US aid 108 war with Israel (1948) 100, 101 in Yemen 103 equipment, provision, as coupprevention strategy 38–40 Erdoğan, Recep Tayyip 291 Essebsi, Beji Caid 90–1, 93 expertise and civil war intensity 20, 59–60, 60 coup-deterrence strategies 39–40 death tolls 59–60, 186–7, 218, 250, 294 definition 46–7 Egyptian military 112 Iranian military 259–60, 262, 279 Libyan military 171 and military type 48 Syrian military 205, 207, 208 Tunisian military 77, 79 Yemeni military 240, 241 external allies, influence on uprising outcome 51–2 external focus

and conflict outcome 14, 58–9 definition 47 and democratization 55–7, 57 Egyptian military 112 Iranian military 261, 279, 283 Libyan military 171 and military type 48 and regime survival 20, 21 Syrian military 207 Tunisian military 79, 86–7 Tunisian uprising 84–5 Yemeni military 241 external protection coup-proofing strategy 40–1 reliance on US 31 factionalized militaries Arab world 48, 49, 158 coup-proofing 222 Libya 18, 19, 20, 55, 58, 158, 170, 171, 174 post-revolution Iran 278–9, 283, 284 Syria 18, 19, 20, 55, 191, 203–4, 212 Yemen 13, 15, 18, 19, 55, 222, 239–40, 250–1 Fardoust, Hossain 260–1 Fezzan (Libya) 159, 160, 185 Finer, S. E. 28–9 France Algerian war of independence 70 Syrian mandate 192–4, 220 Tunisian protectorate 65–8, 70 and Tunisian uprising 85 Free Syrian Army (FSA) 214, 217, 218, 220–1 fuzzy-set analysis 293


Index Gafsa revolt (2008) 80–1 Gause, F. Gregory 6, 9, 15–16 Ghannouchi, Rachid 74, 86, 88, 90–2, 93 al-Ghashmi, Ahmed 229 Green Movement (Iran) 279–83 2009 election protests 279–80 regime violence and repression 280–1, 282–3 and social media 281–2 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) formation 135 further cooperation 155 reliance on US for external defense 135, 142 and Yemen 58–61, 246, 247, 249–51 Gulf War (1990–1) 201 Hadi, Abdu Rabbu Mansour 248, 249 al-Hafiz, Amin 198 Hama massacre (1982) 205–6 Hamad, ibn Isa al-Khalifa, King of Bahrain 137–8, 145, 146, 147, 149, 154 al-Hamdi, Ibrahim 229, 231, 238 Hariri, Rafic 201 Hashid tribe (Yemen) 223, 227, 229, 231, 239, 245 Herb, Michael 130–1, 135 Heydemann, Steven 8, 213, 217, 219 Hezbollah 201, 216 Hiftar, Khalifa 185, 187 Hinnenbusch, Raymond 200–1, 210, 211 al-Houthi, Husayn 237 Houthi rebellion 237–8, 239, 245, 248–50

Huntington, Samuel 28–9, 43 Hussein, Saddam 37 Idris, King of Libya 160, 161, 165 internal security services 21, 27, 36–7, 39, 44 internal structure characteristic Bahraini military 144 Egyptian military 112 Iranian military 262, 279 Libyan military 171 military response 55 predictor of uprising outcome 17–18, 18, 55, 286 Syrian military 207 Tunisian military 78, 79 Yemeni military 240, 241 see also bureaucratization; cohesiveness internet Bahrain 149, 152 Iran 281–2 and social movements 5 state monitoring and protest prevention 8, 289 Tunisia 81–3 Iran 252–94 and Bahrain 151, 155 economic crisis 262–3 elections 276, 279–81, 283 historical development 253–5 Houthi support in Yemen 249 Imam Khomeini Airport contract 279 Majlis (parliament) 255, 276 oil industry 257 Pahlavi dynasty 255–7 Shi’a hierarchy 254


Index social activism 263 social media 281–2 sultanistic regime 19, 32–3, 252–3, 259 support for radical groups 201, 277 support for Syria 216 Supreme Leader dominance 276 Tudeh Party 257, 258 ulama interest group 254 see also Green Movement; Mohammed Reza Shah Iran–Iraq War 37, 135, 201 Iranian military Basiji militia 35, 217, 277, 278, 280–1, 282 Black Friday violence 270 bureaucratization 261, 279 cohesiveness 35–6, 261, 279 collapse 18, 19, 20, 55, 120, 271, 275, 284 competing groups 272 conscription 256, 259, 278 defections 269 expertise 259–60, 262, 279 external focus 261, 279, 283 Green Movement violence (2009) 280–1, 282–3 Imperial Guard 36, 259, 271 Khomeini regime reorganization 274 Mohammed Reza Shah control 38, 257, 258–61 Mossadeq coup 257 officer class 256, 260 post-revolution factionalization 278–9, 283, 284 representativeness 259, 261, 278–9 Shah’s overthrow not considered 268–9, 284

size 277 structure 48, 49, 53, 54, 261, 262, 278–9 subordination 261, 279 under Reza Shah 256 utopian revolutionary project 57, 58, 276 violence little used during Shah’s overthrow 267, 268–9 see also Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Iranian Revolution 262–76 40-day protest cycle 263–4, 267 Black Friday killings 270 cinema fire 269 coalition of interests 264, 265–6 competing Islamists, communists and liberals 272, 274 Islamic Republican Party (IRP) 273 Khomeini return 271 lack of a public gathering space 264, 269, 282–3 martial law 270 Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) 274 mosque network 272–3 radicalization 264 revolutionary courts 273–4 Shah’s repression and concessions 266–7 size of protests 267, 268 strikes 267, 270 US hostage crisis 274–5 US influence 266, 270 Iraq fragmented society and military 290 Kuwait invasion 135, 142, 232 ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) 186, 218, 219


Index Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and 2009 elections (Green Movement) 280 and Assad regime 216, 217 business interests 278–9 centrality to regime 35, 274, 283 conscription 278 formation 266–7 political role 277, 278 and Quds force 277 size 277 Ismail the Magnificent 97 Israel Camp David Accords (1978) 105, 118 Israeli–Arab war (1948) 100, 101, 195 Six-Day War (1967) 103–4, 161, 198–9 Yom Kippur War (1973) 198 Italy, Libyan colonization 160 Jadid, Salah 198–9 Al Jazeera 82, 83, 114–15, 124, 244 Jordan potential for military collapse 290 successful protest management 289–90 Kasserine (Tunisia) 83, 84 Al Khalifa family (Bahrain) 129–30, 131, 133, 140, 150, 154 Khamenei, Ali 277, 280, 281, 282, 283 Khatami, Mohammad 260–1, 277, 279 Khomeini, Ayatollah Ruhollah call for revolution 134 in exile 258, 264–5 government attack 263

ideology 265–6 return to Iran 271 shadow government 270–1 and transitional government 120 Koehler, Kevin 33 Kurds 191, 200, 201, 211 Kurzman, Charles 267, 268, 272–3 Kuwait 132, 135, 142 Lebanon fragmented society and military 290 Hezbollah 201, 216 subsidised food and housing 204 and Syria 200, 201, 204, 216 Leenders, Reinoud 8 Libya 157–89 Abu Salim Prison riot (1996) 173 civil war 58, 172, 176, 181–2, 185–7 Congresses and Popular Committees 162–3 coup (1969) 161, 165 economy 172 elections 183, 184, 185 General National Congress (GNC) 184 generational succession 6 Government of National Accord (GNA) 187 historical development 159–61 House of Representatives (HoR) 184–5 ISIS 186 Islamism 168, 184, 185 Italian colonization 160 Mediterranean migrant trade 186 Muslim Brotherhood 182 National Transitional Council (NTC) 177, 182–3


Index Pan Am bombing 169, 172 Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) 161, 165–6 Revolutionary Committees 37, 164, 165, 166–7, 169 sanctions 169, 172, 177 statelessness 157, 162, 182 US ambassador’s death 184 US bombing of Tripoli (1986) 167 war with Chad (1978–87) 167 Libyan military competing local militia 182–4 defections 13, 173–4 factionalism 18, 19, 20, 55, 58, 158, 170, 171, 174 Islamic Legion 167, 168, 175 and Islamists 168 Jamahiriya Guard 162–4, 167 Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) 168 mercenaries 174–5 out-group soldiers 165, 188 Qaddafi distrust and purges 164–6, 168–9 rebellions and coup attempts 167–8 regime-protection units 169, 174, 181 shortcomings 167, 169 structure 48, 49, 53, 54, 170, 171 Libyan uprising 172–81 army defections 13, 173–4 deaths 59, 186 international condemnation 175–8 international intervention 8, 13, 20, 58, 170, 179–81, 188, 215 no-fly zone 179, 182–3 post-breakdown trajectory 60 pro-regime rallies 176

regime supporters’ retribution fears 176 US air strikes 149 violent response 173, 178 Lynch, Marc 81, 113, 179, 216 Makara, Michael 10, 13, 35, 37, 39, 110 Masoud, Tarek see Brownlee, Jason et al. (Masoud and Reynolds) mercenaries Bahrain 1, 19, 128, 140, 141–2, 153 Libya 174–5 Migdal, Joel 38 military perks 107, 204 Mohammed Reza Shah alternate repression and concessions 266–7 control over armed forces 38, 257, 258–61 exile 271 illness 263, 266, 271, 275 Mossadeq coup 257 political control 256 SAVAK (secret police) 258 US medical treatment 275 White Revolution modernization 258, 260 monarchies control of military 129 family members in key institutions 37, 131 migrant labor 142 modest political reforms 137 resilience 6 see also Bahrain Morocco fragmented military 290


Index Libyan intervention 8, 13, 20, 58, 170, 179–81, 188 reluctance to intervene in Syria 58, 215 Northern Yemen Ahmed rule 226–8 Bakil tribe 223, 227 civil war (1962-7) 228–9 Hashid tribe 223, 227, 229, 231, 239, 245 historical background 223–33 Nasserist coup against al-Badr (1962) 228 prosperity 230 Saleh coup attempt and civil war (1979) 230 Saudi Arabian border 223–4 Yahya assassination (1948) 226 Yahya rule 225–6 Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) 228–33 al-Nusra Front 218

Morocco (cont.) successful protest management 289–90 Morsi, Muhammed 57–8, 122, 123–4 Mousavi, Mir Hossein 280–1, 282 Mubarak, Gamal 110, 120 Mubarak, Hosni acquittal 126 attempts to counterbalance the military 103, 109–10 internal security services 107–8 military appointments 108 military’s economic interests 106–7 overthrow 118, 145, 148 in prison 120 US support 7 Muhammed Ali (Pasha) 97 Muhsin, Ali al-Ahmar 231, 237–8, 240, 245–6, 246 Muhsin’s War 237–8 Muslim Brotherhood charitable work 106 electoral boycott (2014) 124 electoral successes 121, 122 expanding political ambitions 121–2 foundation 99–100 illegal status 106, 124 Libya 182 military crackdown and arrests 124 organization 106 parliamentary candidates in Sadat era 106 reaction to Egyptian protests 114 Syria 206 see also Morsi, Muhammed

October War (Yom Kippur) (1973) 198 officers autonomy 28 career paths 44–5 cohesion 10–11, 14–15 coup-deterrence strategies 38 from marginalized groups 100 military perks 38–9 Ohl, Dorothy 44, 141 oil industry 11, 130, 230, 231, 232, 257

Nasser, Gamal Abdel 100, 101–4, 196, 228 NATO

Pahlavi dynasty 255–8 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) 71, 199 Pearl Roundabout 145–6, 149–52, 154 People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY)


Index in Libya 168, 172, 178 in Syria 217–8 Qajar dynasty 254–5 Qatar 132, 137, 180, 184 Qom protests 263–4 Quds force 277 Quinlivan, James 32, 35, 36, 39, 46, 203

conflict with northern Yemen 234 coup attempt (1986) 235 establishment 234 Marxism 230, 234 merger with the north 235 social progress 234 see also Southern Yemen; Yemen perks, military 107, 204 PLO 71, 199 professionalism and civil–military relations 27–31 danger to the regime 28–9 seven key features 17–18, 30, 41–9, 48, 285–6 Putin, Vladimir 205 Qaddafi, Muammar African foreign policy 167, 175 confidants 163–4 death 181 distrust of military 164–6, 168–9, 188 failed coup against him (1975) 161–2, 166 Green Book 162 official retirement (1979) 163, 164 overthrow 58, 148 patronage 164 personalized regime 157, 164 rebellions and coup attempts 167–8 rhetorical reaction to uprising 176, 178, 180 Sadat assassination attempt 167 seizes power (1969) 161 Qaddafi, Saif al-Islam 172, 176 Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) 59, 238–9, 245, 247, 248, 249

Rafsanjani, Ali 277 representativeness Bahraini military 142, 143 definition 43 Egyptian military 112 Iranian military 259, 261, 278–9 Libyan military 171 in military structure 54–5 and military type 48 Syrian military 207 Tunisian military 76, 79 Yemeni military 241 Reynolds, Andrew see Brownlee, Jason et al. (Masoud and Reynolds) Reza Shah 255–6 Romania 26 Rouhani, Hassan 283 Russia aid to Syrian regime 8, 205, 215, 216, 217 democratic transition 26 and Libya 8, 180 Sadat, Anwar 103, 104–6, 167 Safavid dynasty 254 Saleh, Ali Abdullah agrees to step down 223, 242, 247 becomes President 229 civil war 223, 243, 244, 245, 246 continuing influence 248–9, 251


Index Saleh, Ali Abdullah (cont.) Houthi alliance 248–9, 250 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait 232 and Muhsin 238 relatives 230, 239–40 security forces 239–40 survival tactics 229–30, 231–2 Yemeni unification 235 Sanusi family (Libya) 159, 160 Saudi Arabia and Bahrain 129, 151, 155, 179 danger of military split 290 Egyptian islands transfer 125–6 and Libyan uprising 179 measures to pre-empt protest 8, 289 and Syria 201–2 Yemeni border 223–4 Yemeni intervention 228, 236, 245, 246, 249–51 Yemeni laborers 232 Yemeni Wahhabi schools 230 Selge, Tobias 11, 13, 15 Seriati, Ali 83, 84 shabiha (Syrian militia) 205, 212, 213, 216–17 Shah of Iran see Mohammed Reza Shah; Reza Shah Shariat-Madari, Ayatollah 270 Shishakli, Adib 196 Sirte (Libya) 181, 185, 186 el-Sisi, Abdel Fattah 124–5, 126 al-Sistani, Ayatollah 138 Six-Day War (1967) 103–4, 161, 198–9 social media see internet Southern Yemen Aden 225, 233–4, 236, 246

British control 225, 233–4 economic and security weakness 235 Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) 234 Marxism 230, 234 National Liberation Front (NLF) 234 social and educational advances 234 southern separatism 236–7, 242, 244 Taiz 244, 246, 247 see also People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) Soviet Union foreign patronage 40 see also Russia Stepan, Alfred 29 Stevens, Chris 184 subordination to civil power 29 at expense of effectiveness 31 definition 46 Egyptian military 101–2 Iranian military 261, 279 and military type 48 Tunisian military 63 Yemeni military 241 Suez Canal 97, 98, 99, 118, 196 Syria 190–221 and Arab nationalism 200–1 coup politics 194–9 Damascus Spring 202 Druze 197, 211 Druze and Alawi States 193 foreign policy 200–201 French control 192–4, 220 generational succession 6 Hama massacre (1982) 205–6 historical development 192–4


Index independence 190, 220 and ISIS 218, 219 Islamist uprising (1980s) 191 and Israel 198–9, 200 and Libyan uprising 179 Muslim Brotherhood 206 regime violence 191, 209–10 sanctions 201 and Turkey 201 and US 201 see also Ba’ath Party Syrian military air power 215, 219, 294 Alawi and Druze 197 Alawi ‘shadow commanders’ 37 Alawi troops 203, 204–5 Assad family leadership 202, 205–6 chemical weapons 201, 219 coup politics 194–9 coup-proofing strategies 203–4, 206 defections vs loyalty 12–13, 14, 212–14 equipment 205 factionalism 18, 19, 20, 55, 191, 203–4, 212 falling prestige and salary 204 Hama massacre (1982) 205–6 informal business involvement 204 National Defense Forces 217 al-Nusra Front 218 post-independence coups 195–6, 197 regime-protection units (Defense Companies) 203, 206, 216–17 Republican Guard 205 Russian arms sales 205 security agencies 205

shabiha (militia) 205, 212, 213, 216–17 Soviet aid 198 structure 48, 49, 53, 54, 194–5, 206, 207 Sunni conscripts 203 under French mandate 195 Syrian uprising/civil war 208–19 bleak future 219 Damascus 210, 216 deaths 59, 186–7, 218, 294 Dera’a protests 209–10 government concessions 210 international intervention, centrality 58, 60, 60, 191, 215–17 international support for rebel groups 216, 217–18, 220–1 international support for regime 20, 191, 215–17, 219 and military breakdown 13–14, 205 minority groups sidelined 211–12 opposition politicians in exile 218 opposition rebels 217–18 post-breakdown trajectory 60–1, 60 regime preparations 8 regime scorched earth strategy 214–15 regime survival 208, 219 sectarianism 211–12, 214, 219 violence 209–10, 212, 213–14, 216 see also Free Syrian Army (FSA) Tahrir model (public space) Iran protests did not use 264, 269, 282–3 tactical use 7, 8, 289 see also Pearl Roundabout


Index Tahrir Square (Egypt) 95–6, 114–18, 119 Tahrir Square/Change Square (Yemen) 243, 244 Taiz (Yemen) 244, 246, 247 Tantawi, Mohamed 108, 111, 118 Taylor, William C. 11, 13, 40–1, 72, 73, 86, 205 Terbil, Fathi 173 trade unions Bahrain (GFBTU) 146, 147 Tunisia (UGTT) 70, 73–4, 80, 82, 84, 90, 92 Tripolitania 159, 160 Tunisia 62–94 Ben Ali regime 74–8 civil-society Quartet 92 constitution 65, 74, 89, 92 democratic transition 56, 57, 85–94 democratization 56, 57 Destour (Constitution) Party 68 elections 88–9, 93 Ennahada Party 56, 74, 85–6, 88–93 foreign policy 71 French rule 65–8 Gafsa revolt (2008) 80–1 historical development 63–7 internal security services 73–4 international responses 84–5 internet 81–3 Islamism 71, 74, 75, 88–9, 90 lawyers’ protests 83 limited tribal influence 64, 67, 70 military coup 55 nationalism and independence 67–71 Neo-Destour Party 69, 70, 72

Nidaa Tounes Party 90–1, 92–3 and The Quartet 92 regime brutality 83–4 UGTT (labor union) 70, 73–4, 80, 82, 84, 90, 92 uprising 80–85, 88 violent protests 88, 89, 90, 93 see also Ben Ali, Zine al-Abidine Tunisian military Ben Ali coup 78, 87–8 bureaucratization 63, 76 control under Ben Ali 75–8 external focus 86–7 independence 18, 19 internal revolts 63, 65, 73–4 presidential guard 75–6, 83, 84 professionalism 63, 72, 73, 78, 79, 94 refusal to attack demonstrators 84 representativeness 76 stabilizing force during democratic transition 87, 90, 91, 94 structure 48, 49, 53, 54 transition 20 under Bourguiba 71, 72–3 under French rule 66–7 US training 72, 77 Turkey 201, 216, 291 Ultras (soccer fans) 114 United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Bahrain 129, 149, 151 foreign labor 132 ISIS raids 135 and Libya 180, 184 United Arab Republic (UAR) 196 United Nations, and Libya 169, 179, 180


Index United States Arab world security guarantees 31 and Bahrain 142, 147–8, 155–6 Egyptian military aid 108 foreign patronage 40–1 Gulf security 135, 140 Gulf War (1990–1) 201 Iran hostage crisis 274–5 Iranian arms sales 259–60 Iranian Revolution 266, 270 Libyan Ambassador’s death 184 Libyan intervention 180–1 reluctance to intervene in Syria 215 response dependent on prospects of success 147–9 response to Egyptian protests 7, 116, 118, 124–5, 147–8 response to Tunisian uprising 85 Tripoli bomb attack (1986) 167 Tunisian military training 72, 77 USS Cole attack (Aden) 238 Yemen and the Cold War 230 Yemen and the War on Terror 233, 238–9, 244, 247, 248 uprisings Bahrain 1, 55, 144–52 Egypt 113–18 Iran (1978) 262–71 Libya 172–81 Syria 205, 208–14 Tunisia 80–5, 88 Tunisian/Egyptian effect 113, 145, 173 Yemen 242–7 Urabi, Ahmed (Urabi Revolt) 98 USS Cole attack (Aden) 238 van de Walle, Nicolas 22, 25, 26, 162

Ware, Lewis B. 73 Wolchik, Sharon 7 World War I 67–8, 192, 255 World War II 69, 100, 160, 256 Yahya Muhammed Hamid al-Din, Imam 225–6 Yemen 222–51 Aden 225, 233–4, 236, 246 assassinations 235 borders 223–4, 226 corruption 231, 232–3 Egyptian involvement in coups and dissidence 103, 228–9, 234 elections 236 General People’s Congress (GPC) 232, 236 Hadi government recognised 249, 250 Hashid tribe 223, 227, 229, 231, 239, 245 historical background 223–33 international aid 230, 233 and Iraq 232 Islah Party 231, 236, 243, 244 kidnappings 232, 239 north–south merger 233, 235–6 northern domination 236 oil wealth 230, 231, 232 regional conflicts 236–9 Salafism 238 Saleh patronage 231–2 and Saudi Arabia 223–4, 228, 230, 232 Shafi tribes 225, 227 Shafi/Sunni Islam vs Shi’a 224 tribal support for Saleh 231–2 tribes 223–4


Index Yemen (cont.) and US War on Terror 233, 238–9 Wahhabism 230–1, 238 Yemeni nationalism 226, 227 Zaydi Islam 224, 230–1 Zaydis 223–4, 229, 230–1, 237–8 see also Northern Yemen; People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY); Saleh, Ali Abdullah; Southern Yemen Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) 228–33 Yemeni civil wars/disturbances pre-2011 228–9, 230 Aden 244, 246 Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) 59, 238–9, 245, 248, 249 deaths 59, 186, 250 defections 245–6 external involvement 58–9 Houthi rebellion 237–8, 239, 245 Houthi–Saleh alliance 248–50 humanitarian crisis 250 international intervention 245, 246–7, 249–51 negotiations 242 post-breakdown trajectory 60 Salah concessions 243 Saleh’s continuing influence 246–7

Sana’a 242, 243 southern separatism 236–7, 242, 244 Taiz 244, 246, 247 tribal involvement 243, 244, 246–7 uprising (2011) 242–7 US reaction 244 violence 245 youth protesters 243–4, 246 Yemeni military business interests (Yemen Economic Corporation (YECO)) 232–3, 240 expertise 240, 241 factional structure 13, 15, 18, 19, 55, 222, 239–40, 250–1 Muhsin’s First Armoured Division 238, 240, 245–6 Republican Guards 240, 246 structure 48, 49, 53, 54, 239–42, 241 tribal militias 231, 239–40, 250–1 under Britain 233 under Hadi 248 under Saleh 230, 248 under Yahya 226 Yom Kippur/October War (1973) 198 Zaydis (Yemen) 223–4, 229, 230–1, 237–8