Armed Political Organizations


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Background

Geneva Call, the organizer of this event, is a neutral and impartial non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting respect by armed non-State actors for international humanitarian norms in armed conflict, in particular for those related to the protection of civilians. More information may be found on www. Strategy Enlaces Contacto Donaciones Empleo Aviso legal. Seguir nuestra actualidad Sign up to our Newsletter to receive our latest news. Cookie Policy. Yet, both in their use of armed force, as well in their relationship with the state, these organizations appear as characterized by multi-layered identities and strategies that defy simple labelling.

The article analyzes the organizational evolution of these three actors and, in doing so, it problematizes and challenges the way we currently conceptualize and think about non-state actors in general and non-state armed groups more specifically. This article is published as part of a collection on analyzing security complexes in a changing Middle East. Non-state actors, including transnational corporations, non-governmental organizations and inter-governmental institutions are widely regarded as meaningful players in the international political arena, with whom states regularly cooperate and, at times, compete.

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In the past decades, NSAGs have similarly grown in status and importance. The world of non-state armed groups is vast and includes militias, terrorist organizations and insurgents, but it can be conceptually broadened to encompass international and domestic criminal groups, armed gangs or vigilantes Rodgers and Muggah, In the post-cold war era NSAGs have occupied increasingly more important roles, as the nature of war has changed, with internal conflicts between states and sub-states or among different non-state actors becoming the predominant model in modern warfare van Creveld, ; Sarkees et al.

Weakened states, in economic crisis, are barely able to control their natural resources and administrative territories. Indeed, increasingly more powerful non-state armed actors have been behind the creation of alternative systems of governance that are autonomous from the state and often competing with it Rosenau, In this context, some of the trends unleashed by the regional mobilization processes—including the further weakening of nation-state and centralized political institutions—are of particular significance to the development of alternatively governed areas.

More in generally, the combination of state fragility, rising particularism and widespread instability has redefined the security and political environment for states and NSAGs alike. Presently, NSAGs—and especially more sophisticated ones involved in rebel governance—play a key role in the ongoing regional conflicts and, as such, they are also highly relevant to both local and international humanitarian efforts. From the issue of gaining access to rebel-held areas to provide humanitarian assistance; to that of tackling distinct forms of violence against the civilian population; to ensuring the safety of the population displaced by conflict; to creating effective regimes to deal with trafficking and smuggling routes, it is apparent that understanding and engaging armed groups is increasingly more vital to both humanitarian and regional security operations.

To test the validity of the label and the main assumptions behind it; the article focuses on the use of force and the relationship with the state of three very different, yet all highly complex and institutionalized NSAGs: the Islamic State project, the Palestinian Hamas, and the Lebanese Hezbollah. These groups are chosen as paradigmatic cases to depict the political, social, military and organizational evolution of armed groups in the region. At first glance, it is evident that these groups have substantially different organizational structures, strategies, objectives and ideologies while also operating in unique political, social and military environments.

This diversity is not, and should not, be under-stated. In addition, these organizations represent three different NSAGs in three very distinct stages of development. At the one end of the spectrum, one can find the self-defined Islamic State—an anti-systemic actor pursuing a transnational agenda in the early stages of attempting to establish itself as a rebel ruler and a governance provider.

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At the opposite end of the spectrum, one can find Hezbollah, a highly cohesive and institutionalized organization with an integrated role in the Lebanese political arena; an autonomous, sophisticated and well-established governance network; and an extensively developed military apparatus. With Hamas resting somewhere in the middle of this idealized spectrum in terms of its organizational development, these three groups provide variation and depth, allowing to study the evolution of NSAGs in the region. The use of armed force is, according to the mainstream definitions of NSAGs, the key element that sets non-state armed organizations apart from unarmed ones.

But highlighting the role of armed force should not lead to disregard the fact that numerous armed groups are involved in multi-layered activities, extending to the social, political and economic realm. Indeed, when analyzing organizationally complex groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, or even the Islamic State, it is crucial to look beyond just the reliance on violence and to take into consideration the social, political and economic dimension of their activities.

Hamas, for instance, has developed an extra-institutional socio-political movement and an institutional political party, becoming over the years active both at the extra-instructional grassroots level, as well as in the institutional political arena. In addition to its strong political identity, Hamas has also long administered a complex and sophisticated social movement and social services network; becoming directly involved in a number of social interventions, from heath care, to education, to poverty alleviation and development Roy, Within Lebanon, Hezbollah—initially established in the early s as an umbrella organization for Shiite-Islamist factions operating in the context of the Lebanese civil war and coming together to fight the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in —evolved to adopt a similar political, social and military character.

Throughout the s and s, the group gradually became directly invested in establishing and running a complex social services network, engaging in charity, development and governance-related work. At the same time, the Caliphate project seeks to expand itself to the rest of the Levant and beyond, both directly as well as through the rise of local affiliates Zelin, To achieve these objectives the group relied on governance and state-building, intense media and social media branding, as well as on extreme brutality and an overall offensive military doctrine Fromson and Simon, Yet, this prism may very well be inadequate when analyzing the chosen case studies.

Indeed, the organizational structure and violent activities of the examined groups do not neatly fit the traditional criteria commonly associated with terrorist organizations—the label most often used to describe these groups. Terrorism scholar Alex P.

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Schmid famously stated, after reviewing over a hundred definitions of terrorism, that:. At the most basic level, all these groups recurrently and significantly attack non-civilian targets, 3 while their use of force is not exclusively or even predominantly aimed at indirectly exerting influence; they all rely on force to control and defend territory, as well as to govern Berger, Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIL all have devised different political strategies and they invest significant portions of their time and political capital in non-military activities. The emerging rebel governors analyzed considerably stretch the definition of insurgency.

The group initially confronted the Israeli presence in Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war through a combination of asymmetric warfare and terrorism, including car bombings, suicide attacks and kidnappings. In Hezbollah effectively relied on a combination of sub-conventional and conventional tactics while also investing in boosting its small units engaged in guerrilla warfare tactics with standoff weapons normally associated with conventional military forces Johnson, This evolution has further continued since , with Hezbollah increasing in size, upgrading its arsenal and infrastructure and investing in improving its war-fighting capabilities as well as its training and preparation for both more conventional engagements and for conducting cross-border operations into Israel Beeston and Blanford, ; White, From an operational perspective, Hamas went from being a relatively unsophisticated violent faction perpetrating individual stabbing against Israelis to being able of carrying out both large-scale bombing attacks and rocket attacks into Israel.

In a later stage of their evolution, ISIL also invested more substantially in organizing and carrying out classic international terrorist operations outside its core territorial stronghold. Similarly, the group has combined brutality and indiscriminate violence with an insurgent strategy of attrition and semi-conventional defensive operations Lister, In both cases, reality is far more complex and nuanced.

First, when it comes to complex non-state armed groups like Hamas, Hezbollah or even IS; it is evident that their social and political activities and involvement in governance are often not at all different from those performed by states. Whilst in theory it could be entirely possible for an armed group to preserve territorial and population control solely through coercion and to develop a purely predatory relationship with the people it rules; in practice such system would be highly costly to preserve. As such, numerous armed groups prefer to rely on a combination of coercion and co-optation and they focus on building authority and legitimacy by investing in the provision of security, social services and by fostering mechanisms for voluntary cooperation Podder, In this context, discursive and symbolic politics are also used to project an image of effectiveness and legitimacy.


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This is certainly the case when looking at Hamas, a group that has over the years expanded its boundaries, developing certain attributes that are normally associated with state actors. This is because of a combination of chiefly two factors: its de facto running the Gaza Strip since its takeover in the summer of and its development of a self-standing welfare network involved in a vast array of social services. Hezbollah also blurs the line between state and non-state actor.

At the most basic level, Hezbollah has developed and maintained a parallel social services network located in different areas of Lebanon where the group has strong influence and control.

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The sophistication of this network, matched with the level of territorial control the group has in the areas it informally administers, contribute to also define Hezbollah as a rebel ruler with state-like attributes Flanigan, When it comes to the rise of the Islamic State, the group has strongly invested in creating and operating alternative spheres of authority that engage in competitive state-making. Thus these groups all blur the lines between state and non-state actor through direct involvement in governance.

What is more, the way these actors govern similarly questions the dichotomy between state and non-state: none of these NSAGs can be defined as applying a purely predatory and coercive model of governance. Even ISIL, with its strong recourse on brutality and its heavy extortion tactics with respect to the areas it controls, has done more than just acquire resources to finance its armed struggle.

The governance project has also been aimed at building a new political order and shaping a new type of citizens. In order words, governance has aimed at establishing a new social contract, ascertaining legitimacy and authority and creating a new political order: representing thus a state-making endeavor. Similarly, NSAGs cannot always be defined in opposition to the state in relational terms Staniland, Here Hamas, Hezbollah and IS are especially interesting as they show substantial variation in their own relationship with both the state and the international order itself.

Instead, what we have here is a more nuanced version of shared, hybrid sovereignty. The case of Hamas is equally complex, as the organization acts as the de facto government of the Gaza Strip—claiming legitimacy on the basis of having won the Palestinian Legislative elections. At the same time, IS can also be said to blur the lines between state-centered and non-state political activism, albeit in a very different way.

The group indeed exists in two parallel and complementary dimensions: it certainly holds an institutional and territorialized political dimension, observed through its quasi state-building project in Syria and Iraq. In addition, much like the other groups, the type of sovereignty the group establishes in the territory under its control can be described as hybrid, multi-layered, and to some extent shared with pre-existing groups, tribes and families present on the ground.

Grasping the complex role NSAGs can play, beyond violence and beyond opposition to the state, can serve as a basis to question the often limited conceptual understanding of these actors, their role and their potential influence. Given the increasing role non-state armed groups are playing, both in the MENA region and globally, this discussion is both relevant and timely.

In the past decades, non-state actors in general and NSAGs more specifically have evolved in terms of political, social and military capabilities. This trend is evident in the Middle East and North Africa region, where a combination of state fragility, conflict and instability have provided fertile ground for armed groups to operate. Non-state armed groups in the Middle East are of course extremely diverse, ranging from local, self-defense and community-based militias, to transnational criminal organizations and networks, to classic insurgent opposition groups, just to name a few.

Within this broad category, a number of non-state armed groups have evolved to undertake political, social and governance functions. Indeed, to properly understand how these groups operate, it is important to question some of the dominant assumptions with respect to armed groups, especially with respect to their use of force and their relationship with the state.


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The article does so by focusing on Hamas, Hezbollah and the more recent Islamic State project. First, a cursory examination of these distinct groups highlights that, far from being defined mostly through the lens of their military apparatuses, these organizations should be understood at their core as hybrid entities—intertwining social, political and military activities. In addition, the article examines how the carefully constructed dichotomy between state and non-state actors may similarly be insufficiently nuanced to grasp the evolution of these complex sui generis groups.

In a functional sense, the evolution of armed groups as rebel rulers across the MENA region blurs the line between state and non-state actors, with the latter increasingly involved in direct governance, as well as in ascertaining effective sovereignty in the areas they control. What is more, the reliance on control and governance to shape political institutions and build trust and legitimacy also highlights how governance is not only seen as an extraction tool but also as part of competitive state-building processes. NSAGs should also not always be regarded in opposition to the state in a relational sense.

Here the case studies show a substantial level of variation. On the one hand, ISIL can be identified as an anti-systemic, oppositional actor that not only fights all regional states but also denies the legitimacy of both all regional and the global state-based order.

In this Book

Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analyzed during the current study. Re-conceptualizing non-state armed groups in the Middle East. Palgrave Communications. See Michael C.

The evolving role of non-state actors in the Middle East and North Africa region

Ayubi, Over-stating the Arab State , I. Tauris, Agnew J Sovereignty regimes: Territoriality and state authority in contemporary world politics. Annals of the Association of American Geographers ; 95 2 : — Survival ; 57 3 : 57—

Armed Political Organizations Armed Political Organizations
Armed Political Organizations Armed Political Organizations
Armed Political Organizations Armed Political Organizations
Armed Political Organizations Armed Political Organizations
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