When do Foreign Militants Support States? Examining Shia Militants’ Role as External Patrons in the Syrian Conflict

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Virtual Seminar

* Please note all CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone.


Register in advance for this webinar: https://stanford.zoom.us/webinar/register/5616166186207/WN_Zdzl0PrwR7CXSPoASOs5Xg


About the Event: Conventional wisdom on proxy warfare exclusively focuses on explaining governments’ provision of military, logistical, and financial support to rebel groups involved in conflict abroad. In reality, foreign militant groups play a much larger role in these partnerships than recognized: foreign militants often provide government partners with intelligence, logistical support, access to their military infrastructure, and send elite units to train and supplement their state partner’s troops. Because armed non-state actors are smaller and face greater difficulties accessing resources, the fact that they provide any type of support – let alone deploying their forces to conduct joint combat operations with state armed forces abroad – is puzzling. In this presentation, I provide insights into the strategic benefits that foreign militants receive from supporting states, identify factors that influence the types of support foreign militants provide to government partners once the decision to provide support has been made, and highlight how foreign militants can constrain and influence their government partners’ future behavior. To do so, I conduct an in-depth examination of the overtime trends in the various types of support that Shia paramilitary groups from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan provided to the Syrian regime and Russian forces throughout the course of the decade-long Syrian conflict.



About the Speaker: Melissa Carlson is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for International Security and Cooperation’s Middle East Initiative. She received her PhD in Political Science from UC Berkeley. Her research examines cooperation between states and non-state actors in conflict, and her book manuscript explains variations in the types of support that governments and foreign militants provide to each other. Previously, Melissa has worked with the International Organization of Migration’s Missions in Jordan and Iraq to examine relations between refugees, host governments, and aid organizations.