The Changing Dynamics of Rebel Relations

Josephine Lippincott


The Syrian Civil War began as a series of non-violent protests, which escalated through the continued violence of the Assad regime.  The violence transformed the protests and a militarized opposition emerged that plunged Syria into a factionalized civil war with various groups vying for territory and power.  Armed rebel groups have been one of the most prominent actors within Syria, but each group has their own ideology and goals.  Throughout the conflict, the dynamics between these groups has changed rapidly.  There is evidence of the creation of various fronts, prompting cooperation between multiple armed insurgency groups. However, in other instances these opposition groups are fighting each other rather than the regime.  In this presentation, I ask how these various rebel groups determine, establish, and maintain relations amongst each other and what this tells us about cooperation or conflict between armed groups in the Syrian conflict. I argue that these relations are not solely determined by violence, but also by factors such as resources, territory, strategy, and ideology. To ground this analysis, I examine the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and their relations with other armed groups within the cities of Idlib and Aleppo.  The theoretical framework will be drawn from the New Wars literature, with empirical evidence from reports of armed group activity, news sources, and online material cataloging rebel relations.  Drawing on this evidence, I show some of the conditions under which Jabhat al-Nusra would enter into cooperation or conflict with other groups, whether on the battlefield or in the establishment of governance institutions. In a conflict characterized by a fractured insurgency, this essay seeks to understand the dynamics shaping rebel cooperation and conflict.


Syria, rebel relations, Jabhat al-Nusra

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