Discussion Paper - International Security Program, Belfer Center

Power Outage: Syrian Armed Group Alliances in the Balance

| April 2012

Summary

Syrian alignment with Palestinian and Lebanese Shia armed groups that were born out of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been a constant of Middle Eastern security politics for almost fifty years. The increasingly violent domestic uprising and the challenge that it poses to the Assad regime has led some analysts to worry that a foundering Assad regime could use its armed group agents to stir up regional trouble, which raises the question of how much power Syria really has over its regional armed group proxies. This paper argues that it has less than many think. Rather than ideology, Syrian state power has long been the key determinant of the degree of Syria's alignment with external armed groups. As Syrian state power continues to decline, so does its control over its armed group allies. This paper examines the state of Syria's regional armed group allies today in the face of Syrian decline. As the domestic struggle for Syria continues, the United States and its allies have the opportunity to further isolate Syria's armed group allies operating in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories. Increased attention to Lebanon could further reduce the chance of regional spillover from the crisis, and diminish a principal cause of continued instability in the region.

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For Academic Citation: Corbin, Ethan. “Power Outage: Syrian Armed Group Alliances in the Balance.” Discussion Paper, 2012-05, International Security Program, Belfer Center, April 2012.

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