Ariel Ahram, Virginia Tech University
The wars in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen—for all their devastation—have hastened regional transformations in international collaborations and domestic institutions. Wars in the twentieth century propelled many MENA states to build large standing armies and assume greater control over national economies. Contemporary conflicts reverse this trajectory. States do not claim, much less hold, a monopoly over the use of force. Instead, these wars generate new forms of hybrid security governance. Ariel Ahram explains its implications and the long-term approaches that should be devised in response.
Emad Badi, Atlantic Council
The impact of Covid-19 on proxy dynamics in Libya is multi-faceted. The pandemic could temper proxy dynamics but only if the opportunity costs of interventionism become too high for both domestic and external belligerents. Covid-19 will most likely influence relationships on two fronts: between foreign sponsors and their proxies on the ground and between proxies and local communities in their areas of control. Emad Badi explains the impact that Covid-19 could have on conflict and governance dynamics in Libya.
Sara Plana, Harvard University
External support is known to be strongly associated with longer civil wars and studies have offered a number of reasons why. For example, funneling weapons and money to warring parties can fuel a balance of power between opposing sides—preventing any one side from winning—or the presence of external supporters can increase the number of veto players to a potential settlement. But most of these available explanations for the length of proxy wars do not necessarily apply to explaining the duration of proxy-sponsor relationships themselves.
David Pollock, Washington Institute
The Coronavirus public health and economic crisis has not stopped, nor even slowed, the foreign-backed fighting in Libya, or the sporadic ISIS and Iranian-backed militia attacks in Iraq. But at least for the moment, two of the region’s other large proxy wars, broadly defined, are calming down: the fighting in Syria’s Idlib province has abated; and the active fronts in Yemen have narrowed or stalled, with several outside patrons, especially Saudi Arabia, clearly seeking a cease-fire. These snapshots capture some of the mixed or even contradictory regional trends affected by the advent of the Corona crisis.
Adam Baron, Humanitarian Dialogue
For more than five years, Yemen has been the scene of a multifacted civil war spurred by the takeover of much of the country and the ouster of its internationally recognized government, by Ansar Allah, popularly known as the Houthis, an armed group that fought a series of wars with the central government in the first decade of the 2000s. The conflict has pushed already impoverished Yemen’s fragile economy to the brink, spurring one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, which has only been deepened by the varied divides between different key conflict parties and their associated institutions.
Osman Sert, Ankara Institute
With a state-centric approach and risk-averse foreign policy for the most part of its republican period, Turkey has had limited knowledge, desire and capacity for effectively engaging the unconventional means and methods through which proxy contestations are carried out. This has shifted in recent years. Turkey is evidently a late-comer to the proxy conflict arena but it is increasingly moving toward a full embrace of proxy warfare and will most likely continue to rely on proxies in the future, particularly in conflict arenas like Syria.