This book provides an elucidation on the role of Armed Non-State Actors in International Relations through an analysis of ISIS. This study has examined the evolutionary and defining characteristics of Armed Non-State Actors (ANSAs) and introduced a framework based on their, autonomy, representation and influence (ARI). This study also provides an analysis on ascent, mobilization strategy and impact of ISIS in International Relations and how it is unfathomably co-related with ANSAs. Major questions addressed in this study are: How political instability in West Asia triggered the growth of ISIS as an ANSA? What is the modus operandi/mobilization strategy of ISIS? What has been the impact of ISIS in IR?
In the study of International Relations (IR), States had traditionally been the centre of the discourse; such State-Centric elucidation concentrates on Westphalian model of Nation-State that laid down the foundation of contemporary state system and understanding of International Relations. Theoretically, the understanding of IR was dominated by Realist paradigm and field was often described as child of Morgenthau, Hobbesian, Machiavellian etc. revolved around the concept of Power. However, the end of Bipolarity witnessed a paradigm shift in IR where States were not able to provide elucidation on power shift that was taking place and various players had emerged in the realm of International Relations.
The end of Cold War witnessed power shift in two distinct ways. The first is in a geographical sense, with power moving from certain traditional strong states such as U.K, U.S to other states like China, Japan. Second is parallel where power is shifting from State to Non-State Actors (NSAs). Parallel Shift is more transformative and is substantially a different kind of shift (Aydinli, 2016). In such circumstances, new actors have increased its involvement in IR. Scholarly analysis in the discourse was built on State not NSAs. There is less comprehensive understanding on NSAs. If one agrees on parallel shift then such transformation needs further theoretical analysis. Theories like Functionalism, Neo Functionalism, Liberalism et al does incorporate NSAs role, but the importance of NSAs remains heavily entangled in various assumptions and analysis. These problems need to be addressed from IR perspective
There is an intricacy in defining NSAs in predicament where the understanding is entangled in various analyses and understanding. State and NSAs are divergent but analyzing NSA independently without State would be misleading. State on one hand supports private banks, INGOs, MNC and also receives help from such NSAs. On the other hand there are groups that are seen as threat by the States. Such NSAs includes cross border radical groups, terrorists etc. There are autonomous NSAs that functions without State’s support such as armed groups, human trafficking, drug mafia etc. on the other hand there are semiautonomous NSAs that are supported by State such as Banks, NGOs etc. (Wallace and Josselin, 2001). Such confusion has to be disentangled in order to understand the role played by NSAs. To circumvent such confusion, the definition of NSAs itself has to be reiterated.
Clear concepts have not yet been tracked in defining NSAs. The understanding of NSAs attracts intricacy where various scholars have opposing views in defining NSAs. Huntington defined Clash of Civilizations as NSAs. Biersteker’s understanding was based on types of authority and William Wallace and Josselin defined NSAs based on transnationalness (Aydinli, 2016). There are various framework laid down in understanding NSAs. Some looks at capacity of implementing policy and decision, shared interest, values, principles, shared norms, goals, autonomy etc. these understanding gives a framework for analysis of NSAs. However, problem still lies in defining violent groups, terror threats, organized crime etc. Similarly, there is also a struggle to explain why influential countries like U.S, U.K, France, Britain, Russia etc. have to concern themselves with the weak, failing states (Fidler, 2008) that become breeding ground for Armed NSAs threatening their existence itself. The framework in which NSA have been laid doesn’t explain these emerging threats.
Researchers have often been biased in understanding NSAs threat. They tend to overlook threat posed by various armed groups. This happens when they are theorized by liberal understanding and focuses more on NGOs etc. Another possible reason for overlooking NSAs threat is because they consider them as a part of terrorist studies, studies on organized crime etc. It was only after 9/11 attacks, more work appeared on NSAs threat but very limited. Works on NSAs threat includes transnational criminal activity, organized violence, terrorism etc. Researchers in that manner further conceptualized NSAs threat and the concept moved along with a spectrum from relatively more statist to more non statist. In such framework, scholars like Oliver Roy, Steve Call et al conceptualized NSA threat in much broader sense of Armed Non-State Actors (ANSA) providing deeper insights and evolution of ANSAs (Aydinli, 2016).
It is clear that the term Armed Non State Actors (ANSA) was born because of the complexity of NSAs in defining itself. When NSAs uses radical means or arms then it is referred to as armed non-state actors (ANSA). There is no universally agreed definition of ANSAs. However, the term is used to indicate organized armed entities that are primarily motivated by political goals, operate outside effective state control, and lack legal capacity to become party to relevant international treaties. This includes non-State armed groups, national liberation movements, de facto governing authorities and States that are not or only partially recognized. ANSAs are usually engaged in armed struggle against State forces or other ANSAs in the context of non- international armed conflict or other situations of violence. ANSAs have emerged in a substantial part because of growing infirmity of many states that they seek to perpetuate and intensify (Ataman, 2003). ANSAs are also an extensive area; its dynamic can be understood by using autonomy, representation, influence (ARI) framework.
In post 9/11 era, understanding of ANSAs have been revolutionized with the emergence of ISIS as latest phase of ANSAs. This transformation has severe political and theoretical implications for IR and must be given further analysis. Their modus operandi has transformed the understanding into perilous ANSAs and evolution with ANSAs.Their actions and influence has to be counted as the evidence of evolving ANSAs that needs further analysis under the framework of ANSAs. Analyzing ISIS independently without considering its radical ideological base would be meaningless; similarly it has to be looked from the prism of ANSAs in order to understand wider implication for IR discourse.
ISIS as the focus of my study, its ideological awakening lie in the radical interpretation of Islam by IbnTamiyyad, SayidQutb, Al- Afghani, Mohammed Abduh, Osama Bin Laden, Abu Mus’ab al-Suri’s, Ayatollah RuhollahKhomeini,AbdulA’alMawdudi,AbuMuhammed al Maqdisi et al. However, its organizational foundation has a long evolving period following the toppling of Saddam Husseinto the rise of Abu Musab al Zarqawiin Iraq. It was from 2002-2006 Zarqawi built his forces in Iraq, initially it was TawidWal Jihad and later it turned into Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) after pledging bayat with Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. Zarqawi took advantage of Sunni antagonism towards U.S forces and the sentiment of Sunni disenfranchisement at the hands of Kurds and Shiites to carry out inimitable sectarian agenda that dwarfed Al-Qaeda in assorted ways. After the death of Zarqawi at the hands of U.S forces in June 2006, AQI merged with jihadist insurgents Mujahedeen Shura Council and announced the formation of Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) under the leadership Omar Al Baghdadi (Hosken, 2015). However, in 2010 ISI lost Omar Al Baghdadi. At that time it was believed that ISI was weakened, but not eliminated. It was in 2011 after U.S withdrawal, ISI regained its strength under the leadership of Ibrahim al Badri al Samarra’I (Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi).
When Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi took over ISI, another significant event engulfed the region. Radical Islamic Fundamentalism politics epitomized by ANSAs such as Al-Qaeda was represented in wider ways. The Arab Awakening witnessed political transformation in North Africa and West Asia. In countries like Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Tunisia there was political transformation and attempted political insurrection was seen in Bahrain and Syria.
In part, this transition and the role of ANSAs were seen across the region. In Syria, Assad used force to suppress the uprising demanding for freedom. In Iraq, Maliki was using aggressive policy to suppress the Sunnis and marginalized them. The outcome of policies in Iraq and Syria took of disastrously. Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi united the marginalized Sunni population from Iraq and strengthened his foothold. At a same time there was an armed group formed in Syria named Al-Nusra under Jawlini. Al-Nusra was fighting against the hostile policies of Assad in Syria (Stern and Berger, 2015). It was in this situation that ISI emerged as powerful ANSAs after merging with Al-Nusra calling the new group as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL/ISIS) in 2013. However, Al-Nusra did not accept this merger but still ISIS carried out its atrocities independently.
Like an avenging fire, ISIS growled east across the border from Syria into Iraq. The rampant expansion of ISIS as ANSAs gained more glare of publicity in the international arena. ISIS claimed to establish an Islamic State and called out to Muslims all across the world for hijrah and fight against the takfirsand join help ISIS for Global Jihad. This sent wave of fear among the countries in West Asia and Western countries. ISIS as an armed no- state actor came to spotlight and new threat perception was seen across the globe that came from ANSAs not States.In Iraq, ISIS had taken control over Tikrit, Baiji, Qaim, Rutba, Anah, Ramadi, Falluja, Tal Afar, Haditha Dam, Mosul, Samarra, Anbar, Kirkuk, Erbil and other territories. In Syria, ISIS took control over the cities held by Al-Nusra and other rebel group as war within war emerged, at first when the situation was ripe for ISIS to expand they took Dier Al Zour and later ISIS took the cities of Raqqa, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Palmyra and other Sunni villages in the region. With this it is clear that ISIS have taken over massive land in Iraq and Syria which has become a concern for the West as it challenges their interest in the region. ISIS emerged as a potent Armed Non-State Actor in West Asia occupying landmass as big as the United Kingdom.
ISIS in its self proclaimed caliph seeks to establish Islamic State and have claimed certain portion across the world starting from its de-facto region of Iraq and Syria in West Asia. ISIS claims the region of Africa; in Western Africa they claim certain region under Islamic State mandate and call it Maghreb, in Northern Africa Land of Alkinana, Central and Western Africa Land of Habasha. In West Asia it claims over all the countries and names as Hijaz, Yaman, Sham and Iraq. ISIS has claimed the region in Europe which includes Portugal and Spain; Andalus, some portions of France and the former Yugoslavia; Oroba. Turkey; Anatol .Afghanistan and Pakistan; Kordistan and the region in India, Central Asia and West China calling it Land of Khurasan. ISIS areas of influence have expanded over the years. From pledging Bayats to recruitment, ISIS has dwarfed other Armed Non State Actors in this regard.
ISIS brought about a very different form of terrorism metamorphosing radical Islamic fundamentalism and redefining security in IR which was not done by the previous organizations giving a wider connotation to understanding of ANSAs. They aim to maintain Ummahfor Sunni Muslims and achieve their dream of establishing Caliph. ISIS has been recruiting fighters online, through Twitter creating 50,000 Twitter accounts and various other sources, the fighters join the organization from all over the world. ISIS has become a global ANSA recruiting 70,000 fighters including 15,000-20,000 foreign fighters who are employed to strike different countries.
ISIS is now the principal opponent of Western Countries. ISIS is accused for generating massive humanitarian crisis in the region. From their bombing tactics to beheading and Lone Wolf attacks, ISIS is said to be one of the most radical ANSAs in history dwarfing Al-Qaeda. Also, ISIS is said to be a richest ANSA in the world where it has commandeered 11 oil fields (Johny, 2015) in Syria and Iraq which have the capacity to produce 75,000 barrels a day (ibid). ISIS is rewriting the rules of Islamic Extremism and Fundamentalism using sophisticated techniques of distribution and manipulation, where more jihads are joining the organization. It is not a change but an evolution and their new ideas and practices are sending shock waves around the world. They have seized sophisticated weapons and war machines from the captured territories; their methodology of waging an attack is different compared to traditional terrorist group. They are highly intellectual and are referred to as intellectual terrorist.
Rise of ISIS has now become a global concern. Countries are now involved either directly or indirectly to brawl this armed non-state actor. Countries like Russia, United States, France are active in the region and West Asian countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey are heavily involved in this crisis. Since WWII this is the first time that a coalition is formed to combat ANSAs. However, there is an ambiguity in solving the crisis because the countries have their own curiosity. U.S and Russia are traditional rivals and have always been in resolving the conflict. Regional bipolar antagonism between Iran and Saudi Arabia also exists for solving this issue. Countries like France, Syria and other countries as well as groups like FSA etc. have their own interest. It can be said that the conflict in the region is not going to end in near future. Currently there is a tug of war in Mosul between ISIS rebels and Iraqi forces assisted by United States. Similar is the case in Aleppo, where Vladamir Putin and Assad are on one side and rebels on the other side. Recently there was a chemical attack at Khan Sheikhoun in Syria and U.S responded to this attack by using Tomahawk Missiles at Shayrat Airfield in Syria is a clear indication that the conflict is not going to end soon. Such antagonism among various countries solving Syrian issue will add further impairment to the crisis.
In this context, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has adopted a resolution on strengthening international judicial cooperation in countering ANSAs like ISIS. Resolution 2322 looks to improve the effectiveness of International Legal and Judicial systems in their fight against terrorism. Countries have been actively meddling in West Asia to brawl the issue of ISIS.
Islamic Fundamentalism since 1945; written by Beverley Milton Edwards(2005) looks at the foundation of Islamic fundamentalism and the effects of colonialism in Islamic World. The book sheds light on the expansion of Islamic fundamentalism, focusing on events like the 1979 Iranian Revolution and emergence of Al- Qaeda, Hezbollah and others. It further analyzes how these actors are driven by their fundamentalist approach. The book provides a reliable account on the causes and the diversity of Islamic fundamentalism which is a modern phenomenon.It explains how Islamic fundamentalism has grabbed the headlines posing a grave threat to the West which has become a potentially revolutionary trend in West Asia.Empire of Fear by Andrew Hosken(2015)delivers the inside story of Islamic State. Through extensive first hand reporting, he builds a comprehensive picture of IS, their brutal ideology and exterminationist methods. This masterpiece reveals how IS came to be, explores their goals and asks how they might be defeated.
ISIS the State of Terror written by Jessica Stern and J.M Berger (2015) explains the evolution of ISIS from Iraq invasion to Arab Spring and the present day. It explains how ISIS evolved during these events that led to the growth of Fundamentalist approach and the implications of ISIS in West Asia and beyond. It also focuses on their access to intelligence sources like online recruiting, psychological factors which attracts people to join the organization, the state under ISIS, humanitarian crisis and genocide. William Wallace and Daphne Josselin in the book Non-State Actors in World Politics (2001), discusses a diverse range of economic, social, legal and illegal Non State Actors such as Catholic Church, trade unions, Diasporas, religious movements, transnational corporation and organized crime. They analyze how involvement of Non State Actors in World Politics has evolved over a period of time. The book raises important questions such as the sources of influence, strategies, and targets of non state actors. This book throws debate on whether Non State Actors should be considered autonomous from the states or not.
In 2014, Islamic State seemingly appeared out of nowhere conquering Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and boldly announcing the establishment of caliphate that seeks to eliminate borders of West Asia and expand further to India, Central Asia, former Yugoslavia and other parts of Europe. Today, it controls thousands of square miles. Charles R. Lister in his book The Islamic State which is forwarded by Ahmed Rashid (2015)traces the outfit’s growth of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi to its stunning maturation in Iraq and Syria. He helps scholars understand what to expect next and recommends actions to defeat the group.
Violent Non State Actors: From Anarchist to Jihadist written by ErselAydinli (2016), examines the defining characteristics and evolutionary dynamics of VNSA’s and introduces a framework based on their autonomy, influence and representation providing a comparative analysis of the late 19th and early 20th centuries Anarchist movement and present day Jihadist networks. It explores the distinct characteristics of the Anarchist and Jihadist as VNSA with global potential, not just describing them but also seeking to understand what they are instances of. This book considers the types of changes that have occurred in the past 150 years and the possible role VNSA may play in future. This book provides further theoretical implications for the study of NSA and transnational actors.
Coalition Contribution in Countering Islamic State: A Report by Congressional Research Service (2016), analyses how a global coalition is formed to counter Islamic State. It further provides thinking ground for military aspect of coalition such as NATO, Russia, Turkey and others role in combating ISIS and the challenges to coalition coherence. Report by United Nations Security Council on their 7272 meeting had an agenda on the issue of threat to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts (2014). This agenda dealt with terrorist threat in International Peace and security where presidents and representatives from U.S, Argentina, U.K, Chad Chile, China, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Republic of Korea and Russia.
An Analysis of Abu Mus’ab al-Suri’s “Call to Global Islamic Resistance” written by M.W ZackieMasoud (2013) analyses text written by Suri who was a key architect post 9/11 attacks. Masoud in this article explains the text of Suri’s “Call to Global Islamic Resistance.” Suri’s text has now become a template for Jihad and is also considered as Mein Kampf of the Jihadist movement. The domination by Western consumerism and its effect on Muslims is well explained in this article. The text by Suri invites readers to self recruit and become independent terrorist. Masoud in this article explains how Suri’s text have invited or magnetized support for Jihadist movement across the globe.
ISIS Global Messaging Strategy Factsheet written by Jessica Lewis McFate and HarleenGambhir (2014) brings forth the psychological factors that have added to the ISIS foothold. It further provides explanation on how ‘Lone Wolf attacks’, alliances and recruitment process have expanded over a period of time and what are the factors that have led ISIS strategic success.
The Islamic State Origin Goals and Future Implications by Colin Tucker (2014), explicates methodology, resource distribution, success, relationships, structure, financial base armaments et al of Islamic State and shows further implications on how would the situation in the region be with ISIS become as a strong actor and what would be the social implication on Sunni and Shia’s Muslims is covered in this article.
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria: A threat to Global Peace and Security written by JustinaAlaneme and Canon Egesi (2015), provides a brief history of some of the radical Islamic groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda et al and provides discussion on the rise of ISIS and how it has changed the threat perception in global politics.
Rise of Islamic Caliphate Impacting West Asia’s Stability authored by GurmeetKanwal (2014)explains how West Asia has been a volatile region where numerous conflicts have occurred and in this scenario instability in Iraq and Syria led to the growth of ISIS. It throws argument on ISIS and its impact on West Asian region.
Conventional IR theories have paid scant attention to NSA/ANSAs threats. ANSA are an endemic feature of IR and pose a wide array of threats in IR. They challenge State legitimacy through violent actions and threaten greater regional instability. These actions fall directly into the realm under nontraditional understanding of IR which academics and policy makers have been slow to understand and analyze. Overlapping networked relationships, the decline of State Centric comprehension of IR and rise of more globalized environment have created a more accommodating system for ANSAs. ANSAs have emerged in a substantial part because of growing infirmity of many states that they seek to perpetuate and intensify.
The best way to understand contemporary sates is in terms of strong weak gamut across certain key dimensions such as; legitimacy, capacity, collective interest, individual interest etc. when these dimensions along which the state is weak, the prospects for the rise of ANSA are considerably increased. In similar situation ANSAs have expanded across the globe. ISIS came into being because of the failure of State in key dimensionslike legitimacy, capacity, collective interest, individual interest etc. Several other ANSAs have also emerged in similar situation which was visualized during Arab Awakening and these groups operating in other parts of the world have pledged alliance with ISIS strengthening the extensiveness of ISIS and expanding ANSAs in World Politics. These developments need further analysis from an IR perspective but such analysis lack in IR.
The manner in which we understand International Relations is based on Westphalianmodel of State Centric Approach. Such understanding laid the foundation of IR. However, the end of cold war witnessed a new shift in the field where threat perception has changed from state to armed non-state actors. In this regard, this study uses ISIS as a case to understand wider implications of ANSAs in IR. This study provides an understanding on changes that have been taking place in IR specifically focusing on ISIS as an armed non state actor. This study further produces an explanatory framework on modus operandi of ISIS and how ISIS is using nucleus concept of Radical Islamic Fundamentalism as their ideological base to carry out their political and religious operations in West Asia and beyond. Keeping in mind the above discussions and lacuna, the researcher tries to: 1: Examine the emergence of ISIS as a prominent Armed Non-State Actors (ANSA).2: Analyze the ideology, organization and structure of ISIS.
To comprehend the magnitude of Armed Non State Actors and its expansion, researcher has usedTheory of Open Source Anarchy. Theory of Open Source Anarchy (OSA) was developed by David P. Fidler (2008) to understand shift that is taking place in 21st Century. The theory explains how NSA/ANSA use independent material power that not only challenges state but also transforms anarchy that continues to epitomize state as superior. The theory throws light on how anarchy today reflects the ability of NSA/ANSAs to use material power in ways by affecting IR.
OSA attempts to communicate that the leading theories of IR does not adequately explains IR in 21st C. OSA posit that anarchy has now become accessible to NSA/ANSAs as never before. This access has heavy implications for IR. The traditional theories in IR do not incorporate NSA/ANSAs in their study and they cannot explain violent actors, terror threats, organized crime et al. Similarly, they also struggle to explain why powerful countries like U.S have to concern themselves with the weak, failing states that become breeding ground for ANSAs threatening their existence itself. Ideas and material capabilities of NSA/ANSAs provide them with direct access to influence how anarchy operates. End of Cold War, emergence US as a superpower and Globalization lowered the barriers for NSA/ANSAs to access over condition of Anarchy and changed the elasticity between power and ideas in IR (Fidler, 2008).
No better example of the growth and use of material power by ANSAs can be found on ISIS. ISIS repeated attack across the globe, alliances, online recruitments et al have dramatically affected foreign policy of other countries. ISIS has accessed anarchy and influenced its dynamics in ways that many states could never imagine accomplishing. ISIS also illustrates the elasticity of power and ideas in OSA. ISIS use of internet for recruitment provides potent example on how elasticity between power and ideas could be dangerous even for world’s most powerful states.
In keeping with the above-mentioned discussion, the following research questions are proposed:
1: How political instability in West Asia triggered the growth of ISIS as an ANSA?
2: What are the modus operandi/ mobilization strategy of ISIS?
3: What has been the impact of ISIS in IR?
To comprehend the magnitude of Armed Non-State Actors in post 9/11 era, this study has used secondary sources and available literature in this regard. Methodological aspect of the study is more inclined towards Qualitative method and available literature in this regard. Researcher has used secondary data collection- books, journals, newspapers, websites, archival documents, media etc. Researcher has further used Historical Analytical Method to understand the scenario as constituted by other prominent actors in International Relations and to draw out inferences to pertaining ANSAs and its co-relation with ISIS.
Introduction illustrates the main problems, delineates the main problems, and identifies the focal point of the research on the broader question on how NSAs emerged as a third eye and its materialization into ANSAs. It will also give a brief account on the rise of ISIS as a contemporary issue in IR. It also gives prologue to a research.
Chapter I focuses on the Historical and Theoretical perspective giving a comprehension of state centric approach in International Relations and how International Relations have transformed with an entry of armed non sate actors (ANSA). It will provide a definition on ANSAs and identify typologies of ANSAs. This chapter further elucidates the role of ANSAs in IR and provides an understanding on autonomy of ANSAs using an autonomy, representation and influence (ARI) framework.
Chapter II analyses the materialization of ISIS as a powerful ANSAs and how they are diverse from other ANSAs. Examining the political instability in West Asian Countries, this chapter scrutinizes how ISIS came into being and the factors responsible for the rise and growth of ISIS. Researcher further elucidates transformation of ISIS into a power ANSAs visioning their religious and political ideology.
Chapter III provides an understanding on Modus Operandi of ISIS. It makes the readers aware on how ISIS operates by providing an understanding on administration and hierarchy that formulates readers with command structure of ISIS. It also provides an explanatory framework on recruitment strategy and policy of ISIS where thousands of fighters have joined ISIS to fight intruders in the region. Further, this chapter elucidates an understanding on financial networks of ISIS and weaponries.
Chapter IVdiversifies the role of religion in IR by providing an analysis on how region theorization in IR is possible. Contemplating religion and IR, this section has built an analysis on contemporary role of religion in IR with an analysis on ISIS and how it has shaped the whole security dilemma of IR post 9/11 period. Researcher has further explicated the attacks, violation of human rights etc. that ISIS has carried out leading to a massive humanitarian crisis and antagonism between West Asian countries, foreign powers skirmishing ISIS and future prospects.
Conclusion summarises main argument of the chapters and attempt to provide answer to various questions put forth. It also tries to provide an analysis of the problems and findings of the study.
About The Author:
A post-graduate with MPhil in International Relations, Ashim Dhakal is from Sikkim. He completed his post-graduate from Christ University and went to Sikkim University for higher studies. He was an intern in NGO “Human Development Foundation”. Ashim has also published articles entitled “Understanding Michael Foucault” Vol.15, Issue No.9, October 2018, “Neo-Liberalism in theorizing World Politics” Vol.15, Issue N0.5, July 2018 in Journal for Advances and Scholarly Researches in Allied Education (JASRAE) with ISSN 2230-7540.