Stifling stateness: The Assad regime's campaign against rebel governance.

27 Apr 2018

This article assesses the impact of the Assad regime's aerial bombardment campaign on a frequently neglected component of Syria's ongoing civil war: rebel governance. While analysis of the military and humanitarian ramifications of such attacks has been extensive, these perspectives fail to consider how the Assad regime's counter insurgency efforts subvert governance practices by Syria's diverse rebel groups. Drawing on performative approaches to the 'state', we argue that opposition groups' daily enactments of 'stateness' via two key welfare services - bread and healthcare provision - constitute a historically inflected and locally grounded critique of the incumbent. When executed successfully, such enactments can stabilize relations between rulers and ruled while offering a vision of an alternative polity. They can also attract the attention of rivals. The Assad regime's aerial bombing campaign of rebel-held areas is thus neither a haphazard military strategy nor simply the product of long-standing sectarian hatreds, but a deliberate tactic through which it seeks to destroy a key threat to its authority.