In This Review

Hybrid Actors: Armed Groups and State Fragmentation in the Middle East
Hybrid Actors: Armed Groups and State Fragmentation in the Middle East
By Thanassis Cambanis, Dina Esfandiary, Sima Ghaddar, Michael Wahid Hanna, Aron Lund, and Renad Mansour
192 pp, Century Foundation, 2020
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Cambanis and his colleagues at the Century Foundation have produced a timely and provocative discussion about a particularly challenging kind of armed nonstate actor in the Middle East. In addition to independent warlords and state proxies, they identify a third type of nonstate entity, the “hybrid actor,” who “sometimes operates in concert with the state and sometimes competes with it.” They provide a number of examples. Hezbollah of Lebanon is the archetype, but Iraqi Kurdish parties also qualify, as do the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq. All such actors are “both a symptom and a driver of state fragility, poor governance, and insecurity.” Iran has a comparative advantage in working with these hybrids since, like most of them, Tehran seeks to shift the status quo. By contrast, Western powers are flummoxed when dealing with government ministries controlled by groups designated in the West as terrorist organizations. But hybrid groups cannot be wished away, and policymakers must better understand this new feature of the regional landscape.