Dr. Reinoud Leenders is a Reader (associate professor) in International Politics and Middle East Studies at King’s College London, Department of War Studies. Since the early 1990s he has lived in, travelled, and studied the Middle East. His research and teaching engages with Middle East (international) politics and society generally, and Syria and Lebanon in particular, and focuses on authoritarian governance, corruption, armed conflict and security, refugees and popular mobilization. He authored some thirty articles and chapters in academic journals and edited volumes in addition to Spoils of Truce: Corruption and State-Building in Postwar Lebanon (Cornell University Press 2012) and Middle East Authoritarianisms: Governance, Contestation, and Regime Resilience in Syria and Iran (With Steven Heydemann –eds. Stanford University Press). Reinoud regularly gives advice and carries out research assignments on conflict dynamics and the political economy of Syria and Lebanon to policymakers, international NGOs, private companies, law enforcement agencies and law firms.
Following years of violent conflicts, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria sustain security sectors that are populated by irregular, non-state armed groups that operate in complex, shifting and often uneasy relationships with state institutions, local communities and foreign actors. These emerging ‘shadows of hierarchy’ defy customary notions of statehood which are deemed essential to building stability, security and peace. Drawing on intensive new fieldwork and years of prior research, this comparative project aspires to gain key insights into the prospects for engaging constructively with irregular forces just as it explores how paramilitaries may be integrated in and reconciled with state-building efforts. Innovative policy measures, at local, national and international levels, need to engage with irregular forces in ways that acknowledge them as being part and parcel of war-torn societies aspiring for peace. Reinoud Leenders leads the project as its principal investigator, together with co-researcher Dr. Antonio Giustozzi (King’s College London, RUSI). The project is funded by the German Gerda Henkel Foundation and commences in June 2022.
Photo credits: Home page, Corniche Beirut, by Fouad Elkoury (from cover Spoils of Truce); ‘martyrs’ commemoration, al-Hashd al-Sha’bi, Iraq, by Inna Rudolf. All other main photographs by Reinoud Leenders