Lebanon and the Syrian Civil War: Sectarian Perceptions and Positions

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Tinas M., Tür Küçükkaya Ö.

JOURNAL OF BALKAN AND NEAR EASTERN STUDIES, vol.23, no.2, pp.321-338, 2021 (SSCI) identifier identifier


This paper analyses the role of sectarian identity in foreign policy making by bringing sub-state sectarian actors into foreign policy studies. The paper takes Lebanon and the Syrian Civil War as a case study through a close scrutiny of the emergence and the consolidation of foreign policy orientations, preferences and behaviour of the Maronite, Sunni, Shia and Druze leaders in Lebanon. By doing so, it asks how sectarian groups behave as sub-state foreign policy actors in countries where society is divided along sectarian identities and how sectarian identities matter in terms of the definition of the self and the other and the ally and the enemy in weak states. It further questions to what extent sectarian groups can be considered as sub-state foreign policy actors with their own perceptions based on their identities. Building its main findings on various fieldworks in Lebanon conducted in 2016 and 2017, interviewing leaders of major sects; this study concludes that in the absence of a cohesive foreign policy stance in a weak state, the role of sectarian identity in defining self and other becomes central for understanding the foreign policy choices of sectarian leaders faced with an existential challenge.