Things Fall Apart - Rebel Fragmentation in Syria's Civil War (2011-2017)

29 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2018

See all articles by Patrick Steen Pedersen

Patrick Steen Pedersen

Royal Danish Defence College

Olivier Walther

University of Florida; University of Southern Denmark

Date Written: June 20, 2018


In rebel-held Syria, an array of rebel organisations are nominally allied in their fight against the Syrian government and yet they remain internally divided. Rather than being a rare occurrence, fragmentation within rebel movements is a common phenomenon with wide-ranging consequences for its chances of success. The objective of this paper is to explain what has caused fragmented to occur in Syria from 2011 to 2017. Using a three-dimensional conceptualisation of rebel fragmentation, we identify and analyse the causes of rebel fragmentation within the Syrian rebel movement and illustrate how these dynamics have influenced the overall degree of fragmentation throughout four phases of the conflict. The study finds that the splintering of the Syrian rebel movement is a second-order effect of historical, structural and geopolitical factors generally outside the immediate control of the non-state actors.

Keywords: Rebellion, Fragmentation, War, Alliance, Al Qaeda, Syria

JEL Classification: D74, F5

Suggested Citation

Steen Pedersen, Patrick and Walther, Olivier, Things Fall Apart - Rebel Fragmentation in Syria's Civil War (2011-2017) (June 20, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Patrick Steen Pedersen

Royal Danish Defence College ( email )


Olivier Walther (Contact Author)

University of Florida ( email )

425 Grinter Hall
Gainesville, FL 32611
United States

University of Southern Denmark ( email )

Campusvej 55
DK-5230 Odense, 5000

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics