Out of the Inferno? Rebuilding Security in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen

Arab Reform Initiative - OUT OF THE INFERNO? Rebuilding Security in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen
Yemeni counter-terrorism forces taking part in a US-supported training drill in the Sana'a area, Yemen, July 2011 © EPA

Without a pre-defined security plan, no political authority is likely to control the countries living in fragmented security and political orders in the MENA region, says the Arab Reform Initiative in a new book, urging for the adoption of cooperative security as a way out of the conflicts of the region.

The 136-page book, titled Out of the Inferno? Rebuilding Security in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, represents a distinct contribution to the field of security studies in the Middle East and offers an insight into the dynamics of insecurity as experienced by Arab societies when the state is up for grabs between competing groups.

“The book is the outcome of three years of research and presents a diagnosis from the ground of what currently works and what doesn’t at the local, regional, and national levels in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. In the face of the failure of containment and security approaches driven by outside powers exclusively motivated by countering terrorism, it suggests alternative strategies for future work on the security institutions and some directions on where to start in each case,” said Bassma Kodmani, Arab Reform Initiative’s Executive Director.

Written by authors with in-depth understanding of the security issues of the Middle East and an intimate knowledge of the social context of each country, the chapters of this book provide detailed assessments of the motivations of the different players, the major turning points which explain why and when security went out of control, and how transitions failed.

Each chapter also highlights how the strategies of outside powers, regional and international, interact with local dynamics, pointing to mistakes, flawed international course of action and the absence of a systemic approach to defining security frameworks in each case.

In the first chapter, Bassma Kodmani defines the challenges of rebuilding security when states have collapsed and societies need to engage in a re-foundation of the social contract that ties the different components of the nation together. Florence Gaub’s papers bring comparative perspectives regarding the key features of the military and security forces in countries with diverse societies.

In the four-country studies on Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, authors Myriam Benraad, Virginie Collombier, Abdelnasser Ayed, and Nayla Moussa bring together diverse insights and perspectives to inform an in-depth analysis of the security institutions in each of the four countries. Fatiha Dazi-Héni looks at the strategies of the Arab Gulf countries whose role has been decisive in the four conflicts.

“The domestic security of Western democracies waging the war on terror will not be ensured if they don’t invest in building the security capacity of Middle Eastern states, their armies, police forces and intelligence institutions. To achieve this, they need to reconcile and coordinate their military might with the home-grown approaches to security in the region. Call it organic or shared or cooperative security,” said Kodmani.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.