Dr. Mohammed Hafez, a professor in the NPS Department of National Security Affairs, is one of three collaborating authors recognized with the Nils Petter Gleditsch Journal of Peace Research (JPR) Article of the Year Award for 2019. In the piece, “Fratricide in rebel movements,” Hafez and his colleagues, Drs. Emily K. Gade and Michael Gabbay at the University of Washington, explore the conditions under which infighting occurs between rebel groups through an analysis of Syrian rebel organizations.
Hafez et al.’s article provides a clear vision of what conflict and peace scholars can achieve when they leverage innovations in empirical methods and detailed data collection
“I was pleasantly surprised and deeply honored,” commented Hafez. “My team and I, who worked on this research for over two years, were just delighted to have our research accepted for publication in this premier journal. To receive the honor of the best paper of the year is just the icing on the cake.”
The award-winning article took a look at the Syrian civil war, one of the deadliest conflicts in the world today, and explains why rebel groups lost the fight against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Hafez’s team points to fragmentation and infighting among Syria’s numerous rebel factions as part of the explanation.
“The rebels competed with each other during the civil war, thus dividing their ranks and weakening their movement in the face of an existential threat from the government,” states Hafez. “This behavior does not appear to be rational to the ordinary person, but we show that the combination of power disparities between the groups, ideological differences among the militant actors, and malign external sponsorship can undermine a rebel movement. We demonstrate these dynamics by looking at patterns of conflict within the rebel movement.”
Hafez credits the university for providing an opportunity to undertake a data-extensive project such as this one. Award-winning research, he says, ensures NPS will continue to stand out as an elite academic institution.
“The research team that published this award-winning study continues to work together through a grant from the Army Research Office on rebel consolidation in civil wars,” said Hafez. “In other words, the ‘Dream Team’ is still at it and hopes to produce quality research in the years ahead.”
JPR is a peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes scholarly articles and book reviews in the fields of peace and conflict studies, conflict resolution, and international security. Articles were judged on their theoretical contribution, methodological innovation and sophistication and relevance to practical aspects of building peace.