On the Issue of Classification of Non-State Actors in the Middle East

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-6-104-113

V. Naumkin (director@ivran.ru),
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation;
V. Kuznetsov (vasiakuznets@yandex.ru),
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation

Abstract. Agreeing with researchers who consider the expansion of non-state actors’ influence in world politics a common widespread tendency, the authors investigate existing approaches to NSA categorization and underline certain characteristics of these approaches. Firstly, non-state actors are researched apophatically, negatively, as structures characterized solely as not being actual states and governments. Secondly, NSA are defined as bodies acting only in the international context. Last but not least, they must have formalized structures and clearly set goals. The authors conclude that existing categorizations generally fail to represent the empirical reality that researchers of Middle Eastern issues see regularly. The authors use P. Taylor’s renowned method to create their own typology, including new criteria, such as: functional correlation between non-state actors and states, allowing to distinguish between suprastate, alterstate and substate actors; actors’ orientation towards state, allowing to divide them into statecentric and geocentric ones; their goals, either universal or specific; administration systems that may have different grades of formalization and centralization. Meanwhile, such criteria are viewed as practical actions and the level of violence used by nonstate actors – as superficial. Researching each parameter, the authors give examples of various NSA functioning in the Middle East. The article is concluded by a categorizing table which includes specific examples of Middle Eastern non-state actors.

Keywords: non-state actors, Middle East, Islamism, regional relations in the Middle East


1. Josselin D., Wallace W. Non-State Actors in World Politics. London, Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2001. 294 p.

2. Andonova L.B. Governance entrepreneurs: international organizations and the rise of global public-private partnerships. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017. 286 p.

3. Moloney K., Stone D. Beyond the State: Global Policy and Transnational Administration. International Review of Public Policy, 2019, no. 1:1, pp. 104-118.

4. Kamel L., ed. The Frailty of Authority. Borders, Non-State Actors and Power Vacuums in a Changing Middle East. Rome, Edizioni Nuova Cultura, 2017. 160 p.

5. Tsygankov P.A. Negosudarstvennye uchastniki mirovoy politiki [Non-State Actors of World Politics]. Nauchno-analiticheskiy zhurnal Obozrevatel, 2013, no. 9 (284), pp. 257-265.

6. Calame P. Non-state Actors and World Governance. Forum for a New World Governance Discussion Paper, 2008. 23 p.

7. Marrone A., Muti K. Policies and Tools for Dealing with Nonstate Actors. Carnegie Europe, 2019. Available at: https://carnegieeurope.eu/2019/11/28/policies-and-tools-for-dealing-with-nonstate-actors-pub-80441 (accessed 30.03.2020).

8. Dalacoura K. Islamist Movements as Non-state Actors and their Relevance to International Relations. Josselin D., Wallace W., eds. Non-state Actors in World Politics. London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2001, pp. 235-248.

9. Wolfers A. The Actors in World Politics. Wolfers A., ed. Discord and Collaboration: Essays on International Politics, Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins Press, 1962. 303 p.

10. Burton J. W. Systems, States, Diplomacy and Rules. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, I968. 251 p.

11. Rosenau J.N., ed. Linkage Politics: Essays on the Convergence of National and Systems. New York, Free Press, I969. 352 p.

12. Menderhausen H. Transnational Society vs. State Sovereignty. Kyklos, 1969, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 251-275.

13. Nye J.S., Keohane R.O. Transnational Relations and World Politics: An Introduction. International Organization, 1971, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 329-349.

14. Lebedeva M. Aktory v mezhdunarodnykh otnosheniyakh i mirovoi politike [Actors of International Relations and World Politics] Available at: https://russiancouncil.ru/analytics-and-comments/analytics/aktory-v-mezhdunarodnykh-otnosheniyakh-i-mirovoy-politike/ (accessed 30.03.2020).

15. Taylor P. Nonstate Actors in International Politics: from Transregional to Substate Organizations. Boulder, Colorado – London, Westview Press, 1984. 268 p.

16. Ligon G.S., Logan M.K. Antecedents of Organizational Sophistication in Violent Non-State Actors. Available at: https://nsiteam.com/social/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/200110-Ligon-and-Logan-Slides.pdf (accessed 30.03.2020).

17. Hammond A. Analysis: Saudi Gulf union plan stumbles as wary leaders seek detail. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-union/analysis-saudi-gulf-union-plan-stumbles-as-wary-leaders-seek-detail-idUSBRE84G0WN20120517#yXXzFWO86KSvvlPV.97 (accessed 30.03.2020).

18. Authors’ interview with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Khalid al Khalifa. Moscow, 2019 (In Russ.)

19. McMillan M. E. Fathers and Sons. The Rise and Fall of Political Dynasty in the Middle East. New York, Pallgrave Macmillan, 2013. 163 p.

20. Radpey L. Kurdish Regional Self-rule Administration in Syria: A new Model of Statehood and its Status in International Law Compared to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Japanese Journal of Political Science, 2016, vol. 17, issue 3, pp. 468-488.

21. Palani K., Khidir J., Dechesne M., Bakker E. De facto states engagement with parent states: Kurdistan’s engagement with the Iraqi Government. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 2020, DOI:10.1080/13530194.2020.1714429

22. Tilleli E. Le mouvement citoyen de Kabylie. Pouvoirs, 2003, no. 3/106, pp.149-162.

23. Ucko D. Militias, tribes and insurgents: The challenge of political reintegration in Iraq Conflict. Security & Development, 2008, no. 8:3, pp. 341-373. DOI:10.1080/14678800802358171

24. Pack . Kingdom of Militias. Libya’s Second Was of Post-Qadhafi Succession. Available at: https://www.ispionline.it/sites/default/files/pubblicazioni/ispi_analysis_libya_pack_may_2019_0.pdf (accessed 30.03.2020).

25. Al-Tamimi A. J. From Jabhat al-Nusra to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham: Evolution, Approach and Future. Available at: https://www.kas.de/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=8cfa4cdb-e337-820d-d0bd-4cd998f38612&groupId=252038 (accessed 30.03.2020).

26. Panić M. Transnational Corporations and the Nation State. Kozul-Wright R., Rowthorn R., eds. Transnational Corporations and the Global Economy. London, Palgrave Macmillan, 1998, pp. 244-276.

27. Krastev I. Sem’ pervykh urokov global’nogo koronavirusnogo krizisa [The First Seven Lessons of the Global Coronavirus Crisis] Available at: https://globalaffairs.ru/articles/sem-urokov-koronakrizisa/ (accessed 30.03.2020).

28. About Russia’s Security Concept for the Gulf Area (In Russ.) Available at: https://www.mid.ru/rossijskaa-koncepcia-kollektivnoj-bezopasnosti-v-zone-persidskogo-zaliva/-/asset_publisher/2lVdNGBn6g2B/content/id/3733575 (accessed 30.03.2020).

29. Levitt M. Hezbollah as a Criminal Organisation. Available at: https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hezbollah-as-a-criminal-organisation (accessed 30.03.2020).

30. Ligon G., Harms M., Crowe J. et al. ISIL: Branding, Leadership Culture and Lethal Attraction. Report to the Office of University Programs, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. November, 2014. Available at: https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_ISIL%20Branding%20Leadership%20Culture%20and%20Lethal%20Attraction_Ligon_Nov2014.pdf

31. Elbahy R. Deterring violent non-state actors: dilemmas and implications. Journal of Humanities and Applied Social Sciences, 2019, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 43-54.

32. Zvyagelskaya I.D. Blizhnii Vostok i Tsentral’naya Aziya. Globalnye trendy v regional’nom ispolnenii [Middle East and Central Asia. Global Trends in Regional Versions]. Moscow, Aspekt Press, 2019. 224 p.

33. Williams P. Violent non-state actors and national and international security. Available at: https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/93880/VNSAs.pdf (accessed 30.03.2020).

Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Naumkin V., Kuznetsov V. On the Issue of Classification of Non-State Actors in the Middle East. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2020, vol. 64, no. 6, pp. 104-113. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-6-104-113

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment






Dear authors! Please note that in the VAK List of peer-reviewed scientific journals, in which the main scientific results of dissertations for the degree of candidate and doctor of sciences should be published for the “MEMO Journal” the following specialties are recorded:
economic sciences:
5.2.5. World Economy.
5.2.1. Economic Theory
5.2.3. Regional and Branch Economics
political sciences:
5.5.4. International Relations
5.5.1. History and Theory of Politics
5.5.2. Political Institutions, Processes, Technologies


Current Issue
2024, vol. 68, No. 7
Topical Themes of the Issue:
  • The Supporting Structure of Global Security
  • Institutional Features of the Fourth Energy Transition
  • The Evolution of Modern German Christian Democracy
  • The Monarchies of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia
Submit an Article
The Editorial Board invites authors to write analytical articles on the following topics:
  • changes in the processes of globalization in modern conditions
  • formation of the new world order
  • shifts in civilization at the stage of transition to a digital society

The editors are also interested in publishing synthesis articles / scientific reviews revealing the main trends in the development of certain regions of the world - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, etc.