Targeting Environmental Infrastructures, International Law, and Civilians in the New Middle Eastern Wars

By Jeannie Sowers
Submitted to Session P4867 (The Future of Middle Eastern Regimes: At the Intersection of Domestic and International Politics, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
All Middle East;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Research in conflict studies and environmental security has largely focused on the mechanisms through which the environment and natural resources foster conflict or contribute to peace-building efforts. An understudied area of research concerns the ways in which warfare has focused on destroying infrastructure and the long-term effects on human welfare and ecosystems. This paper seeks to fill this gap. We focus primarily on better understanding the conflict destruction of water, sanitation, waste, and energy infrastructures, what we term environmental infrastructures, by drawing on an original database compiled by the authors of the post-2011 wars in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). While research across the social sciences has examined the targeting of civilians and the environmental destruction during wars, including the issue of urbicide, we expand the study of targeting of environmental infrastructure to (1) examine the role of different types of actors (international vs. subnational), (2) document the type of infrastructure, form of attack, and impacts and (3) situate an increase in targeting environmental infrastructure within the changing context of warmaking in the MENA, marked by a multiplicity of actors at different scales. Through a focus on the conflict zones of Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, we show that the destruction of environmental infrastructure has become a prolonged feature of social and economic life in the region, with long-term implications for rebuilding states and livelihoods.