My dissertation seeks to explain the variation in cooperation between states and foreign militant groups. While some partners make extensive commitments to each other, like U.S. Special Forces and Kurdish militias forming unified commands and carrying out joint attacks against ISIS, others make ‘thinner’ guarantees, such as Saudi Arabia's weapons provision to select Syrian rebels. While some actively publicize their cooperation, like U.S. troops with the Northern Alliance during the 2001 Afghanistan invasion, others keep the extent of their cooperation secret, like the logistical and military support Israel has given Al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel groups in southern Syria. While many assume that this cooperation consists of states providing aid to their non-state partner, states often receive assistance from foreign militant groups, as seen through CAR President Patisse's repeated requests for the MLC (a Congolese rebel group ) to protect him from internal rebellion in 2003.
Recognizing that cooperation between states and foreign militant groups occurs in a strategic, dyadic context in which partners are concerned about compliance, I argue that whether states and militant groups possess particular organizational characteristics, namely whether lower-level officials can sanction leader(s) and leader(s) can ensure lower-level officials follow policies, directly influences the types of support they provide each other, the depths of commitments made, and whether these actors publicize their cooperation. I assess my theory through a mixed-methods research design. First, I am developing a unique, cross-national, time series data set that contains organizational characteristics of states and militant groups as well as detailed information on support provided (including type of weapons, financial support, troops, etc.). Second, I am conducting case studies on recent U.S. support for Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish militias and the Southern Front, traveling to Jordan and Iraqi Kurdistan to collect necessary data. I am also conducting two shadow case studies of Hezbollah's provision of weapons and troops to the Syrian regime, and CAR President Patisse's outsourcing of security to the MLC. To do so, I am scraping websites, social media platforms, and news outlets.
Ongoing Research Projects
My other research projects examine how refugees' perceptions of service providers influence their service access and compliance with host state policies; the role of rumors in refugee decision-making; how international norms, such as non-violence against civilians, create perverse incentives for governments to pursue military strategies that maximize civilian victimization to deter third party intervention in civil wars; and how domestic characteristics of authoritarian regimes influence their preferences for informal international cooperation. You can find specific projects listed below, as well as under the 'Working Papers' section of my Publications page.
"Digital Refuge." Collaboration with Dr. Katerina Linos and Laura Jakli, supported by seed funding from CITRIS and the Banatao Institute.
This project draws from a wide variety of social media sources and data collected by aid organizations to identify and trace rumors spreading through refugee communities in Greece. We aim to develop a website that aggregates and effectively visualizes rumor trends to aid refugees in decision-making, as well as government officials and aid organizations as they design and implement refugee policy and programming.
"Explaining Variation in Refugee Health Service Access: Results from Survey Experiments with Syrian Refugees in Jordan." Collaboration with Dr. Nour Abdo, Assistant Professor, and Amer Abu Shakra, Masters Student, at the Jordanian University for Science and Technology.
This project assesses how urban refugees' perceptions of health care providers influences their decision to access medical services from particular providers. In addition to examining why refugees opt to use more expensive, private care providers rather than NGO and subsidized providers, we focus on identifying factors that influence urban refugees' decision to use informal care providers, such as pharmacists, and refugees with previous medical experience practicing informally in the country, rather than visit formal providers. To identify these factors, we conducted an in-person survey experiment with over 400 Syrians living in Irbid and Amman governorates, as well as a Facebook survey experiment, through which we had over 6300 respondents. Additionally, we conducted 22 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with aid organization workers and government officials.