Concepts • February 21, 2020
Complicated conflicts with many disparate actors have become increasingly common in the international system. The extreme fragmentation of the Syrian opposition in the ongoing civil war embodies this ‘new normal’ for civil wars. Fragmentation affects a number of conflict dynamics, including the turn to violence, internecine conflict among parties, targeting of civilians, collaboration with the state, and the extent to which opposition movements are accommodated. In this paper, I explore the phenomenon of fragmentation in conflict, its known effects on conflict processes and how it affects mediation and settlement success. I centre specifically on the fragmentation of ‘opposition’ movements – those actors that challenge the recognised state in civil wars.