Targeting Environmental Infrastructures, International Law, and Civilians in the Middle East’s New Infrastructural Wars


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 peacebuilding. An understudied area of research, however, concerns the ways in which warfare has targeted civilian infrastructure with long-term effects on human welfare and ecosystems. This article seeks to fill this gap. We focus on better understanding the conflict destruction of water, sanitation, waste, and energy infrastructures, which we term environmental infrastructures, by drawing on an author-compiled database 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 environmental destruction during wars, including the issue of urbicide, we expand the study of targeting environmental infrastructure to (1) examine the role of different types of actors (international vs. subnational), (2) document the type of infrastructure targeted, form of attack, and impacts, and (3) situate increased targeting of environmental infrastructure in the changing context of war-making in the MENA. Comparatively analyzing the conflict zones of Libya, Syria, and Yemen, we show that targeting environmental infrastructure is an increasingly prevalent form of war-making in the MENA, with long-term implications for rebuilding states, sustaining livelihoods, and resolving conflicts.


Political Science

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Security Dialogue



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