Politicians at Arms: Civilian Recruitment of Soldiers for Middle East Coups

Date of Award

December 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Mehrzad Boroujerdi


coups, Iran, Middle East, political party, Syria

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Why would politicians recruit soldiers for military coups d’état? The civil-military relations literature assumes politicians aspire to supremacy over the military; enabling praetorianism would risk their future rule. While the empirical fact of civilian participation in military takeovers is widely recognized, no study specifies or theorizes civilian enlistment of soldiers in coup conspiracies. This research narrows in on the understudied processes of coup plot formation to assess the conditions in which politicians infiltrate military academies and establish army partisans. Using Arabic language memoirs, party manifestos, and private papers, British Foreign Office documents, French consular reports, and Polity data, I find that radical Syrian politicians could not tolerate their civilian rivals’ incumbency but were unable to challenge them peacefully, so they recruited like-minded officers for coups. In short, politicians do not desire a politicized military, but they sometimes favor praetorianism to their rivals’ continued incumbency.


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