The purpose of this paper is to determine under what circumstances foreign intervention exacerbates sectarian conflict. Since the vast majority of academics do not pay heed to the argument that sectarian conflict is simply the result of ancient hatreds, economic, political, and social factors that result in sectarian conflict must be analyzed. To determine what these factors are and how they interplay with intervention and its associated outcomes, this paper will first review the appropriate literature on foreign intervention and sectarian conflict and then apply relevant theories to three case studies in the Levant covering 1990 to 2014. This paper will utilize the theory that sectarian conflict is produced when groups collectively fear for their future, which eventually provokes a security dilemma and a conflict spiral. It logically follows that any conditions that increase perceptions of fear or exacerbate the security dilemma or conflict spiral are the circumstances under which foreign intervention exacerbates sectarian conflict. Ultimately this paper concludes that high levels of poverty, preexisting civil conflict, the presence of a marginalized sectarian group, and the presence of manipulative leaders in the context of an intervention targeting a state’s government are the circumstances under which intervention exacerbates sectarian conflict.

First Advisor

Nick Kontogeorgopoulos

Degree Type




Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in International Political Economy


International Political Economy

Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2015


University of Puget Sound