Skip to main content
School of Politics and International Relations

Professor Christopher Phillips, BA (Cambridge), MSc (LSE), PhD (LSE)


Professor in International Relations

Telephone: 020 7882 8584
Room Number: ArtsOne, 2.33A
Office Hours: Monday 14:00-15:00 (in person) and Wednesday 13:00-14:00 (in person or online)


Dr Chris Phillips joined the School in January 2012, having previously worked as deputy editor for Syria and Jordan at the Economist Intelligence Unit. Before then he did his PhD and Masters in International Relations at the London School of Economics, and BA at Cambridge. He is currently an associate fellow at the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, working primarily on the Syria conflict and its impact on neighbouring states and the wider Middle East. He is co-curator of ‘Syria: story of a conflict’ a public exhibition at the Imperial War Museum and the Imperial War Museum North. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University in 2014 & 2015.

Chris lived in Syria for two years, in Aleppo, Damascus and Latakia, and much of his research focuses on that country. Since the beginning of the civil war there in 2011, he has regularly consulted various government agencies and NGOS, and has made numerous media appearances on outlets including BBC Newsnight, Radio 4’s Today Programme, BBC News, Al-Jazeera, Sky News and Channel 4 News. He has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, Newsweek and CNN, among others. His latest book, The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the new Middle East was published by Yale University Press in 2016.

He blogs at and tweets at @cjophillips, mostly commenting on Syria, the Middle East, and the lamentable state of Aston Villa Football Club.


Research Interests:

My research interests lie primarily in the role of identity and power in the politics and international relations of the Arab Middle East. My past work has used nationalism and international relations theory to explore the interaction of Arab, state and religious identities in the identity discourses of modern Arab states. My current research is focused on two international dimensions of the Syrian civil war (2011-present). Firstly, an exploration of how international actors have impacted and shaped the conflict, using international relations theories on regional systems and the balance of power as a framework. Secondly, a consideration of how the war in turn has impacted the international relation of the Middle East, both the regional dynamics and international interaction.

Previously I have investigated in detail the official identity discourses of two modern Arab states, Syria and Jordan, considering how Arab identity in particular has been constructed, sustained and reproduced in an everyday manner. Out of this came a wider consideration of the position of Arab identity in today’s Middle East, both its domestic and international politics, with the role of transnational satellite television, particularly al-Jazeera, scrutinised. These projects involved fieldwork in both Syria and Jordan, combining ethnographic interviewing with broader content and discourse analyses of several key disseminators of national identity: the personality cults of the ruling regimes and the state television broadcasts they control.

My other research interests focus on specific case studies within the study of politics and the international relations of the Middle East: Syrian foreign policy; British and US foreign policy towards the Arab World; Turkey’s Syria policy; the role of Arab identity in intra-Arab relations; and the challenge presented to older identity discourses by the 2011 Arab Spring.

Current research projects:

  • The international relations of the Syrian civil war
  • Arab identity in the contemporary Middle East
  • British Middle East policy
  • Syrian national identity and the 2011 uprising



Phillips, C., The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East (London: Yale University Press, 2016)

Phillips, C., Everyday Arab Identity: The daily reproduction of the Arab World (London: Routledge, 2012)

Journal Articles: 

'International actors in the Syrian conflict' Orient 60: 2 (2019) pp.7-15

Phillips, C and Valbjorn, M (2018) 'What is in a Name?': The Role of (Different) Identities in the Multiple Proxy Wars in Syria' Small Wars & Insurgencies Volume 29, Issue 3, pp.414-433. 

Phillips, C (2017) 'Syria after IS' Orient, Issue IV, September 2017 pp.16-23.

Phillips, C (2017) 'Eyes Bigger than Stomachs: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Syria’ Middle East Policy, Volume 24, Issue 1, Spring 2017

Phillips, C (2015) 'Sectarianism and conflict in Syria.' Third World Quarterly 36.2, pp. 357-376.

Phillips, C (2014) 'The Arabism Debate and the Arab Uprising's, Mediterranean Politics, 19:1, pp. 141-144

Phillips, C (2012) 'Syria's Torment', Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, vol. 54, no. 4, August–September, 67-82.

Phillips, C (2012), 'Team Arab: al-Jazeera and the flagging of everyday Arabism during the 2008 Beijing Olympics' Nations and Nationalism 18: 3, 504–526

Phillips, C and Wallace, W (2009), ‘Reassessing the Special Relationship’, International Affairs 85: 2, 263-284.

Policy papers and book chapters:

'The international and regional battle for Syria' in R. Hinnebusch and A. Saouli (eds.), The War for Syria: Regional and International Dimensions of the Syrian Uprising (London: Routledge, 2019)

'Structure, Agency and External Involvement in the Syria Conflict', POMEPS 34: Shifting Global Politics and the Middle East,18 March 2019

'Sectarianism as Plan B: Saudi-Iranian identity politics in the Syria Conflict', in S. Mabon (ed.), Saudi Arabia and Iran: The Struggle to Shape the Middle East (London: Foreign Policy Centre, 2018).

L. Khatib, T. Eaton, H. Haid, C. Phillips, N. Quilliam, I. Hamidi, B. Kodmani & L. Sinjab, 'Western Policy Towards Syria: Applying Lessons Learned' Chatham House Policy Report (March 2017)

'Gulf Actors and the Syria Crisis' in The New Politics of Intervention of Gulf Arab States, London School of Economics and Political Science Middle East Centre, Collected Papers Vol. 1, 41-51

'Intervention and non-intervention in the Syria crisis’ in F. Kühn and M. Turner (eds.), The Politics of International Intervention. The Tyranny of Peace (London: Routledge, 2016)

Spencer, C., C. Phillips and J. Kinninmont, Western Policy Towards Syria: Ten Recommendations (Chatham House Policy Paper, December 2013) pp.1-8.

'The Civil War in Syria: The Variety of Opposition to the Syrian Regime' in IE Mediterranean Yearbook 2013, August 2013.

'Into the Quagmire: Turkey's Frustrated Syria Policy', Chatham House Briefing Paper, December 2012

'Syria’s Bloody Arab Spring' After the Arab Spring: Power Shift in the Middle East? LSE IDEAS Special Report, May 2012

'Turkey and Syria,' in Turkey’s Global Strategy, LSE Ideas Special Report, May 2011

'Obama’s Middle East Policy: Time to Decide', in Obama Nation: US Foreign Policy One Year on, LSE Ideas Special Report, January 2010 (Co-authored with Gregorio Bettiza).


'Bashar al-Assad’s international rehabilitation has begun' Washington Post, 5 January 2019

'Hezbollah: The real winner of the Syria war?' Middle East Eye, 1 November 2018

'Idlib’s fate looks more likely to be decided in Moscow than in Ankara' Middle East Eye, 30 August 2018

'The World Abetted Assad’s Victory in Syria' The Atlantic, 4 August 2018

'Will the south by Syria’s next battlefield?' Middle East Eye, 19 June 2018

'Syria War: Trump’s chemical dilemma' Middle East Eye, 13 April 2018

'Assad and Putin are the real winners in Turkey’s Afrin operation' Middle East Eye, 27 February 2018

'Syria’s war is far from over' Middle East Eye, 10 January 2018

'Jordan’s Smart Syria Strategy' Middle East Eye, 24 June 2017

'Trump’s strike is more of the same in Syria' Washington Post, 7 April 2017

'Syria was never America’s to lose' Middle East Eye, 6 January 2017

”Unknown unknowns’: What Trump means for Syria' Middle East Eye, 9 November 2016

'The Ever-Evolving Battle for Syria' Yale Books Unbound, 8 November 2016

'Battle for Syria, Part Two: US Foreign Policy & the Syrian Conflict,' Yale Books, 3 October 2016

'Battle for Syria, Part One: The Impact of International Involvement', Yale Books, 29 September 2016

'Turkey’s Syria Intervention: a Sign of Weakness not Strength', Newsweek, 22 September 2016

'The US and Russia could help end the Syria conflict. But are they hurting enough?' Prospect, 26 August 2016

'Britain must not escalate the conflict in Syria' (with Tim Eaton), Prospect, 2 Dec 2015

'Syria’s Refugees: When did the West become so heartless?' LSE ‘Euro Crisis in the Press’ Blog, 20 Aug 2015

'Syria, 4 Years On: What is Left of Assad’s State is Eroding from Within' Chatham House Expert Comment, 9 March 2015

'Syria: the View From Moscow' Newsweek, 9 December 2014

'The Plight of Syria’s Refugees is Another Security Crisis in the Making' Chatham House Expert Comment, 13 October 2014 (with Neil Quilliam)

'Obama: Realistic or Rudderless on Syria?' Middle East Eye, 16 August 2014

'Understanding Syria’s Four Front War', Middle East Eye, 5 August 2014

'The Golan Heights: ripples of civil war in Israel's little piece of Syria', The World Today, 7 June 2014

'Erdogan's War', Middle East Eye, 4 June 2014

'Syria: the View From Moscow' Middle East Eye, 9 December 2014

'The Plight of Syria’s Refugees is Another Security Crisis in the Making' Chatham House Expert Comment, 13 October 2014 (with Neil Quilliam)

'Obama: Realistic or Rudderless on Syria?' Middle East Eye, 16 August 2014

'Understanding Syria's Four Front War', Middle East Eye, 5 August 2014

'The Golan Heights: ripples of civil war in Israel's little piece of Syria', The World Today, 7 June 2014

'Erdogan's War', Middle East Eye 4 June 2014

Phillips, C and J. Kinninmont, 'Resetting Western strategy towards Syria' Chatham House Expert Comment / Huffington Post UK, 19/12/13

'Flawed Logic in Decision to Lift Syria Arms Embargo' Chatham House Expert Comment / Huffington Post UK, 28 May 2013

'The impact of Syrian refugees on Turkey and Jordan', The World Today, October 2012

'Turkey’s Syria Problem', Juncture / Open Democracy, 28th September 2012

'Freezing out Iran won’t solve the Syria crisis' (with Julien Barnes-Dacey) for The European Council of Foreign Relations, 16th June 2012

'Syria: what can the West do?' LSE Middle East Centre, 24th May 2012

'Can the Syrian regime crush the uprising? Yes, suggests historyThe Guardian, 6th March 2012

'The International Relations of the Middle East after the Arab Spring', The Economist Intelligence Unit: Middle East Regional Overview, January 2012.

'10 myths about the Arab Spring: Coup d’etat or revolution?' The Majalla, 14 September 2011

'Syria regime blunders towards self-destruction', CNN, 12 August 2011.

'Hesitant They Stand' The Majalla, 17 January 2011.

'Christianity’s place in the Middle East' The Guardian, 11 November 2010.

'Lebanon: Tony Blair’s other Middle East mistake' The Guardian,9 September 2010.

'Syria and the west: another wasted decade' The Guardian, 25 July 2010.

'US hegemony in Middle East is ending' The Guardian, 31 May 2010.

'Playing the Identity Card' The Majalla, 6 April 2010.

'Miliband’s grand Middle East delusion' The Guardian, 12 March 2010.

'Syria’s Assad: Pariah to Power-Broker,' The Guardian, 17 February 2010.

'Autocracy-Lite in Jordan' The Guardian, 29 January 2010.

'Tough Love: The Paradox of Syrian-Iraqi Interdependence' The Majalla, 21 December 2009.

'Silent Majority: Jordan’s Palestinians and the search for Identity,' in IDEAS Today, December 2009.

'Netanyahu’s Syrian Distraction' The Guardian, 24 November 2009.

'Brussels buckles, Damascus deliberates' The Guardian, 25 October 2009.

'Who will come next? The future of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria' The Majalla, 17 October 2009.

'Turkey, Syria’s new best friend' The Guardian, 1 October 2009.

Selected Conference papers:

'The International Origins of the Syrian Civil war', BRISMES conference, University of Edinburgh (July 2017)

'Syria and the post-American Middle East' presented at the Belfer Center, Harvard University (March 2017)

'Eyes Bigger than Stomachs: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Syria ISA conference, Baltimore (February 2017)

'The Battle for Syria' presented at Georgetown University (February 2017)

'Sectarianism and the conflict in Syria' presented at Middle East Studies Group, Birkbeck University February 2014

'Arabism and the Arab Spring', presented at University of St. Andrews October 2013  

'The limits of soft power: Turkey and the 2011 Syrian Crisis' BRISMES Conference, University College Dublin (June 2013)

'The Security Situation in Syria and its Regional Implications' NATO Parliamentary Assembly Conference, Marrakech (April 2013)

'Syria: A solvable crisis?' USAK conference, Ankara (February 2013)

'Which flag? The 2011 uprising and Syrian national identity', BRISMES Conference, London School of Economics (March, 2012)

'Unnoticed Authoritarianism: The Everyday Cult of King Abdullah II of Jordan', British Academy-sponsored Special Seminar, Exeter University (September, 2010)

'Banal Arabism? Al-Jazeera and the flagging of Arab identity during the 2008 Beijing Olympics', World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies, Conference, Barcelona (July, 2010)

'Daddies’ Boys: Father, son and the nation in the leadership cults of contemporary Syria and Jordan' ASEN Conference, London School of Economics (April 2010)

'Re-inventing Lebanon: the Search for Lebanese Nationalism During Syrian Occupation 1991-2005.' Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences, University of Hawaii, (May 2007)

Public Engagement

For further information, including recent media appearances, see   

Back to top