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Trump’s reflexive impulse to reach for superlatives will doom his Iran sanctions regime

Trump’s reflexive impulse to reach for superlatives will doom his Iran sanctions regime

Trump’s inclination to invoke superlatives to demean persons he does not like and to praise himself or persons he likes is well documented. Almost all his short and long statements would include some superlatives.
His tweet announcing the start of the Iran sanctions is no exception.

The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!

Logically, if these are “the most biting sanctions ever imposed”, how can they be even more so in November? Logical consistency aside, let’s assume that this round of sanctions is “very biting” and the next round will make them “the most biting” sanctions ever. The stated goal of the administration is to reduce Iran’s energy export (oil and gas) to zero. Of course, reducing the sales of something the Iranian government depends on to zero will be unprecedented, and will deserve the superlative descriptor should it be achieved. However, we already know that that will not happen because three of the top energy buyers, China, India, and Turkey have stated publicly that the sanctions are outside the UNSC and as such they are unilateral, they were imposed in contravention to a deal endorsed by the UNSC and signed by the P5+1, and they encroach on national sovereignty of other nations, and as such these states will not abide by the new and re-instated US sanctions. In other words, they will continue to purchase Iranian oil and natural gas, not to do Iran a favor, but to protect their own national interests.

As to sanctions related to other services and products (auto parts, banking, and gold, etc…), that, too, may not achieve the sated goals. In fact, it may backfire.


On the day the first round of sanctions took effect, EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini, after having spoken to Iranian officials, said the following: 


“We are encouraging small and medium enterprises in particular to increase business with and in Iran as part of something that for us is a security priority.”

This is very important. Aware that US secondary sanctions (sanctioning companies that deal with Iran) would discourage large companies with complex and large operations in the US from doing business with Iran, EU leaders are willing to offer added incentives to small and midsize companies to do business with and in Iran. This means that smaller companies that do not have no economic ties to the US or have no significant operations and investments in the US would be encouraged (through economic, financial, and legal incentives) to do business in and with Iran. Moreover, the EU leaders also threatened EU companies with sanctions if they abandon deals with Iran.

Should these sanctions last longer than the current term of the US president, the EU measure could offer larger companies the loophole they need to evade US sanctions. They could sell their interests and investments in Iran to these companies, or they could spinoff some operational divisions to avoid EU sanctions. 

Iran does not seem to have any interest in the US market or in US companies. Their priorities is to remain connected to the global market. The EU legal and economic measures such as increasing small companies (and privately held ones) to do business with Iran will allow the latter to remain connected to the global market, which would allow them to focus on their more reliable partners like China, Russia, India, and the Koreas. 


As Harley-Davidson, Inc. reminded us when it announced it was moving some production out of the US and into the EU to sidestep paying high tariff, large business companies have a responsibility to their shareholders not to politicians. They are, by nature, multi-national. In other words, they will seek profit wherever they can find it and move all or some of their operations to any country that would maximize their profit. 


In this particular dispute, it would seem that the world community’s interest in global security (limiting nuclear proliferation) favors upholding the Iranian deal. Given its track record thus far, this administration is motivated, in part, by undoing the legacy of its predecessor. That is not a basis for building and preserving international alliances and credibility. None of the signatories to the deal said that the Iran Deal was perfect, as are all other negotiated multilateral deals. Some Iranian leaders, too, were not happy with some of the terms of the deal. But this US administration is victim of its own quest for superlative goals. That may be a good business strategy. But it is not a practical political strategy. 


In the end, the all-or-nothing approach to Iran may lead to the only logical result: nothing. Because in politics, the domain of compromise, the quest for superlatives is a liability, not an asset.

_______
Ref. Iran Deal

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Why the Muslim Ban cannot be justified by national security concerns?

Why the Muslim Ban cannot be justified by national security concerns?

The White House justified its ban on Muslims coming from seven countries by citing potential threat of terrorism and national security. The facts do not support that argument. 

First, it is a fact that none of the terrorists who actually carried out attacks in the United States since 2001 has had any connections to countries listed by the White House.  

White House officials could argue that the wars in Iraq and Syria  attracted and trained new terrorists and therefore the list reflects that new development. That logic, too, can be refuted by facts and figures. The majority of the fighters who joined al-Qaeda and its derivatives in Syria and Iraq came from countries other than the ones sanctioned by this White House.  


By cross-referencing the two sets of data, it becomes clear that more terrorists had come from Saudi Arabia than from any other country. Yet, Saudi Arabia is not mentioned by the White House on its list of countries with potential threat of terrorism. Moreover, and considering the passage of legislation by Congress (JASTA), which candidate Trump supported, allowing families of 9/11 victims to seek justice from Saudi Arabian citizens and officials for any possible complicity in terrorist attacks on Americans, the exclusion of Saudi Arabia is odd. Clearly, there is some bizarre logic at play in determining which country to target by this Muslim ban that splits families, endangers lives already at risk, and violate terms of treaties and conventions ratified by the United States.

The Ban on Muslims is motivated by prejudice, politics, and xenophobia, not by legitimate security concerns. Muslims from rich nations, such as Saudi Arabia, were excluded from the ban while Muslims from poor countries like Yemen are banned. This practice is consistent with this White House’s position that equates being “rich” to being “smart,” and developing oppressive policies guided by this new form of racism, where being wealthy is equated to being innately virtuous. The ban targets the most vulnerable and if it is allowed to stand, more dis-empowered social groups, at home and abroad, will be victims of discriminatory executive orders and arbitrary measures from an administration that, based on its actions thus far,  has little concern for due process, the rule of law, constitutional limits, and human rights.

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Links to statements made by leaders of major US universities in response to the January 28, 2017 Executive order barring Muslims from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entry to the United States:

Boston University 
Brandeis University
Brown University
California Institute of Technology
Carnegie Mellon University
Case Western Reserve University
Columbia University
Cornell University
Duke University
Emory University
Harvard University
Indiana University
Iowa State University
The Johns Hopkins University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michigan State University
New York University
Northwestern University
The Ohio State University
The Pennsylvania State University
Princeton University
Purdue University
Rice University
Rutgers University – New Brunswick
Stanford University
Stony Brook University – The State University of New York
Texas A&M University
Tulane University
The University of Arizona
University at Buffalo – The State University of New York
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Davis
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, San Diego
University of California President and Chancellors 
The University of Chicago
University of Colorado, Boulder
The University of Florida
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Kansas
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
University of Missouri
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Oregon
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
University of Rochester
University of Southern California
The University of Texas at Austin
University of Virginia
University of Washington
The University of Wisconsin-Madison
Vanderbilt University
Washington University in St. Louis
Yale University

41 Directors, Chairs, and Executive Officers at University of Illinois -UC call for the reinstatement of Steven Salaita

41 Directors, Chairs, and Executive Officers at University of Illinois -UC call for the reinstatement of Steven Salaita

Dear President Killeen and Acting Chancellor Wilson,

We the forty-one undersigned Executive Officers and campus leaders from departments and academic units across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign urge you to help end the crisis that has plagued our university for more than a year. It has increasingly become clear that the decision to rescind Dr. Steven Salaita’s appointment as an associate professor with indefinite tenure in the American Indian Studies Program violated the principles of shared faculty governance and may also be legally liable. The decision has also inflicted harm upon the reputation and standing of our university.

The AAUP has censured the Urbana-Champaign campus for the violation of academic freedom. An ongoing academic boycott against our campus continues to adversely affect an important dimension of our intellectual livelihood. More than 5,000 scholars around the world, many of them prominent intellectuals, refuse to participate in talks or conferences at the University of Illinois. Such events are part of the exchange of ideas for which our campus has always been known, and their cancellation impoverishes the conversation on campus to the detriment of students and faculty alike. Over the long term, it threatens our competitiveness in bringing in external funding and recruiting distinguished scholars.

We are therefore

asking you to use the authority of your offices to recommend to the Board of Trustees that they reverse their previous decision and reinstate Dr. Salaita at the next board meeting in September. We firmly believe that this step will help put the university on track toward ending AAUP censure and regaining its place among the most respected public institutions of higher education in the country. The decision to reinstate Dr. Salaita will also make it easier to resolve pending litigation and save the university community and state taxpayers from the high costs of defending a wrong decision in the court of law.

We ask for a meeting to discuss our request to restore the rightful stature of the University of Illinois.

Sincerely,
James Anderson, Head, Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership
Matthew Ando, Chair, Department of Mathematics
Antoinette Burton, Interim Director, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities
C.L. Cole, Head, Department of Media and Cinema Studies
David Cooper, Director, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center
Clare Crowston, Chair, Department of History
Jerry Dávila, Director, Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies
Anna Maria Escobar, Director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Michael Finke, Head, Slavic Languages and Literatures
Stephanie Foote, Chair, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies
Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Interim Director, Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Greg Girolami, Head, Department of Chemistry
Waïl Hassan, Director, Center for Translation Studies
Stephanie Hilger, Head, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
Valerie Hoffman, Head, Department of Religion
Valerie Hotchkiss, Director, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Jonathan X. Inda, Head, Department of Latina/Latino Studies
Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, Head, Department of Theatre
Lilya Kaganovsky, Director, Program in Comparative and World Literature
Brett Kaplan, Director, Program in Jewish and Culture and Society
Marcus Keller, Head, Department of French and Italian
Edward Kolodziej, Director, Center for Global Studies
Susan Koshy, Director, Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory
Soo Ah Kwon, Head, Department of Asian American Studies
Jean-Philippe Mathy, Director, School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics
David O’Brien, Chair, Art History Program
Robert B. Olshansky, Head, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Andrew Orta, Head, Department of Anthropology
Jesse Ribot, Director, Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy Program
Michael Rothberg, Head, Department of English
Kirk Sanders, Chair, Department of Philosophy
Spencer Schaffner, Director, Center for Writing Studies
Douglas Simpson, Chair, Department of Statistics
Anna W. Stenport, Director, European Union Center
Eleonora Stoppino, Director, Program in Medieval Studies
Andrew Suarez, Head, Department of Animal Biology
William Sullivan, Head, Department of Landscape Architecture
Jonathan V. Sweedler, Director, School of Chemical Sciences
Ariana Traill, Head, Department of the Classics
Robert Warrior, Director, Program in American Indian Studies
Assata Zerai, Director, Center for African Studies

Delimiting a New World Order: Religion, Globalism, and the Syrian Crisis

Delimiting a New World Order: Religion, Globalism, and the Syrian Crisis

Sovereignty, Legitimacy and the Responsibility to Protect: 
Who is responsible and who is legitimate in Syria?

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Syria and the New Middle East
Western leaders’ conflicting statements underscore the unease about change in the Arab world. Unless one believes that diplomats speak unscripted, an earlier statementby U.S. secretary of State, John Kerry becomes extremely significant. He contended that the ultimate goal is to “see Assad and the Syrian opposition sitting at the same table to establish a transitional government as laid out in the Geneva Accords.” Perhaps, partly because of such conflicted statements that leaders from UAE, Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey have scheduled one-on-one meetings with President Obama. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is talking about Syria to key world leaders, including the presidents of France, Egypt, Iran, and BRICS countries. Most observers are predicting that the expected Obama-Putin meetings over summer will culminate in a unified stance on Syria. If that is the expectation, it might be too late for world leaders to predetermine the outcome of the Syrian crisis by September. The dynamics on the ground and the entrenched disparate interests of regional and global powers will make it extremely difficult to press the reset button. A simple review of the events of the last 60 days will show the complexity and centrality of the Syrian crisis. Simply put, the management of the war in Syria is no longer in the hands of the Syrians. It is now a global affair.
 

1. In early March, the Syrian regime accused the opposition forces of attacking its troops and civilians with chemical weapons near Aleppo. The regime, supported by Russia, requested a UN investigation of this incident. After first agreeing to investigate, the UN’s efforts fell apart when some members of the UNSC wanted to broaden the scope of the investigation to include other suspected instances of use of chemical weapons. France and Britain accused the regime of using chemical weapons against opposition fighters in Homs. Russia accused the UN of politicizing the investigation. Until the writing of this article, no agreement on the constitution of an investigating committee has been reached.
2. With the rotating presidency of the Arab League transferred to Qatar, the host country of this year’s Arab League summit, the rulers of this tiny emirate did not waste time taking the lead. The Qatari Emir, in an unprecedented move, forced the rest of the Arab rulers (except those of Iraq and Algeria) to agree to give the seat of Syria to one of the opposition factions—the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (aka the Coalition), which angered at least two other major opposition groupings not represented in the Coalition. This development came just days after the Qatari rulers succeeded in getting the Coalition to establish a temporary government headed by a Syrian-American businessman. His appointment was immediately rejected by the Free Syrian Army and resisted by the then president of the Coalition, Moez al-Khatib. Consequently, an attempted assassination of the leader of the FSA, Riad al-As`ad, was carried out when he was touring northern Syria (he survived but lost his leg). Al-Khatib announced that he will resign.
3. In early April, al-Qaeda satellite organizations in Iraq and Syria announced a merger and the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra publicly declared his allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaeda. These developments confirmed the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria and put Western countries and its Arab allies in an awkward position. The U.S. cannot be seen using taxpayers’ money to pay groups affiliated with the organization that attacked it on September 11, 2001. The new priority, then, became more than distancing other opposition forces from al-Nusra. Western leaders wanted the “moderate” opposition forces to fight al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Meeting with the Coalition leaders in Turkey, the new directives were made clear: Unless al-Qaeda groups are dealt with, the U.S. and some EU countries would not indiscriminately supply the opposition with the sophisticated weapons they had sought. That brought about the resignation of the president of the Coalition, Moez al-Khatib, again. The Coalition appointed an interim president, George Sabra. 
4. Since returning to the presidency, Vladimir Putin has been building his legacy as the leader who would reinstate parity to Russia-U.S.  relations. On April 12, the Obama’s administration issued a list of 18 people subject to visa bans and asset freezes in the United States under the Magnitsky Act, a legislation that was passed by Congress late last year. Without delay, the Russian Foreign Ministry listed 18 Americans subject to visa bans and asset freezes under a retaliatory law that Putin signed in December. The law targeted Americans accused of violating the human rights of Russians abroad. More significantly, the list included some of the top Bush-era officials whom Russia accused of the “legalization and application of torture.” The list included David Addington (a former chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney), John Yoo (a former Justice Department lawyer), and two former commanders of the U.S. military detention centers at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base. Evidently, Syria is another area where Putin is determined to make a firm stand. Putin is deliberately building a block of countries that will counter any action taken by the U.S. administration and its Arab and European allies. With China firmly with him on the Syrian issue, he is now building a broader coalition that may include former U.S. allies like Egypt.
5. After meeting with President Putin on April 20, Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi stated that Egypt “was committed to finding a peaceful and legal solution to the crisis in Syria.” On April 21, the official Egyptian State Information Service announced that Egypt had turned down a loan from the International Monetary Fund. Before leaving Russia, Morsi asked for Russian investment in Egypt and restated Egypt’s desire (which he first mentioned when he had visited India earlier this year) to join BRICS. The meeting in Russia was followed by a visit to Iran (on April 28) by an Egyptian presidential delegation. Ostensibly related to all these developments, Qatar announced that the bonds it had offered to buy from Egypt (about $3 billion) would carry a 5% interest and must be paid within 18 months. Putin, it is thought, might have reminded Morsi that joining BRICS comes with the expectation of embracing the Durban declaration about Syria—which is contrary to the wishes of Qatar. A shift in Egypt’s position on Syria would weaken the Qatari-Turkish one. Moreover, if Russia decides to invest in Egypt, as Morsi requested, that, too, would weaken Qatar’s influence over Egypt.
6. The bad news for the Qatari ruling family did not stop there. Last week (April 23), after meeting with the Emir, President Obama said: “We’re going to be continuing to work in the coming months to try to further support the Syrian opposition, and we’ll be closely coordinating our strategies to bring about a more peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis.” The “more peaceful resolution” comment appears to be a diplomatic reprimand to the Qatari ambitious ruler. After all, Qatar did not contribute to any semblance of a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis. Instead, it contributed weapons and a blow to the efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi when the Emir created a government for Syria out of a single unrepresentative opposition group and gave it the seat of the Syrian state in the Arab League. The rash move further complicated things for the Russian and American diplomats. In fact, it might have pushed Russia to take a more aggressive stance on Syria, as evidenced by the increased activities by Russian diplomats.
7. After meeting Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov over the weekend (April 27), a confident Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah (leader of Hezbollah) made an unusually detailed speech on April 30. Nasrallah stressed one key point: “The true friends of Syria will not allow Damascus to fall in the hands of America, Israel, or the takfiri groups.”  For those familiar with his rhetoric, this statement is extraordinarily specific and it could not be borne out of simple predictions. It must be a declaration of a political decision the Syrian state’s supporters, like Russia and Iran, have taken. After all, Russia has sent many signals, explicitly and implicitly, about its unwavering support to the Syrian state. The Qatari move may have pushed the Russian leaders even further in their support for Assad’s regime. 
Evidently, Russia was not pleased with the Arab Leagues’ decision to bypass the Geneva Statement on Syria. The U.S. apparently was not thrilled either–hence Obama’s statement that he and Qatari ruler will “be closely coordinatingour strategies to bring about a more peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis.” This statement confirms that the U.S. is not happy with unilateral, aggressive moves that Qatar has made thus far. The President appears to stress the new direction towards a “more peaceful resolution.” 
The U.S. administration cannot overlook or downplay the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria and its return to Iraq. It took the United States’ military, the most sophisticated fighting institution in the world, more than ten years to bring down the level of violence in Iraq–just down enough–to extricate itself from the mess the Bush administration had created. The invasion of Iraq is still fresh in the memory of Americans, most of whom now oppose any U.S. military intervention in Syria. The Syrian military and security agencies will need at least just as much time to bring the level of violence under control even with a political settlement that the regime might reach with mostof the political and armed oppositions. Without doubt, al-Qaeda affiliates will not stop fighting in Syria because their fight is not against Assad. It is about re-establishing the caliphate as they understand it and imposing Salafi dominion over all other religious and sectarian communities.
If the Syrian regime were to fall, the entire region will be destabilized. The first sign of this inevitable outcome is the increasingly violent confrontations in Iraq and Lebanon. Should the Muslim Brotherhood (and its Salafi allies) rise to power in Syria, Jordan, too, will be further destabilized. Syria, today, represents political and security challenges that will take generations to bring under control. Notwithstanding the repositioning of allies and foes, the outcome of the Syrian crisis, no matter what that might be, will certainly delimit the new Middle East in a way that will affect the entire world—not just Syria and the region.
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other or ganization with which he is affiliated.

Libyan and European rulers’ treatment of Blacks and immigrant workers: Apathy in the face of Cruelty

Libyan and European rulers’ treatment of Blacks and immigrant workers: Apathy in the face of Cruelty

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Since the start of the Libyan uprising, mainstream news outlets have reported that African and even Eastern European mercenaries were fighting with Qaddafi’s forces. The Libyan rebels, eager to minimize any support for Qaddafi among the Libyan population, have fed western media horror stories of mass murder carried out by Black Africans. Consequently, many immigrant workers were caught between the ire of a regime that did not care much for them and a new wave of prejudice and discrimination fueled by the media and rebel propaganda. The fact that some foreigners fought for the regime does not tell the full story. Most African immigrants were unwilling participants in a war that no one had anticipated.


In order to understand the presence of so many Africans and non-Africans in Libya, one must understand the role played by the former dictator.



Using Libya’s large oil revenues as if they constituted his personal fortune, Qaddafi engaged in meddling in the affairs of his neighbors, supporting nationalist movements, and conspiring to overthrow regimes he did not like. He also used immigrant workers to blackmail his neighbors. In the 1980s and 1990s Qaddafi gave hundreds of thousands of Tunisian workers hours, not days, to leave the country empty-handed. The sudden “dumping” of workers without their earnings was meant to create economic and social crisis for neighboring governments. That was his way of punishing the Tunisian authoritarians Bourguiba and Ben Ali. He used the same tactic with the Egyptians. But Qaddafi’s most bizarre achievement was coaxing some European leaders to use him as a gatekeeper, in charge of preventing Africans from reaching the shores of Europe.
Speaking at a ceremony in Rome on August 31, 2010 and standing next to (then) Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Qaddafi declared:


Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European, and even black, as there are millions who want to come in. We don’t know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Black Africans. We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions.



European leaders did not object to these words, despite their abhorrently racist nature. In fact, even after the Libyan people began their revolution in early 2011, Berlusconi claimed that his personal friendship with Qaddafi prevented him from taking an active role in NATO’s mission in Libya.
What was never asked is the obvious question: why would Africans demeaned, insulted, and belittled by the dictator risk their lives for him? Why would “ignorant Black Africans” pay with their blood and sweat for a dictator who called them so?
According to reports, Qaddafi asked the EU to pay him about $6.3 billion a year to stop illegal African immigration. It is evident that since the Italy-Libya friendship agreement, Qaddafi became very effective in stopping the flow of African immigrants to Europe through Italy. According to European Commission figures, the number of people caught trying to enter Italy illegally fell from 32,052 in 2008 to 7,300 in 2009. These figures do not include the number of young men who perished at sea trying to find different escape routes. They drowned when their makeshift rafts fell apart. Those who reached the EU shores were immediately returned to the brutal regimes of North Africa. On numerous occasions, Italy intercepted immigrants and handed them over to Libyan authorities without screening and without the due process required by human rights treaties.
Unemployed Africans, like unemployed Latin Americans, go north to make a living and to feed their families, not to fight ideological wars. Immigrants cannot choose their line of work. In the case of Libya, Qaddafi used European money to hire some of these immigrants, and to deport others. Given his distrust of his own people, he hired many of these immigrants in the security sector before the uprising began.
Like in the U.S., the rights of immigrant workers are not part of the national conversation until there are national economic implications. In the U.S., a national need for seasonal migrant workers meant that the government eased border controls to allow up to 12 million people to cross. When the unemployment rate went up and the economy slowed down, all political parties developed slogans to deal with immigration issues. In Libya, Qaddafi used immigrant workers as bargaining chip to blackmail other states.
In Europe, former colonial powers wanted to limit migration from Africa. They relied on the southern rim countries to keep sub-Saharan Africans from reaching Africa’s northern shores. Then, in 2008, the French president and several other European leaders pushed for the creation of the Union for the Mediterranean, consisting of over 40 nations with the actual (but unstated) aims of offering Turkey an alternative to the EU and creating a buffer zone in North Africa. Naturally, these efforts failed given the dissonance between its stated goals and intended aims.
The former Libyan dictator’s words and European attitudes towards the people from the south is more than economic and social policies. They stem from latent racism and cruel indifference to the plight of millions of people who have been disadvantaged by unfair economic trade, political corruption, and natural disasters. While the latter cannot be blamed on anyone, the former two causes of unemployment and poverty in the south can easily be traced to Western complicity. Western leaders’ support of corrupt dictators and unfair trade practices contributed to the harsh conditions these people want to escape. Both sides– African and European–would be better served by an honest commitment to respecting human dignity irrespective of national origin and citizenship status. The powerful North ought to adopt an international relations system founded on shared humanity, not on artificial borders.
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. He is the author of the book, Contesting Justice. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

The Foundation of Supremacy: Racializing Human Acts

The Foundation of Supremacy: Racializing Human Acts

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

I vividly remember the day of the Oklahoma bombing. Not because of the news reports—I was too busy working and with school to watch the news. Consequently, I was not aware of what had happened that day until late in the afternoon. But as I walked into my workplace after a long day of school, I felt the stares and tension from almost all my co-workers. Many ignored me when I greeted them. While waiting for my shift to start, I entered the break room where a friend sat reading the newspaper. It took him a moment before awkwardly asking me what I thought of the “terror attack on the Murrah Building in Oklahoma.” I thought, “Terror? Murrah? Oklahoma?

As a new transplant who knew very little English at that time, none of those words made sense to me. I certainly did not understand the definition or meaning of “terror.” I definitely did not know the meaning of “Murrah” or what the “Murrah Building” was. And I did not know where or what is “Oklahoma.”


I remember a widely distributed line from one of the so-called “terrorism experts” in a local paper the next day. It read along these lines: “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it is probably a duck – this looks like Islamic terror.” Then, everything started to make sense. If a bomb explodes anywhere in the world, look around and check on the Ahmeds around you: if they did not do it, they should know something about it. The Ahmeds of the world are – at least in the eyes of my co-workers that day – terrorists, potential terrorists, or experts on terrorism. In all cases, being an Ahmed, in the eyes of my co-workers, I deserved the accusing looks and cold shoulders, if not a direct accusation.

Days later, when the actual bomber was identified and his associates were revealed, no one asked my friend Tim about it, though he is a Christian with hyper-critical views of the government and politicians who he thought were jeopardizing the true American values. In the end, it was very easy for the media to make Tim the Bomber unique and so unlike any other American Tim.

I revisited these thoughts and feelings the week another non-Muslim terrorist attacked in Norway. This time it was not because of the accusing looks and cold shoulders, but rather because some media outlets thought that I was an expert on terrorism and I should have something to say about the Norway bombing and shooting. As if being an academic with some research expertise on Islam and the Middle East qualified me to be an expert on terrorism. Those questions suggested that Islam and terror are one and the same.

American media and government agencies have contributed to this racialization of violence. People with no credentials except a minimum proficiency in Islamic studies and an ardent zeal for constructing a threatening image of Islam have suddenly become experts on terrorism. They are called upon by the Defense Department, the State Department, the media, and the public to explain the connections and workings of “Islamic terrorism.”

One example of a self-proclaimed expert is Robert Spencer, whose biography lists his connection to popular and official channels of power and influence. He publishes books and articles at the same rate I change my socks. His outline of Islam and its portrayal as a violent threat to the Western way of life inspired the brutal murders in Norway. The connection is not an assumption, but is based on the words of the confessed bomber/shooter. 

Importantly, the connection can be derived from Mr. Spencer’s own logic. In one of the Frequently Asked Questions on his website, Mr. Spencer states:
Q: Why should I believe what you say about Islam?
RS: Pick up any of my books, and you will see that they are made up largely of quotations from Islamic jihadists and the traditional Islamic sources to which they appeal to justify violence and terrorism.
In the Norwegian terrorist manifesto, Mr. Spencer was quoted 64 times. Using Mr. Spencer’s logic, it follows that since his writings are one of the main sources of the Norwegian terrorist, they served to justify violence. This is proof that in Mr. Spencer’s writings, violent haters, racists, and bigots find inspiration.

Mr. Spencer’s logic, the practices of Reverend Jones, the ideology of the British E.D.L, the legal war waged on Muslims by David Yerushalmi, and the agenda of David Horowitz runs a continuous line of hatred toward specific religious and/or ethnic groups. These individuals and institutions have found in the terror attacks of 9-11 the perfect cover to publicly unleash what would otherwise be recognizably bigoted views.

Mr. Spencer and his colleagues may argue that being quoted by a terrorist is not evidence of their guilt. It is not. But it is evidence of a direct connection between the audiences that they inspire and the ideology that they promote. It is evidence of where they belong in the spectrum of social and political discourses. They belong in the extreme. Mr. Spencer’s ideology mirrors the ideology of al-Qaeda’s ideologues. After all, those self-declared protectors of Islamic culture are saying the same thing, with minor adaptations: modern day crusaders (mirroring Jihadists in the anti-Muslim lexicon) are a threat to their way of life and must be fought on all fronts. 

While Mr. Spencer points to about 1% of Muslims living in any Western country as inassimilable aliens that are a threat to Western way of life, al-Qaeda ideologues point to the Western armies in Muslim countries as forward bases of the Christian and Zionist crusades. The two camps share the ideology of exclusion. They racialize victimhood the same way they racialize ethnic and religious supremacy. They are two sides of the same page, which catalogues the ideals of supremacism.

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