George Diepenbrock
KU News Service

Media advisory: Experts can discuss violence, political situation in Iraq

Tue, 06/17/2014

LAWRENCE — As members of the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, last week besieged Mosul, Iraq, and on Monday the northern city of Tal Afar, the conflict threw the country into chaos. Several University of Kansas faculty members are available to speak with media about the violent situation and its implications for Iraq, Middle East stability and the United States.

President Barack Obama continues to weigh military and diplomatic options to assist the government of Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a Shiite.​

Don Haider-Markel, professor and chairman of the Department of Political Science, can speak about the political situation in the region and the involvement of groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Haider-Markel's research includes terrorism, public policy and American politics.

"ISIS is the greatest single threat to stability in the Middle East and the greatest jihadist group threat to Western countries for the next several years or more," Haider-Markel said.

Gail Buttorff, assistant professor of political science, can address the violence in Iraq and its tie to the ongoing civil war in Syria. Her research interests focus broadly on elections and opposition politics in the Middle East and North Africa. Buttorff is a contributing scholar for the Women and Human Rights in the Middle East Program at Rice University's Baker Institute. She currently teaches courses on Middle East and North African politics, Islam and politics and quantitative research methods. She is working on a book manuscript examining how perceptions of regime legitimacy affect opposition party strategy in authoritarian elections.

"The recent events in Iraq, particularly the takeover of Mosul by the extremist group ISIS, is tied to what is happening in Syria. ISIS has been playing an active role there, battling both the Assad regime and secular and Islamist rebels," Buttorff said. "The implications for the wider Middle East will continue to depend on events in Syria, but also on how well al-Maliki and his government respond to long-standing concerns over his sectarian policies."

Nazli Avdan, assistant professor of political science, is available to speak about transnational terrorism, particularly how conflicts tied to terrorist groups can spill across state borders and the politics of the Iraqi government that have created an environment vulnerable to sectarian tension. Avdan's broad research interests include international relations, international migration and transnational terrorism.

"In this case, ISIS enjoys support from Sunnis and Kurds, who benefit from the fall of the central government and greater autonomy," she said. "Terrorist groups are also successful to the extent that they can insulate the populace from violence and also provide governance at the local level, like basic needs, which ISIS propaganda says it is doing."

Marie Grace Brown, assistant professor of history, is a cultural historian of the modern Middle East with a special interest in imperialism, nation-building, gender and identity formation. She is available to comment on the creation of the state of Iraq after World War I and the historical roots of today’s conflicts.

“Our current diplomatic confusion over how to contain the advance of ISIS is clear evidence of how mistaken the West has been in assigning rigid, oppositional categories to the people and states of the Middle East," Brown said. "Casting this latest uprising as simply Sunni vs. Shia overlooks the complex and long-standing grievances and aspirations of Iraqi citizens”.

To arrange an interview with Haider-Markel, Buttorff, Avdan or Brown contact George Diepenbrock at or 785-864-8853.

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