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Santa Barbara global terrorism expert: Iranian retaliation will be “dramatic” and Iraq may resort to “unconventional war”

Mark Juergensmeyer
KEYT Photo

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - World War III has been trending on Twitter and reaction continues to pour in as tensions in the Middle East escalate.

A global terrorism expert from Santa Barbara says he was stunned by Thursday’s airstrike that killed one of Iran's top military leaders and the fashion in which it was taken out makes him question whether consequences were considered.

“The main question right now is retaliation. What is Iran going to come up with because they have to come up with something and it has to be dramatic,” said Mark Juergensmeyer, UC Santa Barbara Professor.

As the U.S. prepares to deploy 3500 additional troops to the Middle East, global terrorism expert and UC Santa Barbara Professor Mark Juergensmeyer says no other country in the world has the military capacity to stand up to the United States in a “conventional war.”

“Iraq is very good at unconventional war, that’s the kind of attack that we might see. A terrorist attack, a kind of assassination attempt, or a cyber attack that might affect all of us,” said Juergensmeyer.

The Global Studies and Sociology Professor says the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is an obvious target and thinks Iraq will formally request a removal of all U.S. forces.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult for the U.S. to maintain continuing a presence in Iraq and that has all kinds of implications since it’s going to be very difficult for the Kurds, for example. It’s going to be very difficult to continue our fight against Isis because Isis is regrouping even as we speak,” said Juergensmeyer

Juergensmeyer has been traveling to Iraq to study the consequences of Isis. He and other members of the community circle back to the consequences of Thursday’s airstrike.

“We may have an administration that hasn’t thought through what the next step is or the step after that and that’s a cause for concern to say the least,” said Jeff Harris, visiting family in Santa Barbara from Maryland. 

“It scares me to be honest. It might get another conflict that we don’t want,” said a man named Ralph visiting Santa Barbara from Germany. 

Some, however, are questioning President Trump’s timing.

“Sooner or later he will need a war to bring the country or whatever parts he hasn’t cemented, around to support him, The timing is something, I’m not sure if it’s gratuitous, definitely something that works for him if hostilities break out and it’s time to rally around the flag,” said Harris.

Juergensmeyer questions whether a polarized nation will rally behind their leader. “Traditionally when there’s an attack of this sort the country rallies together behind the leader. I’m not sure that Trump can count on that there’s such mistrust in this county,” he adds. 

“I hate to agree with Trump. I don’t agree with most of the things he does, but if there’s a country causing problems you have to defend yourself. When you get into a fight with somebody like that if you just punch them they’re going to keep coming back at you every few years. I’d put them down like a mad dog,” said Sean Bonham of Santa Barbara. 

Juergensmeyer says we're on the cusp of a whole new world internationally and we're already seeing consequences without retaliation, he says extremist groups have been emboldened and other groups have been left marginalized.

Article Topic Follows: National/World
Mark Juergensmeyer
UC Santa Barbara

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Kacey Drescher


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