Iowa professor: Recent violence has turned Arab Spring into election issue

Neither party will be able to continue ignoring events in Middle East, Wing says

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April 1, 2014 | 12:26 am

The killing of four Americans in Libya this week and ensuing violence in the region puts the Middle East and the Arab Spring front and center in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, one University of Iowa professor said.

Adrien Wing, a professor of law and an expert on the Middle East, said neither President Obama nor his Republican challenger Mitt Romney had been particularly focusing on the region or the "Arab Spring," which in recent months saw a wave of protests across the region and saw leaders ousted in Egypt, Libya and Yemen. But this week's violence, Wing said, changes that.

Wing teaches a class titled "Law in the Muslim World," and has visited Egypt about 20 times since the 1980s. She has also visited and is familiar with other countries in the region, including Israel and Palestine.

The violence happening so close to the U.S. presidential election "clearly illustrates that neither party is going to be able to ignore what the Arab Spring has meant so far and what it might mean in the future," she said.

Reports say the killing of the U.S. ambassador and three others at the U.S. consulate in Libya this week, followed by protests and violence elsewhere in the region, were spawned by an anti-Islam video posted online.

The people who made the video had to know it would cause an intense reaction, Wing said, and depending on what is discovered about who made the video and why, it could lead to even more instability and bloodshed in the region, she said.

The violence also may cause some Americans to think "we were wrong to help a country like Libya because now look what's happened," Wing said.

But people must look at the changes in the region as an evolution that will take many years, "in the same way that the development of American democracy is an ongoing process of 200 years," she said. There are still factions in the region who are anti-American, with supporters who hate the United States, Wing said.

"It shows we're going to need to expand and deepen our understanding of each of these countries as they are evolving," she said.

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