On May 22, 2017, there was an attack by suicide bomb at Manchester Arena, where 22 people were killed. President Donald Trump responded by referring to a “wicked ideology that must be obliterated.” This is the response from Institute for Policy Studies Middle East fellow Maha Hilal:

“In response to the attacks in Manchester, President Trump referred to a ‘wicked ideology that must be obliterated.’ Coming on the heels of his trip to Saudi Arabia in which consolidating a Sunni force against fighting terrorism was his stated goal, Trump will likely use this moment to try and legitimize a strategy of prolonging and exacerbating ongoing wars in the Middle East. Further, Trump will also likely use this tragedy to bolster and give credibility to his administration’s attempts to distinctly target Muslims in America and abroad through his twice-signed Executive Orders banning immigrants.

Some marketed Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia as resetting relations with the “Muslim world,” especially as compared to his earlier remarks on Islam and Muslims. Trump will likely use the recent attack and the alleged perpetrator’s identity as Muslim to revert back to his hard-line approach towards Islamophobic rhetoric, despite his slightly more nuanced speech in Saudi Arabia.

Ultimately, what this attack will do is give Trump leverage to bolster the need to squash the threat of terrorism without addressing what we know about a military strategy leading to further destruction and more Muslim “collateral damage.” Rather than responding with brute force, if U.S. national security policy truly aims to diminish the threat of terrorism, then it must address the factors that perpetuate it – intervention, militarism, and ongoing wars. Continuing to view these acts in a vacuum is only strategic for continuing to wage wars, not for defeating the threat of terrorism.”

Available for comment:
Maha Hilal, Michael Ratner Middle East Fellow, maha@ips-dc.org, 202-787-5203

Maha Hilal is the Michael Ratner Middle East fellow for the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.