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USC experts consult Iraqi delegation on counter-terrorism strategies

Erroll Southers and Frank Quiambao discuss how to counter violent extremists

USC Price School of Public Policy homeland security experts Erroll Southers and Frank Quiambao recently met with officials from Iraq to share insights on strategies involving countering violent extremism (CVE).

The visit, which took place on March 30 in Tutor Hall at USC’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), came at the request of the International Visitor Leadership Program in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs.

This is a global challenge, made all the more difficult by the growing trend of Americans becoming foreign fighters.

Erroll Southers

“This is a global challenge, made all the more difficult by the growing trend of Americans becoming foreign fighters,” Southers said. “It takes a network to defeat a network, and the only way that happens is through international cooperation, research and action.”

Southers, director of transition and research deployment at CREATE, and Quiambao, director of USC Price’s Safe Communities Institute (formerly the Delinquency Control Institute), were joined by six Iraqi public officials and community leaders:

  • Mustafa Al Shurafani, department head, Management Coordination Office, General Authority for the Security of Kurdistan Region, National Security Council
  • Lt. Maher Al Zerkani, deputy director, Community Policing/Community Affairs, Ministry of Interior
  • Mustafa Ameen, administration officer, Al Murshed Center for Economic Development
  • Falih Elayawi, coach and community leader, Electricity Sports Club
  • Hasan Nsaif, mayor, Multaqa Sub District, Kirkuk
  • Bewar Sedo, program manager, Alind Organization for Youth Democratizing

The purpose of the visit was to promote professional and cultural exchanges. In particular, the Iraqi delegation was interested in discussing CVE strategies and learning more about what makes members of a community susceptible to radical messaging.

Ideological categories

During their talk, Southers provided an overview of the homegrown violent extremism challenges currently facing the United States.

“I discussed groups based in three ideological categories — race, religion and issue-oriented,” he said.

Southers also presented findings from CREATE’s recently published study, “Foreign Fighters: Terrorist Recruitment and Countering Violent Extremism Programs in Minneapolis-St. Paul.”

In addition, he discussed “the new challenge we face regarding individuals embracing more than one ideology or ‘hybrids,’” such as the Boston Marathon bomber, for example, who was a religious extremist, with anti-Semitic and anti-government ties, and how that could make future efforts even more daunting.

The topics discussed with the Iraqi delegation are the same issues at the core of Southers’ work within the Safe Communities Institute. Together, Southers and Quiambao are working to identify and develop community-based responses to CVE, while striving to be more holistic.

“We understand this is not a law enforcement-centric strategy or response and must include as many community components and constituents as we can rally,” Southers explained. “This has to be the approach being undertaken across the country.”

Southers said he hopes the meeting will eventually lead to a partnership with universities in Iraq aimed at furthering discussions, sharing information and collaborating on effective CVE efforts.

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