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Stephen Zunes (born 1956) is an international relations scholar specializing in the Middle East and a leading critic of the George W. Bush's administration's U.S. foreign policy.


Current position and education

He is a professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco, where he chaired the Peace and Justice Studies program between 1998 and 2004. He received his B.A. from Oberlin College in 1979, his M.A. from Temple University in 1983, and his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1990. Zunes also serves as an advisory board member for Foreign Policy In Focus, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Doubts over Iraq

An early and prescient critic of the Iraq War, Zunes publicly doubted prior to the March 2003 invasion that Iraq still had operational weapons of mass destruction and predicted that "sooner or later, the American public will realize that a U.S. invasion of Iraq has been a disaster" since "such efforts at hegemony inevitably spawn their own resistance." He also predicted that ethnic and sectarian conflict would make it "difficult to establish a widely accepted and stable regime" and that rather than transform the Middle East to be more stable and democratic, he warned that a U.S. invasion and occupation would increase terrorism and Islamic extremism and that it would "spawn more bitterness, hatred, and violence and will greatly retard economic development, political reform, and reconciliation in the resulting chaos and backlash that will likely follow."

Views on the Middle East

Zunes has also been an outspoken opponent of U.S. backing of both Arab dictatorships and the Israeli occupation. He has called for an Israeli-Palestinian peace based upon international law which recognizes both Israeli security and Palestinian rights, including a withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from Palestinian and Syrian territories, an end to terrorism, and security guarantees for Israel and its neighbors.

Zunes has stated that the Israel's government "engages in a pattern of gross and systematic human rights violations and blatantly violates a series of UN Security Council resolutions and other international legal principles."[1]Zunes has written that "support for Israel's ongoing occupation and repression is not unlike U.S. support for Indonesia's 24-year occupation of and repression in East Timor or Morocco's ongoing occupation of and repression in Western Sahara." He has also written that "widespread racism toward Arabs and Muslims [is] so prevalent in American society" and that many Americans identify with Zionism because it is "a reflection of our own historic experience as pioneers in North America, building a nation based upon noble, idealistic values while simultaneously suppressing and expelling the indigenous population." Regarding the views of the "far left" on Israel, Zunes has written that that many far left organization have taken "a stridently anti-Israel position that did not just challenge Israeli policies but also questioned Israel's very right to exist" and that this "severely damag[ed] their credibility." [2]

Previous career

A native of North Carolina, Zunes previously served on the faculty of Ithaca College, the University of Puget Sound, and Whitman College. He was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship on Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies at Dartmouth College and a Joseph J. Malone Fellowship in Arab and Islamic Studies. He also served as founding director of the Institute for a New Middle East Policy and as a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, the Institute for Global Security Studies and the United States Institute of Peace. In 2002, he won recognition from the Peace and Justice Studies Association as Peace Scholar of the Year.


Zunes is the author of scores of articles for scholarly and general readership on Middle Eastern politics, U.S. foreign policy, international terrorism, social movements, and human rights. He is the principal editor of Nonviolent Social Movements (Blackwell Publishers, 1999) and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003) and the forthcoming Western Sahara: Nationalism and Conflict in Northwest Africa (Syracuse University Press.) With Rachel M. MacNair, he edited Consistently Opposing Killing: From Abortion to Assisted Suicide, the Death Penalty, and War (Praeger, 2008).


Zunes has made frequent visits to the Middle East and other conflict regions, where he has met with top government officials, academics, journalists and opposition leaders.


Meeting with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

In September 2007, Zunes was among a group of American religious leaders and scholars who met with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In a subsequent article, Zunes stated that:

[Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] was quite unimpressive. Indeed, with his ramblings and the superficiality of his analysis, he came across as more pathetic than evil... The Iranian president impressed me as someone sincerely devout in his religious faith, yet rather superficial in his understanding and inclined to twist his faith tradition in ways to correspond with his pre-conceived ideological positions. [3]

Non-violence work

A scholar and advocate of nonviolent people power movements, he has also served as a trainer and workshop leader for pro-democracy activists and community organizers in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. During his twenties, he worked with Movement for a New Society and other groups advocating nonviolent direct action in opposition to nuclear power, the nuclear arms race, U.S. intervention in Central America, and foreign investment in apartheid South Africa.


Zunes is an associate editor of Peace Review, a foreign affairs columnist for the National Catholic Reporter and a regular contributor to the Common Dreams website and Tikkun magazine. His op-ed columns have been circulated through Knight-Ridder and other wire services and have appeared in major daily newspapers throughout North America and Europe. He is also a frequent guest on National Public Radio, Pacifica Radio, PBS, BBC, MSNBC and other media outlets for analysis on breaking world events. He serves on the advisory committee of the Tikkun Community, as chair of the academic council of the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict and as a consultant for a number of peace and human rights organizations in both the United States and overseas.

Family life

Zunes lives in a cohousing community in Santa Cruz, California with his spouse Nanlouise Wolfe (b. 1957), who serves on the staff of the Resource Center for Nonviolence, and their children Shanti (b. 1988), Kalila (b. 1990) and Tobin (b. 1993).

Selected bibliography

  • Zunes, Stephen. "Tinderbox: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Roots of Terrorism." 2002. Common Courage Press. ISBN 1-56751-226-7 / ISBN 1-84277-259-7
  • Zunes, Stephen, Lester R. Kurtz, , Sarah B. Asher. "Nonviolent Social Movements: A Geographical Perspective." 1999. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 1-57718-075-5

Non-fiction articles


  1. ^ Howard Dean: Hawk in Dove’s Clothing? by Stephen Zunes,, February 26, 2003.(retrieved on January 9, 2009)
  2. ^ Why the U.S. Supports Israel by Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF), May 2002.(retrieved on January 9, 2009)
  3. ^ My Meeting with Ahmadinejad by Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus, September 28, 2007.(retrieved on January 9, 2009.

External links


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