Iraq: Past, Present, Future

Wednesday, October 16, 2019
9:00 AM - 12:30 PM
William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

*Due to space constraints, space is limited. If you have RSVP'd for this event and can no longer attend, please notify Emilie Silva (



8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.      Light pastries 


9:00 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.        Introductions


9:15 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.       The Historical Evolution of the Iraqi State

Moderator: David Patel, Brandeis University Crown Center

Panelists: Lisa Blaydes, Stanford University; Michael Brill, Princeton University; Alissa Walter, Seattle Pacific University


10:45 a.m.  - 11:00 a.m.     Break


11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.     Iraqi Politics and the State

Video recording:

Moderator: Marc Lynch, George Washington University

Panelists: Maria Fantappie, International Crisis Group; Samuel Helfont, Naval Postgraduate School; David Patel, Brandeis University Crown Center




Speaker Biographies

Lisa Blaydes is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Stanford University.  She is the author of Elections and Distributive Politics in Mubarak’s Egypt (Cambridge University Press, 2011).  Professor Blaydes received the 2009 Gabriel Almond Award for best dissertation in the field of comparative politics from the American Political Science Association for this project.  Her articles have appeared in the American Political Science Review, International Studies Quarterly, International Organization, Journal of Theoretical Politics, Middle East Journal, and World Politics. During the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic years, Professor Blaydes was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.  She holds degrees in Political Science (PhD) from the University of California, Los Angeles and International Relations (BA, MA) from Johns Hopkins University.


Michael Brill a doctoral student in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, where he focuses his research on modern Iraq, investigating the Sunni Islamist opposition to the Baʿth regime and the history of Iraq’s Salafi movement. 

He previously obtained his MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown University and BA at Westfield State University. He previously obtained his MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown University and BA in History and Political Science at Westfield State University. He received two summer Critical Language Scholarships (CLS), studying Arabic in Muscat, Oman and Amman, Jordan, followed by a full-year fellowship in the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) program in Amman, Jordan.


Maria Fantappie is Senior Adviser at the International Crisis Group. Maria first joined Crisis Group in 2012.  In 2018, she was seconded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the EU mission in Iraq where she advised the Office of the National Security Advisor (ONSA) on the implementation of the security sector reform program with special focus on Iraq’s national security legislation.

Before joining Crisis Group, Maria was a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut and associate researcher at the Institut français du Proche-Orient (IFPO). She has taught at American University of Iraq in Suleimani and Sciences Po Paris. Maria completed her PhD at King’s College London, Department of War Studies, and earned an MA and MPhil with distinction from Sciences Po Paris, Department of Middle Eastern Studies.


Samuel Helfont is an Assistant Professor of Strategy and Policy in the Naval War College program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He is also an Affiliate Scholar in the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. His research focuses on international history and politics in the Middle East, especially Iraq and the Iraq Wars. He is the author of Compulsion in Religion: Saddam Hussein, Islam, and the Roots of Insurgencies in Iraq (Oxford University Press, 2018). His work has been published by Foreign AffairsThe International History ReviewThe Middle East JournalOrbisThe New RepublicThe American InterestWar on the Rocks,  and the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University among several other outlets.

Helfont holds a PhD and MA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. Prior to moving to Monterey, he completed a three year post-doctoral lectureship at the University of Pennsylvania. He has served as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Haverford College, and was the recipient of US Scholar Research Support Fellowship from the Hoover Library and Archives at Stanford University. He is a veteran of the Iraq War.


Colin H. Kahl is co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation, the inaugural Steven C. Házy Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and a Professor, by courtesy, in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University. He is also a Strategic Consultant to the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

From October 2014 to January 2017, he was Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President. In that position, he served as a senior advisor to President Obama and Vice President Biden on all matters related to U.S. foreign policy and national security affairs, and represented the Office of the Vice President as a standing member of the National Security Council Deputies’ Committee. From February 2009 to December 2011, Dr. Kahl was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East at the Pentagon. In this capacity, he served as the senior policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense for Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, and six other countries in the Levant and Persian Gulf region. In June 2011, he was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service by Secretary Robert Gates.

From 2007 to 2017 (when not serving in the U.S. government), Dr. Kahl was an assistant and associate professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. From 2007 to 2009 and 2012 to 2014, he was also a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a nonpartisan Washington, DC-based think tank. From 2000 to 2007, he was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. In 2005-2006, Dr. Kahl took leave from the University of Minnesota to serve as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he worked on issues related to counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and responses to failed states. In 1997-1998, he was a National Security Fellow at the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University.

Current research projects include a book analyzing American grand strategy in the Middle East in the post-9/11 era. A second research project focuses on the implications of emerging technologies on strategic stability.

He has published numerous articles on international security and U.S. foreign and defense policy in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Security, the Los Angeles Times, Middle East Policy, the National Interest, the New Republic, the New York Times, Politico, the Washington Post, and the Washington Quarterly, as well as several reports for CNAS.

His previous research analyzed the causes and consequences of violent civil and ethnic conflict in developing countries, focusing particular attention on the demographic and natural resource dimensions of these conflicts. His book on the subject, States, Scarcity, and Civil Strife in the Developing World, was published by Princeton University Press in 2006, and related articles and chapters have appeared in International Security, the Journal of International Affairs, and various edited volumes.

Dr. Kahl received his B.A. in political science from the University of Michigan (1993) and his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University (2000).


Marc Lynch is a professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University and director of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He served as the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at GW from 2009-2015. Lynch is also a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a contributing editor at The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. He is the co-director of the Blogs and Bullets project at the United States Institute of Peace. In 2016, he was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow.

He is the author of The New Arab Wars: Anarchy and Uprising in the Middle East, (2016), The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East (2012), Voices of the New Arab Public: Al Jazeera, Iraq, and Middle East Politics Today (2006), and State Interests and Public Spheres: The International Politics of Jordan’s Identity (1999) and edited The Arab Uprisings Explained: The New Contentious Politics of the Middle East, (2014).

Lynch blogged as Abu Aardvark for seven years before joining Foreign Policy as a blogger and columnist. In 2010 Lynch, launched the Middle East Channel on Foreign Policy, which he edited until March 2014. He can now be found online at The Monkey Cage.


Brett McGurk is the Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at the Freeman Spogli Institute and Center for Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

McGurk’s research interests center on national security strategy, diplomacy, and decision-making in wartime.  He is particularly interested in the lessons learned over the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump regarding the importance of process in informing presidential decisions and the alignment of ends and means in national security doctrine and strategy.  At Stanford, he will be working on a book project incorporating these themes and teaching a graduate level seminar on presidential decision-making beginning in the fall of 2019.  He is also a frequent commentator on national security events in leading publications and as an NBC News Senior Foreign Affairs Analyst.

Before coming to Stanford, McGurk served as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS at the U.S. Department of State, helping to build and then lead the coalition of seventy-five countries and four international organizations in the global campaign against the ISIS terrorist network.  McGurk was also responsible for coordinating all aspects of U.S. policy in the campaign against ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and globally.

McGurk previously served in senior positions in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, including as Special Assistant to President Bush and Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan, and then as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran and Special Presidential Envoy for the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State under Obama.

McGurk has led some of the most sensitive diplomatic missions in the Middle East over the last decade. His most recent assignment established one of the largest coalitions in history to prosecute the counter-ISIS campaign. He was a frequent visitor to the battlefields in both Iraq and Syria to help integrate military and civilian components of the war plan. He also led talks with Russia over the Syria conflict under both the Trump and Obama administrations, initiated back-channel diplomacy to reopen ties between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and facilitated the formation of the last two Iraqi governments following contested elections in 2014 and 2018.

In 2015 and 2016, McGurk led fourteen months of secret negotiations with Iran to secure the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezain, U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, and Pastor Saad Abadini, as well as three other American citizens.

During his time at the State Department, McGurk received multiple awards, including the Distinguished Honor Award and the Distinguished Service Award, the highest department awards for exceptional service in Washington and overseas assignments.

McGurk is also a nonresident senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

McGurk received his JD from Columbia University and his BA from the University of Connecticut Honors Program.  He served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Denis Jacobs on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit, and Judge Gerard E. Lynch on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.


David Siddhartha Patel is the Associate Director for Research at the Brandeis University Crown Center for Middle East Studies. Patel’s research focuses on religious authority, social order, and identity in the contemporary Arab world. He conducted independent field research in Iraq on the role of mosques and clerical networks in generating order after state collapse, and his book, Order Out of Chaos: Islam, Information, and Social Order in Iraq, is being prepared for publication by Cornell University Press. Patel has also recently written about the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood; ISIS in Iraq; and dead states in the Middle East. He teaches courses on Middle Eastern politics, research design, and GIS and spatial aspects of politics. Before joining the Crown Center, Patel was an assistant professor of government at Cornell University. Patel received his BA from Duke University in economics and political science and his PhD from Stanford University in political science. He studied Arabic in Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco, and Jordan.