On June 19th, United States Institute of Peace Director for Middle East and Africa Programs, Dr. Elie Abouaoun and former United States Ambassador to Iraq, Ambassador James Jeffrey discussed the future of Mosul, and Iraq, after its hopeful liberation. The discussion was moderated by Christopher Blanchard, a Specialist for Middle East Affairs with the Congressional Research Service. The briefing focused on Mosul’s liberation in the near future and preparations that need to take place to prevent sectarian violence and revenge killings.
This was a closed, off-the-record event for congressional staff.
The event discussed effective policies and actions to deter a resurgence of ISIS or similar groups in Iraq as Iraqi Security Forces retake territory. Speakers offered views on the origins of ISIS in Iraq, the impact of Iranian influence, priorities for future American engagement, and challenging regional dynamics.
In the past, the U.S. has contributed over $60 billion in developmental assets for Iraq, but has failed to bring about the political change that would support sustainable development and reconstruction. Speakers explored opinions on the continued presence by the U.S. and international community to provide stability through targeted aid, reconstruction, and military forces. Experts discussed Iran’s outsized influence in Iraqi politics and governance, citing this trend as a large reason for ISIS’ emergence and grassroots support. Furthermore, it was agreed upon that, while the Iranians have been working with a long-term plan of action, the rest of the world is operating under a hit-and-run agenda, which could create conditions for the next version of ISIS . Speakers discussed the importance of increased congressional oversight in order to monitor the situation and better understand the conflict, enabling Congress to pass more relevant and effective legislation. They also discussed community engagement programs that address grievances at a local level.
Dr. Elie Abouaoun
Dr. Elie Abouaoun is currently the director of the Middle East & North Africa Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has served as director of Middle East Programs and senior program officer since 2013. Prior to that, he held the position of executive director at the Arab Human Rights Fund.
His previous positions include acting country director and program manager for the Danish Refugee Council in Iraq, as well as program coordinator for Ockenden International-Iraq and director of external relations for the Lebanese NGO arcenciel.
Dr Abouaoun has served as a senior trainer and consultant for various international organizations since 1996 including for the Council of Europe since 2000. In 2001 he was appointed a member of the Reference Group established by the Directorate of Education-Council of Europe to supervise the drafting of COMPASS, a manual for human rights education. He further supervised the adaptation and the translation of COMPASS into Arabic, and its subsequent diffusion in the Arab region in 2003.
He is a visiting lecturer at Notre Dame University-Lebanon and Saint Joseph University-Lebanon on the subjects of human rights, civil society, advocacy and citizenship, and regularly contributes to publications throughout the MENA and the US. Dr. Abouaoun also serves on the Board of Directors of several organizations in the MENA region.
Ambassador James Jeffrey
Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, a decorated diplomat who concluded his foreign service career with tours as U.S. envoy in Iraq and Turkey, is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute where he focuses on U.S. strategies to counter Iran’s efforts to expand its influence in the broader Middle East.
One of the nation’s most respected diplomats, Ambassador Jeffrey has held a series of highly sensitive posts in Washington, D.C., and abroad since joining the Foreign Service in 1977. In addition to his service in Ankara and Baghdad, he served as assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor in the George W, Bush administration, with a special focus on Iran. Previously, at the State Department, he served as principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the Department of State, where his responsibilities included leading the Iran policy team and coordinating public diplomacy.
Earlier appointments included service as senior advisor on Iraq to the secretary of state; chargé d’affaires and deputy chief of mission in Baghdad; deputy chief of mission in Ankara; and ambassador in Albania.
A former infantry officer in the U.S. army, Ambassador Jeffrey served in Germany and Vietnam from 1969 to 1976. He received his bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University and his master’s degree from Boston University.
Christopher Blanchard is a Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs at the Congressional Research Service (CRS) where his work emphasizes the roles, responsibilities, and prerogatives of Congress in shaping U.S. foreign policy. His current projects focus on Iraq, the conflict in Syria, the Islamic State organization and related issues, including U.S. foreign assistance, arms sale and security assistance policy, and the conduct of oversight. Mr. Blanchard joined CRS as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2004 and holds degrees from Boston College and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.