With ISIS driven from its urban strongholds in Iraq and Syria, the urgent task of stabilizing the region – and preventing the return of terrorists – is underway. While Iraq and Syria face many internal challenges and tensions, Iran, Turkey, Arab Gulf State, the United States and Russia are advancing competing agendas. What are the stakes for Iraq, Syria, the region and the world as the struggle for leverage, stability, and reconciliation continues after ISIS? What is the U.S. role?

U.S. Administration and military leaders, senior Iraqi representatives and regional experts explored one of the most complex and consequential conflicts of our time. USIP and guest experts helped navigate the key themes and provide insight on the terrain ahead in Iraq and Syria.

Panelists from the second discussion of the day discussed the region surrounding Iraq and Syria with a map displayed overhead

Panel 1, 10:00am - 11:00am

Following Iraq’s defeat of ISIS, the country must manage a web of internal challenges and conflicts, many deepened by the war. As the country prepares for a critical national election, its social fabric is torn by sectarian tensions, the ongoing displacement of over 2 million citizens, and the Kurdistan region’s 2017 independence referendum. The economy is stagnant; corruption is pervasive. Yet Iraqi pride in the military victory against the ISIS extremists has increased nationalist sentiments in many communities. Many hope the victory and the country’s energy shifting into politics would enable positive change. So what is the path ahead? Experts discussed Iraq’s recovery from ISIS and the country’s future.


Panel 2, 11:20am - 12:30pm

Beyond Iraq’s domestic post-ISIS challenges, the region is faced with continued conflict and instability, particularly in Syria. This panel will explore developments among Iraq’s neighbors amid continuing tensions in the region. Regional experts discussed developments in Syria, Turkey, the Arab Gulf states, Iran and Russia and their impact on the region’s post-ISIS landscape.


  • Kevin Baron, Moderator
    Founding Executive Editor,  Defense One
  • Dr. Elie Abouaoun
    Director, Middle East and North Africa Programs, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Dr. Mark N. Katz
    Professor of Government and Politics, George Mason University
  • Alireza Nader
    Senior International/Defense Researcher, RAND
  • Mona Yacoubian
    Senior Advisor for Syria, U.S. Institute of Peace

Keynote Panel, 1:30pm - 2:30pm

The role of the United States is seen as indispensable throughout the Middle East, and many are looking to understand new directions in U.S. policy in the region in the wake of the counter-ISIS military campaign. U.S. administration and military leaders discussed the stakes, challenges and requirements of bringing stability to a region in which violence persists and gains against terrorists hang by a thread.


Related Publications

Iraq’s Democratic Imperative: Getting Provincial Elections Right

Iraq’s Democratic Imperative: Getting Provincial Elections Right

Monday, August 5, 2019

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed; Adam Gallagher

Iraq’s landmark 2018 national elections—the first since the military defeat of ISIS—presented an opportunity for a much-needed course correction for the country’s sclerotic political process. Unfortunately, that opportunity was not seized properly. The vote was marred by claims of widespread fraud, low voter turnout, a delayed results announcement and a protracted government formation process. Originally scheduled for the spring of 2017, Iraq’s parliament recently delayed provincial elections again, moving the date to early April 2020. The election delay will give Iraq’s institutions further time to do the important work necessary to get these elections right and, thus, get Iraq’s politics on the right track. But, it is urgent for this work—bolstered by support from the international community—to start now.

Democracy & Governance; Electoral Violence

Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad Appeals for Aid to Save Yazidi Society

Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad Appeals for Aid to Save Yazidi Society

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

By: Fred Strasser

Nadia Murad, the sad-eyed, soft-spoken Nobel laureate and voice of the Yazidi genocide, warned that her people along with Christians and other minorities are slowly disappearing from Iraq. Faced with challenges that include uncertain security, lack of health care, stalled reconstruction and inability to leave refugee camps, Yazidis and other minority groups urgently need international help if they are to survive as components of Iraq’s national character, she said.

Fragility & Resilience; Human Rights

Nancy Lindborg on Iraq Rebuilding After ISIS

Nancy Lindborg on Iraq Rebuilding After ISIS

Thursday, April 11, 2019

By: Nancy Lindborg

Following her trip to Iraq, Nancy Lindborg discusses the country’s efforts to rebuild after ISIS. “They’ve [ISIS] been deprived of their territory … rebuilding is under way. But, there is very much a sense that the ISIS ideology is alive and well and there are a lot of concerns overall about security,” says Lindborg. “There has been important progress, but it’s very precarious and completely reversible.”

Reconciliation; Violent Extremism

View All Publications