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.


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