THE RISE OF ISIL: IRAQ AND BEYOND : Testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation & Trade, Subcommittee on the Middle East & North Africa


Featuring James F. Jeffrey & Michael Eisenstadt – July 15, 2014 – Below are excerpts from prepared testimony delivered to a joint House hearing on Iraq.


While a plan aimed at meeting President Obama’s stated objectives in Iraq offers the best way forward, it may soon be too late to implement it, as the divisions between various Iraqi groups deepen, the KRG moves toward virtual independence, and Prime Minister Maliki entrenches himself in office. If so, the United States would have to deal with three separate entities, all posing significant problems for American interests: an IS that threatens us, as well as our allies and partners, and serves as a magnet for jihadist supporters worldwide; a KRG moving ever more toward a de jure breakup with Baghdad, raising the specter of a Near East-wide quest for a Kurdish nation-state and undermining existing borders; and a rump Iraq, dominated by Shiite religious parties heavily influenced by Iran and controlling what the International Energy Agency believes could well be exports of six million barrels of oil by 2020 — almost two-thirds as large as Saudi Arabia’s exports.

Under these circumstances, the United States should:

* Deter and if necessary defeat IS attacks on Jordan and other partners and allies. This is the sine qua non of any effective American role. To carry it out, the administration must concede that its policies have generated huge doubts about America’s military reliability — thus actions, not just words.

* Coordinate policies with Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and the Gulf states. That is easy to write but hard to implement. It would have to include more active U.S. support for the Syrian opposition, agreement with other states on whom to support within it, and caution with the KRG, neither endorsing an independent status anathema to Baghdad and Arab states, nor opposing KRG-Turkish cooperation on oil exports and security.

* Conduct strikes against the IS in both Iraq and Syria.

* Recalibrate U.S. policy toward Baghdad. To the extent it is willing to cooperate with us and avoid provoking the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs further, then limited U.S. military support under the FMS program should continue, as should direct U.S. military action against IS attacks against Shiite population centers. This policy will require constant review depending upon how influential Iran becomes in Baghdad, and how relations develop between Baghdad and its Kurdish and Sunni Arab citizens.


Given how much blood and treasure the United States has already invested in Iraq (nearly 4,500 killed, more than 30,000 wounded, and well over $1 trillion spent), why should Americans care about what is going on there now? Simply because “if you do not visit the Middle East, it will visit you.” The U.S. experience in the region since its forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011 shows that the United States needs to shape and influence developments in the region — to the degree it is able — as vital U.S. security interests are affected by what happens there.

What are these interests? They are: (1) containing terrorist threats, (2) oil, (3) nonproliferation, and (4) preventing the emergence of a regional hegemon… Read Mr. Eisenstadt’s full testimony:

Read Ambassador Jeffrey’s full testimony:

Watch video of the hearing: