‘Iraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance’


SPEAKER: Colonel Joel Rayburn

Senior Military Fellow, National Defense University, Washington, DC

CHAIR: Robin Simcox

National Security Fellow at The Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism at The Henry Jackson Society

TIME: 1 – 2pm, Wednesday 18 February 2015

VENUE: The Henry Jackson Society, 26th Floor, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London, SW1P 4QP

For a podcast of the event, click here

For a transcript of the event, click here

More than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, most studies of the Iraq conflict focus on the twin questions of whether the United States should have entered Iraq in 2003 and whether it should have exited in 2011, but few have examined the new Iraqi state and society on its own merits.

In his book Iraq after America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance, Colonel Joel Rayburn, whose long and varied career in intelligence and political-military affairs includes advising Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, examines the new state, sectarian and secular factions, and key political trends that have emerged in Iraq since 2003. Tracing the origins of these trends in recent Iraqi history, he explains the political and social forces that produced them, particularly during the intense period of civil war between 2003 and 2009, arriving at the question: What does it mean for the United States and its partners that, after more than a decade of conflict, Iraq’s communities – and its political class in particular – have not yet found a way to live together in peace?

The New Middle East Centre at The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to a discussion with Colonel Joel Rayburn, Senior Military Fellow at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. Colonel Rayburn will expand upon the arguments set forth in his book Iraq after America, identifying the three trends that dominate Iraq’s post-U.S. political order – authoritarianism, sectarianism, and Islamist resistance – and tracing their origins and showing how they have created a toxic political and social brew that prevents Iraq’s political elite from resolving the fundamental roots of conflict that have wracked that country since 2003 and before.


Colonel Joel Rayburn is a senior military fellow at the National Defense University, where he leads a research team that focuses on Iraq.

Rayburn is a U.S. Army intelligence officer with twenty-two years of experience in intelligence and political-military affairs and has served in a variety of assignments and deployments in the Middle East and South Asia, including multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  From 2005 to 2007, Rayburn served as an advisor to General John Abizaid at U.S. Central Command.  From 2007 to 2010, he served as an advisor to General David Petraeus at Multinational Force-Iraq in Baghdad.

Rayburn received his undergraduate degree in history and English literature from the U.S. Military Academy in 1992 and a master’s degree in history from Texas A&M in 2002.  From 2002 to 2005 he was an assistant professor of history at the US Military Academy.  He is a graduate of the U.S. National War College.


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