Iraq 20 Years On: Where Is There Hope for Peace?

Iraq 20 Years On: Where Is There Hope for Peace?

Virtual Briefing Series

Thursday, March 16, 2023 | 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM ET


20 years ago this month, the United States launched its invasion of Iraq, an operation that ousted brutal dictator Saddam Hussein at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. Since the occupation ended, the rise of ISIS and governance challenges line the bumpy path to peace. What are some of the major challenges the country is dealing with? Where is there hope for building peace, stability, and sustainable governance in Iraq? Please join us on Thursday, March 16 from 12 PM to 1 PM ET for a discussion with Shamiran Mako, professor of international relations at Boston University, Shahla Al-Kli, Middle East Deputy Regional Director at Mercy Corps, and Stephen Lennon, contingency operations specialist with the International Organization for Migration on what it will take to build lasting peace in Iraq.

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Shamiran Mako

Shamiran Mako is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. Her research and teaching focus on the international relations of the Middle East with a substantive emphasis on foreign intervention, ethnic politics, political violence in divided societies, and institutions and statebuilding. She is the author of After the Arab Uprisings: Progress and Stagnation in the Middle East and North Africa, with Valentine Moghadam (Cambridge University Press, 2021) and is currently completing a book project on institutions and ethnic conflict in Iraq. Her work  has appeared in or is forthcoming in International Politics, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, PS: Perspective on Politics, International Peacekeeping, among others.


Shahla Al-Kli

Shahla Al-Kli is a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute. She served as Research Analysis and Knowledge Mobilization Director at Proximity International, the Middle East Deputy Regional Director at Mercy Corps, and a principal development specialist at DAI Global, was previously a senior advisor to the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, an advisor to the speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, a former country director for Counterpart International’s Iraq programs, and an auditor at the Central Bank of Iraq. She is a long-term practitioner in the Middle East on issues of politics, governance, security, statebuilding, and fragile states. She finished her Ph.D. at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy/Tufts University; her dissertation about governance and decentralization in Iraq was awarded Fletcher’s Peter Ackerman Award for an outstanding scholarly work.


Stephen Lennon

Stephen Lennon currently serves as the overall site coordinator for the International Organization for Migration’s efforts within the Operations Allies Welcome effort to assist Afghan evacuees in the United States. He previously served as a senior policy advisor to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Democracy Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance bureau. While there he advised on USAID transformation, policy considerations and interagency collaboration. Prior to this he served for six years as the director for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), supervising OTI programming worldwide. He managed an average budget of $250 million per year overseeing political transition, countering insurgency and crisis relief operations throughout the world wherever U.S. government foreign assistance was required.

Stephen is a practitioner in contingency operations including post-conflict political transition, counter insurgency and stability operations. Before serving as the director of OTI he was chief of OTI’s Field Programs Division supervising five regional and 15 country teams. He has been a team lead for OTI overseeing the Asia/Middle East region, and has worked on contingency operations as an OTI senior transition advisor.

Prior to working with the U.S. Government, Stephen was employed for a decade with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), part of the United Nations. He served in numerous post-conflict reconstruction and humanitarian environments throughout the world. His experience covers a broad array of overseas deployments and operational environments. From the management of camps for internally displaced persons in Taliban controlled Afghanistan, to migrant affairs operations in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to political transition and stabilization work in Afghanistan, Albania, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Pakistan, among others.

Stephen has designed and supervised humanitarian responses in Turkmenistan during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan; following the Indian Ocean Tsunami in Indonesia; and in the aftermath of the South Asian Earthquake 2005 in Pakistan, among others.

Before joining OTI he served as the head of IOM’s Community Stabilization Unit, and was the primary liaison with the US Government for all U.S.-funded IOM Emergency and Post-Conflict Stabilization Operations worldwide.

Stephen is married with two children. He holds an M.A i.n English Literature from the University of Rhode Island, and a masters in International Affairs from Columbia University.





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