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BC Expert: US Response to Iraqi Insurgency

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David Deese

David Deese
Professor of Political Science
Boston College
cell: 603-562-0971


Professor Deese researches the international dimensions of political economic reform in developing, resource based states and the Middle East region in particular; leadership of international bargaining and negotiations; and the interaction of economics and security in US foreign policy. In January 2013, he was appointed to the United States Fulbright Program national roster of Fulbright Specialists. He is the author/editor of several books including, Globalization: Causes and Effects; The New Politics of American Foreign Policy and World Trade Politics: Power, Principles, and Leadership.


What to do and when to do it – key questions the Obama administration is confronted with in Iraq, as Islamic militants have already seized Mosul and Tikrit, two of the nation’s largest cities, and are moving toward the capital city of Baghdad.

“Depending on how far this goes in Iraq, that could turn around and strengthen the situation in Syria and between the two, it’s extremely serious,” says Boston College Political Science Professor David Deese. “It’s really one of the most serious threats, if not the most serious after the difficulties in Afghanistan, the administration has had to deal with.

“We need to make a decision this week, not next week, not next month or in the fall. We need to make a decision right away about what we’re going to do. With the events in Syria, one thing we learned is, if you’re going to act, you’ve got to act. You can’t sit around and delay month after month and year after year.”

Two years after U.S. troops finally withdrew from Iraq, President Obama says he’s considering all options to help stop the insurgency. While drones and airstrikes are possibilities, the return of American troops is not. As administration officials keep a close eye on events, some wonder where the insurgency came from and whether the administration was caught off guard.

“Iraq is now suddenly blowing up in a way I don’t think anyone predicted,” says Deese, an expert in international foreign policy. “I think it’s looking to be another one of those major intelligence failures that maybe will rank with things that happened in the past that caught us completely flatfooted, from the Iranian Revolution in ’79 to the events around the Vietnam war and so forth.”

The Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic insurgent group, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), is drawing support from the region, including the civil war-torn Syria.

“The insurgents have a very specific goal in mind and that is to set up a separate state which would carve out a piece of Syria and a piece of Iraq,” says Deese. “All of the U.S. strategy in the Middle East hinges on not having ungoverned areas and at the moment, not only are we having ungoverned areas of Syria and Iraq, but they are substantially controlled by some of the most radical elements that are in some ways even more threatening than Al Qaeda because of their ideology, organization, and now their military power.”  

While the Obama administration contends Iraq will need help from the international community, prior engagements may make that unlikely.

“The countries at this point are pretty much going to be saying to the US, ‘You created this bed -now you’re going to have to lay in it,’" says Deese. “We could appeal to members of NATO but NATO is pretty well tied up in Afghanistan and getting out of Afghanistan. And NATO and Europe are trying to deal with Ukraine and the Russians so it’s a difficult time because the principal problem of the Europeans is in Ukraine right now.”


 Media Note: Contact information for additional Boston College faculty sources on a range of subjects is available at: /offices/pubaf/journalist/experts.html


Sean Hennessey
Associate Director
Office of News and Public Affairs
Boston College

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