Iran’s Formidable Forces in Iraq and Syria

February 28, 2018
12:00 pm -

Event Description

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies hosted a lunch event on Iran’s militias in Iraq and Syria, on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, from 12:00pm to 1:30pm. The expert conversation featured Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Visiting Lecturer and Diplomat-in-Residence at Princeton University; Dr. David Adesnik, Director of Research at FDD; Melissa Dalton, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the International Security Program at CSIS; and Mouaz Moustafa, Executive Director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force. Josh Rogin of The Washington Post moderated the discussion.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has created a foreign legion of Afghan, Pakistani, Iraqi, and Syrian fighters modeled on Hezbollah, and it now has a formidable force it can deploy in a future war with Israel. In a speech last month unveiling the administration’s strategy for Syria, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed that the U.S. seeks not only to ensure its allies’ security, but to deny Iran its “dreams of a northern arch” from Tehran to Beirut. How can Congress and the Administration see that promise through? What can be done to restrain Iran’s growing militia network and prevent a war that could engulf the Middle East?

Iran’s Formidable Forces in Iraq and Syria
A conversation with Dr. David Adesnik, Amb. Ryan Crocker, Melissa Dalton, and Mouaz Moustafa,
moderated by Josh Rogin.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018
12:00pm – 1:30pm

Dr. David Adesnik is the Director of Research at FDD, where he is responsible for the oversight of FDD publications and the supervision of FDD’s team of research analysts. His own research focuses on defense policy, strategy, and budget issues.  Previously, he served as policy director at the Foreign Policy Initiative and was a visiting fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. For two years, he served as deputy director for Joint Data Support at the U.S. Department of Defense, where he focused on the modeling and simulation of irregular warfare and counterinsurgency. Dr. Adesnik also spent several years as research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses. In that capacity, he spent four months in Baghdad as an operations research and systems analyst for Multinational Corps – Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  In 2008, he was part of the foreign policy and national security staff for John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Amb. Ryan Crocker is Visiting Professor and Diplomat in Residence at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University for the academic year 2017-2018. He retired from the Foreign Service in April 2009 after a career of over 37 years but was recalled to active duty by President Obama to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan in 2011. He has served as U.S. Ambassador six times: Afghanistan (2011-2012), Iraq (2007-2009), Pakistan (2004-2007), Syria (1998-2001), Kuwait (1994-1997), and Lebanon (1990-1993). He has also served as the International Affairs Advisor at the National War College, where he joined the faculty in 2003. From May to August 2003, he was in Baghdad as the first Director of Governance for the Coalition Provisional Authority and was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from August 2001 to May 2003. Since joining the Foreign Service in 1971, he also has had assignments in Iran, Qatar, Iraq and Egypt, as well as Washington. He was assigned to the American Embassy in Beirut during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the bombings of the embassy and the Marine barracks in 1983. Amb. Crocker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in 2009.

Melissa Dalton is a senior fellow and deputy director of the CSIS International Security Program (ISP). Her research focuses on security cooperation with allies and partners, U.S. defense policy in the Middle East, and global U.S. defense strategy and policy. As deputy director, she advises the director of ISP on a broad range of strategic and management issues. She manages the daily operations of ISP, including a team of 50 resident staff and an extensive network of nonresident affiliates. Prior to joining CSIS in 2014, she served in a number of positions at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2007 to 2014. She most recently was a senior adviser for force planning, where she contributed to the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review and DoD’s planning guidance. Previously, she served as special assistant to the under secretary of defense for policy, as policy adviser to the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan, and as country director for Lebanon and Syria. Prior to her DoD service, she taught English to middle and high school students in Damascus, Syria, in 2006. From 2003 to 2005, she served as an intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Mouaz Moustafa was born and raised in Damascus, Syria before moving to the US as a teenager. He is the current Executive Director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), Political Director for United For a Free Syria, as well as a board member of the Coalition for a Democratic Syria. As former staffer for Congressman Vic Snyder and Senator Blanche Lincoln, Mr. Moustafa spent four and a half years working in Congress before leaving to work briefly with Egyptian opposition. Mr. Moustafa also worked with the Libyan Revolution. During this period, Mr. Moustafa was the Executive Director of the Libyan Council of North America, Political Director of the Libyan Emergency Task Force, and worked closely with top officials within the Transitional National Council. Mr. Moustafa joined SETF in the fall of 2011 to help advocate on behalf of the pro-democracy movement in his native Syria. Moustafa boasts an extensive network of Syrian activists, opposition figures, and FSA commanders with whom he is in regular contact.

Josh Rogin is a columnist for the Global Opinions section of The Washington Post, where he writes about foreign policy and national security. He is also a political analyst with CNN and a columnist for Bloomberg View. Previously, Mr. Rogin has covered foreign policy and national security for NewsweekThe Daily BeastForeign PolicyFederal Computer Week, and Japan’s Asahi Shimbun. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, NPR, PBS, and several other outlets. Mr. Rogin was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and the 2011 recipient of the Interaction Award for Excellence in International Reporting.


Afghanistan Hezbollah Iran Pakistan Syria