Meghan O'Sullivan

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Meghan R. O'Sullivan is Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Harvard University's Belfer Center. Her areas of research include nation-building, counterinsurgency, decision making in foreign policy, the geopolitics of energy, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. She has been awarded the Defense Department's highest honor for civilians, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, and three times been awarded the State Department's Superior Honor Award. In October 2008, Esquire magazine named her one of the most influential people of the century.[1]

In a July 2009 Washington Post op-ed, she approved of the Obama Administration's political engagement with Iraq as military involvement waned, but expressed concern about Vice President Biden's speaking of a "need to broker a grand bargain between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, and to resolve disputes between 'the different confessional groups.' He made clear that he -- and, presumably, the United States -- saw Iraq's challenges and solutions largely in terms of sectarian or ethnic groups." She felt that framing the discussion in such terms pushes Iraqis back from the sectarian model they have been trying to leave. [2]

George W. Bush Administration

From July 2004 to September 2007, she was Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and also held the position of Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan for the last two years of this tenure. She spent two of the last five and a half years in Iraq, most recently in fall 2008 at the request of Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General Ray Odierno to help conclude the security agreement between the United States and Iraq.

As Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan. She participated in strategic policy reviews on Afghanistan in the summer of 2006 and one on Iraq in late 2006 and early 2007. She was promoted to that role from Senior Director for Strategic Planning and Southwest Asia. National Security Council (NSC).

Before joining the NSC, she was political advisor to the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Deputy Director for Governance in Baghdad, Iraq from April 2003 to June 2004, and worked on the Transitional Administrative Law and the Iraqi Interim Government.

Later, when she was in Iraq working for CPA, she had to climb out of a tenth-story window and creep to safety after the Rashid Hotel was hit by rocket fire and her door was jammed.[3] Bremer later ordered her not to speak to a reporter as part of his controlling the message.[4]

Prior to CPA, she was a member of the humanitarian assistance team in the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in the Iraq War. Previously, she was a planner in the State Department "Future of Iraq" project. [5] She found this frustrating, when she saw a Silkworm (missile) fly overhead while she waited in Kuwait, realizing that if she had stayed at State, she would have full access to U.S. intelligence, while she knew nothing more than she could learn from CNN.[6]

Department of State

From November 2001 to March 2003, she was a member of the Policy Planning Staff of the U.S. Department of State, where she was the chief advisor to the presidential envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process and helped advance efforts to promote reform in the Muslim world.

Research and academia

From 1998-2001, she was a Fellow at the Brookings Institution. During that time, she was also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Her book, Shrewd Sanctions: Statecraft and State Sponsors of Terrorism[7] and edited volume (with Richard Haass) Honey and Vinegar: Incentives, Sanctions, and Foreign Policy (2000) rendered her, in the eyes of the stronger neoconservatives, soft on Iraq. [8]

She received a B.A. from Georgetown University; she received a masters of science in Economics and doctorate in Politics from Oxford University.


  1. Experts: Meghan O'Sullivan, Belfer Center, Kennedy School of Governent, Harvard University
  2. Meghan O'Sullivan (July 21, 2009), "Issues Before Identity in Iraq", Washington Post
  3. George Packer (2005), The Assassins' Gate, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 0374299633, pp. 184-186
  4. Packer, p. 201
  5. Bob Woodward (2004), Plan of Attack, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 07432554, pp. 283-284
  6. Packer, p. 131
  7. Meghan O'Sullivan (2003), Shrewd Sanctions: Statecraft and State Sponsors of Terrorism, Brookings Institution Press, ISBN 0815706022
  8. Packer, p. 131