Panels & Presentations

Featured Presentation:

Book Talk, 2018


Compulsion in Religion: Saddam Hussein, Islam, and the Roots of Insurgencies

Foreign Policy Research Institute

Geopolitics with Granieri

April 11, 2018

In his new book from Oxford University Press, Samuel Helfont investigates the roots of the religious insurgencies which erupted in Iraq following the American-led invasion in 2003. This book relies on access to the former regime’s internal archives and secret files to challenge many of the underlying assumptions of American plans to occupy and rebuild Iraq. When the American-led invasion destroyed the regime’s authoritarian structures in 2003, it unleashed the forces that these structures were designed to contain, creating an atmosphere infused with religion, but lacking the checks provided by the former regime. Groups such as the Sadrists, al-Qaida in Iraq, and eventually the Islamic State emerged out of that context to tear the country apart.

Conferences and Presentations:

  • "Compulsion in Religion: Saddam Hussein, Islam and the Roots of Insurgencies in Iraq," Invited Book Talk, Hoover Library and Archives, Stanford University, August 6, 2018.
  • “Stabilizing the Fertile Crescent After the Fall of the Caliphate,” Invited Panelist, Foreign Policy Research Institute, National Press Club, Washington DC, July 18, 2018.
  • “The United States Military and The Middle East: A View from Veterans,” Invited Panelist, UPenn Middle East Center, April 11, 2018.
  • "Dividing Iraq: The Fight for Kurdish Independence,” Invited lecture, Haverford International Relations Society, Haverford College, Pennsylvania, October 11, 2017.
  • “The Roots of Insurgency in Iraqi Archives,” Invited lecture given to the Library and Archives Committee of the Hoover Institution Board of Overseers, Stanford University, July 12, 2017.
  • “America in Iraq: Past, Present (and Future?),” Invited lecture, Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility, Camden County College, Camden NJ, April 5, 2017.
  • “GPA Discussion Panel on US/Middle East Relations under Trump,” Invited panelist, Perry World House, University of Pennsylvania, March 21, 2017.
  • “The Iraqi Ba‘th Party outside of Iraq,” Paper presented at The Hoover Summer Archives Workshop on Authoritarianism, Stanford University, July 18, 2016.
  • “Iraqi Kurdistan: A Trip Report,” Invited presenter, Foreign Policy Research Institute Sponsors Forum, Pepper Hamilton – Pepper Conference Center, Philadelphia, PA, April 13, 2016.
  • “A Report from Kurdistan: Weathering a Political Economic Storm,” Invited lecture, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, March 31, 2016.
  • “Iraqi Ba‘thism and the Boundaries of Cultural Heritage under Saddam,” Invited presenter at “ISIS and the Cultural Heritage Crisis of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen,” The Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Princeton University, February 12, 2016.
  • “Pugwash Roundtable Discussion,” Invited Presenter, The Rafael Recanti International School at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel, January 4, 2016.
  • “War, Institutional Capacity, and the Roots of Saddam Hussein’s Faith Campaign,” Paper presented at the annual conference for The Middle East Studies Association, Denver, CO. November 21-25, 2015.
  • “Religion and Politics in Iraq,” Invited presenter, Department of Near East Languages and Culture, University of Pennsylvania, October 5, 2015.
  • “Post-Colonial States and the Struggle for Identity in the Middle East since World War Two,” Presentation at “Understanding the Modern Middle East: History, Identity, and Politics,” FPRI, Philadelphia PA. October 17, 2015.
  • “Authoritarian Roots of Saddam Hussein’s Islam,” Presentation given at Hoover Archives Summer Workshop on Totalitarian Regimes, Stanford University, July 19-August 1, 2015.
  • “Instrumentalizing Islam: Saddam, the Faith Campaign, and Ramifications for Iraqi Islamists.” Invited Presenter, U.S. Department of State, The Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Washington DC, January 29, 2015.
  • “The Arab Option for Iraq.” Invited presenter, New York Yacht Club, hosted by Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, New York City, December 4, 2014
  • “Captured Iraqi Documents: What We Know Now.” Invited presenter, Naval War College, Strategy and Policy Department, Newport, RI, January 16, 2014.
  • “The Sunni-Shi‘a Divide in a Post-Arab Spring Middle East.” Presentation at “The Invention of the Middle East, Post-World War One, and the Reinvention of the Middle East, Post-Arab Spring,” for the Foreign Policy Research Institute at the Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, PA, November 2-3, 2013.
  • “The Iraqi Shi‘a and the Question of Sectarianism under Saddam.” Paper presented at the annual conference for The Middle East Studies Association, New Orleans, LA. October 10-13, 2013.
  • “Saddam’s Control of Iraq: The Forgotten Intelligence Failure of 2003,” presented at the annual conference for the International Studies Association (International Security Studies Section), Washington D.C. October 4-6, 2013.
  • “Taking Arab Nationalism Seriously: Or, Can a Secular Christian be an Islamic Reformer.” Paper presented at the conference: “‘Failure’ in Islamic Reform,” Princeton University, April 12-13, 2013.
  • “The Muslim Brotherhood and the West.” Moderator/Commenter, Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre (Dubai, U.A.E)/Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) Symposium, Washington D.C., March 20, 2013.
  • “Co-opting, Coercing, and Creating Religion in Saddam’s Iraq.” Paper presented at Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium, Princeton University, September 20, 2012.
  • “Islamism and the Arab Spring,” Invited presenter, FPRI/Reserve Officer Association Symposium, Washington D.C., May 7, 2012.
  • “Original Records from Saddam Hussein’s Regime: Did He Sponsor Terrorist Organizations?” Invited round-table participant, International Studies Association Annual Conference, San Diego, April 1-4 2012.
  • “The Development of the Popular Islamic Conference Organization in Iraq.” Paper presented at the annual conference for The Middle East Studies Association, Washington D.C., December 1-4, 2011.
  • “Irregular Warfare Challenges and Opportunities.” Moderator/Commenter, FPRI/Department of Defense Conference on “Foreign Fighter Problem: Recent Case Studies and Trends,” The National Press Club, Washington D.C., December 6, 2011.
  • “Research Trip Report: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.” Invited presenter, FPRI, Philadelphia, PA, September 9, 2011.
  • “Symposium: Egypt, Regime Change, and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Invited presenter, FPRI Philadelphia, PA, May 24, 2011.
  • “Al-Qaida in North Africa.” Moderated a panel, FPRI/Reserve Officers Association Conference, Reserve Officers Association, Washington D.C., September 27-28, 2010.