Meghan L. O'Sullivan

Adjunct Senior Fellow


U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy; counterinsurgency; nation-building; the geopolitics of energy; Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan.


Energy Security Roundtable Series


Meghan L. O'Sullivan is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), while also serving as the Evron and Jeane Kirkpatrick professor of the practice of international affairs and the director of the geopolitics of energy project at Harvard Kennedy School. Her expertise includes nation-building, counterinsurgency, the geopolitics of energy, decision-making in foreign policy, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

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 her tenure. She spent two years in total in Iraq, most recently in fall 2008 at the request of Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General Raymond Odierno to help conclude the security agreement and strategic framework agreement between the United States and Iraq. As deputy national security advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan, O'Sullivan led a team of military and diplomatic personnel, lawyers, economists, and political appointees in the Iraq and Afghan directorates at the National Security Council (NSC). In this capacity, she staffed the president and national security advisor on Iraq and Afghanistan and coordinated the efforts of U.S. government agencies working there. O'Sullivan also held the positions of senior director for strategic planning and Southwest Asia at the NSC, political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority administrator and deputy director for governance in Baghdad, chief advisor to the presidential envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process, and fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Her publications include Shrewd Sanctions: Statecraft and State Sponsors of Terrorism and an edited volume with Richard N. Haass, Honey and Vinegar: Incentives, Sanctions, and Foreign Policy. O'Sullivan is also a consultant to the National Intelligence Council, and a strategic advisor to John Hess, the chairman and chief executive officer of Hess Corporation, an American independent oil and gas company. She writes a foreign affairs column for Bloomberg View and is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the Aspen Strategy Group. O'Sullivan serves as a member of the board of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a director on the board of TechnoServe, and is on the advisory board of the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. O'Sullivan received a BA from Georgetown University, and a master's of science in economics and doctorate in politics from Oxford University.

Featured Publications

All Publications


In Iraq, Obama Has Two Terrible Choices

Author: Meghan L. O'Sullivan

In his efforts to save Iraq, President Obama is right to demand more power-sharing and other political reforms from Iraqi leaders before the United States offers more military assistance. But Obama should not think he can hold off offering such assistance until he secures those reforms—not if he wants to prevent the bloody breakup of the country and a wider regional war.

See more in Iraq; United States; Defense Strategy


Why Aren’t Sanctions Stopping Putin?

Author: Meghan L. O'Sullivan
The Daily Beast

The West is threatening another round of sanctions against Russia in an effort to deter meddling in the May 25 presidential elections in Ukraine. The Obama administration and its allies are placing high hopes in the ability of sanctions to sway Russian actions and generally contest Russia's annexation of Crimea and meddling in the Ukraine.

See more in Russian Federation; International Organizations and Alliances

Ask CFR Experts

What do Israel’s Mediterranean natural gas resources mean for the region’s economy and security?

Asked by Larry Davenport, from Virginia Beach, Virginia

Israel has discovered substantial natural gas deposits off its shores in the last four years. While these gas finds are not significant in terms of global gas supply (they constitute less than two percent of the world's proven gas reserves), they do appear large enough not only to meet Israel's needs, but to enable Israel to export significant quantities.

Read full answer

See more in Israel; Natural Gas

Op-Ed Authors: Eliot A. Cohen, Eric Edelman, and Meghan L. O'Sullivan
The Boston Globe

Eliot A. Cohen, Eric Edelman, and Meghan O'Sullivan say, "The true audacity of the Obama administration lies less in its proclaimed foreign policy hopes, than in its insistence that its record is one of foreign policy success. It has, rather, been one of embarrassment, failure, and in some cases, disaster."

See more in Presidents and Chiefs of State; United States; Elections


CFR Events

Meeting ⁄ New York

Lessons From History Series: Iraq Reconsidered—Ten Years After the Surge

Speakers Christopher A. Kojm

Professor of International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University; former Chairman, National Intelligence Council; former Senior Advisor, Iraq Study Group

, Meghan L. O'Sullivan

Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School; Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; former Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan, White House

, Raymond T. Odierno

Senior Adviser, JP Morgan Chase, National Football League, and Virtu Financial; former U.S. Army Chief of Staff and former Commanding General, United States Forces–Iraq and Multi-National Force–Iraq, U.S. Army

Presider Kim Barker

Reporter, New York Times; Author, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan; former Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

February 1, 2017 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.

5:30 p.m.–6:00 p.m. Reception
6:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. Meeting

February 1, 2017

This meeting is on the record.

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Meeting ⁄ New York

What to Do About Iraq

Speakers Stephen D. Biddle

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University

, Max Boot

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Meghan L. O'Sullivan

Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs and Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Project, Harvard Kennedy School

Presider Richard N. Haass

President, Council on Foreign Relations

June 18, 2014 12:00–1:00 p.m. - Conference Call

This meeting is on the record.

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