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Event Summary


As al Qaeda–aligned insurgents continue to make territorial gains in Iraq, US policymakers are working around the clock to decide whether to respond with airstrikes. Before a packed house at AEI on Wednesday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and General Jack Keane (ret.) sat down with AEI’s Danielle Pletka to consider how the United States can help save Iraq from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and from Iran.

Senator McCain argued that while President Obama has been flying out to golf games and fundraisers, the Iranians have been moving in on Iraq. While the administration tries to make up its mind on what to do about ISIS, the senator asked, who will President Nouri al-Maliki turn to? He reminded the audience that the Iranians remain one of the greatest threats to US security.

General Keane noted that Iraq’s intelligence screens went blank after the US military pulled out in 2011, meaning Washington needs to restore Baghdad’s ability to access national, regional, and local intelligence sources. US special operations forces should also be employed clandestinely to attack high-value ISIS targets and leaders in Iraq and Syria. Both men concluded that we are now looking at the results of bad decisions that began long ago with choosing not to leave a residual troop presence in Iraq.
–Alex Della Rocchetta

Event Description 

In the little more than two years since US troops left Iraq, al Qaeda–aligned insurgents have effectively taken over the country’s second-largest city, Mosul, and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit. The White House has called on the Iraqi government to “step up to the plate,” while rebuffing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s request for assistance with airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) staging areas. As the black flags of ISIS rise over the two cities, a new directive is on the horizon: march on Baghdad.

Join us for a conversation with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and General Jack Keane (ret.) as they assess the deteriorating security situation in Iraq and consider what role the US should play to help the Iraqi government confront terrorists hostile to democratic government in Baghdad and Washington.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


3:45 PM

4:00 PM
General Jack Keane, US Army (ret.)
John McCain, US Senate (R-AZ)

Danielle Pletka, AEI

5:00 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Alex Della Rocchetta at [email protected], 202.862.7152.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

General Jack Keane is a retired four-star general and former vice chief of staff of the US Army. He is currently president of the consulting firm GSI LLC; serves as chairman of the board for the Institute for the Study of War and the Knollwood Foundation; and is a director of Metlife, General Dynamics, and AlliedBarton. Upon retiring from military service in 2003, Keane joined Fox News as a national security analyst. In December 2006, Keane and AEI scholar Frederick W. Kagan released the groundbreaking report “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq” (AEI, 2007), which outlined a US success strategy in Iraq and emphasized victory as the only acceptable outcome. It additionally served as a model for former president George W. Bush’s “troop surge.” Gen. Keane has received numerous accolades for his service to the United States including two Defense Distinguished Service Stars, two Army Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Joint Chiefs Service Badge, the Humanitarian Service Medal, five Legions of Merit, a Ranger Tab, a Combat Infantryman Badge, a Master Parachutist Badge, and an Air Assault Badge.

John McCain (R-AZ) is the senior US senator from Arizona. First elected to the US House of Representatives in 1982, McCain spearheaded a reform agenda to reduce federal spending and lower taxes that quickly elevated him to statewide office and the position of US senator in 1986. He is currently a former ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. As the son and grandson of distinguished US Navy admirals, McCain launched a 22-year career as a naval aviator before entering politics. During his notable career, he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

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