Meghan L. O'Sullivan

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Dr. Meghan L. O'Sullivan, who was named November 3, 2005, by President George W. Bush as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan, will be departing the White House sometime in Spring 2007. Bush will be "losing his top day-to-day adviser on Iraq". [1]

As of April 11, 2007, the Bush administration is reported to have been unsuccessful in finding a replacement for O'Sullivan, as three four-star generals—Jack Keane, Jack Sheehan and Joseph W. Ralston—have all declined the position of "war czar" over operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the time of her appointment, O'Sullivan was serving as "Senior Director for Iraq at the National Security Council. She received her bachelor's degree from Georgetown University. Dr. O'Sullivan later received her master's degree and PhD from Oxford University."


Previously, on October 13, 2004, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice announced the appointment of Meghan L. O'Sullivan as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Strategic Planning and Southwest Asia, "effective July 12, 2004. This portfolio includes Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.

"Dr. O'Sullivan came to the National Security Council from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, Iraq. Prior to her departure to the region in March of 2003, Dr. O'Sullivan served as a member of the Office of Policy Planning at the Department of State. In this capacity, she was the chief advisor to the presidential envoy to the peace process in Northern Ireland, and was also involved in efforts to promote reform in the Muslim world," the annoucement said.

O'Sullivan "departed the Brookings Institution in November 2001 for a position with the director of policy planning in the U.S. Department of State." [2]

Regarding O'Sullivan

"Meghan O'Sullivan, an aide to the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and more recently part of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, is in line to be senior director for Iraq at the National Security Council," Al Kamen wrote in the July 7, 2004, Washington Post.

"She had fallen out of favor with neo-cons awhile back because of her enthusiasm for sanctions as opposed to war against Iraq and because she had worked for insufficiently hard-line State Department policy chief Richard Haass. She's back in good graces now and, we hear, is a rising star," Kamen said.

"As expected, Meghan L. O'Sullivan, formerly an aide to Iraq viceroy L. Paul Bremer, has been named deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, a job she's been doing for several months," Kamen reported in the Washington Post October 10, 2005.

"Meghan O’Sullivan was elevated to the lofty position of Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan. This makes O’Sullivan equal in rank to fellow NSC staffer Elliott Abrams, and arguably gives her more influence than many assistant secretaries," Joel Mowbray wrote November 30, 2005, for FrontPageMag.

On Iran

"New National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley's decision to remove Richard Haass protégé Meghan O'Sullivan from the Iran portfolio (she retains her position as senior director for Iraq at the National Security Council) also bodes well for a more activist policy, especially as the new National Security team again reviews Washington's policy - or lack thereof - toward Tehran. O'Sullivan had long been both dismissive of Iranian dissidents and a proponent of engaging the Islamic Republic," Michael Rubin wrote February 12, 2005.

On War in Iraq

In his June 10, 2004, book review of Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," Brian Urquhart wrote:

"The turf war between State and Defense didn't help either. The State Department's meticulously thorough 'Future of Iraq Project' was not welcome in [Donald] Rumsfeld's Defense Department. Even less welcome were the seventy-five State Department experts who had done the study and might, in a less crazily parochial situation, have been expected to be in the vanguard going into Iraq. [Secretary of State] [Colin] Powell was enraged to learn that the leader of the team, Thomas Warrick, and another expert, Meghan O'Sullivan, had been ordered by Rumsfeld to leave the Pentagon by sundown. 'What the hell is going on?' Powell said in a phone call to Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld said that as they got into postwar planning, the work had to be done by those who were truly committed to this war and supporters of change and not those who had written or said things that were not supportive. Powell took this to mean that his people didn't support 'exiles like [Ahmed] Chalabi.'
"After a strident top-level row, O'Sullivan was allowed to return to the Pentagon, but not Warrick. In the bloody shambles that the Iraq occupation has become, this absurd interdepartmental tiff on a supremely important subject seems criminal."

On the War on Terrorism

"Meghan O'Sullivan — the co-creator of so-called 'smart sanctions' that loosened restrictions in 2001 on what Saddam [Hussein] could purchase — has long argued that not all terrorism can be 'lumped together,' as she put it at a press conference in July 2000. At that event, she complained that the 'rogue regimes' designation was 'pejorative' and bemoaned the fact that the rogue label suggested that countries that sponsor terrorism 'were beyond rehabilitation and that the policy options (were limited) to only punitive ones.' On another occasion, she argued, '[L]esser penalties (should) apply to lesser levels of state sponsorship (of terrorism)'," Joel Mowbray wrote in the June 9, 2003, National Review Online.

"O'Sullivan was just as adamant in her support for a 'nuanced' view of terrorism after 19 terrorists killed 3,000 Americans. At a press conference ten days after 9/11, O'Sullivan went to great pains to differentiate the different levels of support for terrorism, emphasizing that the 'state sponsors of terrorism' designation is counterproductive for fighting terrorism. She stressed that some of the countries the U.S. considers state sponsors weren't that bad, since their support 'involves simply letting groups come in and out of their territory to operate.' O'Sullivan's 'nuanced' views, in fact, were actually strengthened by 9/11; she opined: 'I would say that this new environment provides an opportunity to unlump this category of countries.' In her current post — where she's supposed to be working on a humanitarian crisis that has yet to materialize — she has been entirely supportive of [State Department administrator Robin] Rafael and other State officials chafing under Bremer's insistence on moral clarity," Mowbray wrote.

On "Failed States"

"In another foreign policy publication, the Washington Quarterly, Meghan O´Sullivan points out that declaring a job lot of enemies 'failed states' was pointless. They are hardly serious threats. Sanctioning and bombing them seems to do little good, and widespread harm. Since most threats to world peace, such as drug dealing and terrorism, are from already weakened states, 'it makes sense to pursue an approach that seeks to minimise state failure, rather than exacerbate it as sanctions do'," Simon Jenkins wrote April 18, 2001, in The Times (UK).

Big Oil

O'Sullivan worked at the Brookings Institution under former Ambassador Richard Haass, "currently the head of the Council on Foreign Relations and who was State Department policy director" under Colin L. Powell until 2003, Joel Mowbray wrote in the November 30, 2005, FrontPageMag.

Haass "has propelled America's preparedness to consider easing sanctions on Iraq with a document entitled Iraq: A Modified Approach, written by Meghan O'Sullivan," Ed Vulliamy wrote April 1, 2001, in the Observer (UK). "The paper argues that embargoes are 'bad for particular businesses' - principally oil - and it emerges that much of Haas's project was funded by Conoco and Arco, with whom he has worked as a consultant."

Published Works

  • "Shrewd Sanctions: Statecraft and State Sponsors of Terrorism," Brookings Institution Press (2003), ISBN 0815706014.
  • "Honey and Vinegar: Incentives, Sanctions, and Foreign Policy" edited with Richard N. Haass, Brookings Institution Press (2000), ISBN 0815733550.

By Meghan L. O'Sullivan

SourceWatch Resources

External links