Brett McGurk

Nonresident Senior Fellow
Middle East Program
Brett McGurk is a nonresident senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Education

BA, University of Connecticut
JD, Columbia University

Brett McGurk is a nonresident senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

McGurk recently served as special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS at the U.S. Department of State. He helped build and then led the coalition of seventy-five countries and four international organizations and was responsible for coordinating all aspects of U.S. policy in the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and globally.

McGurk previously served in senior positions in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, including as Special Assistant to President Bush and Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan, and then as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran and Special Presidential Envoy for the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State under Obama.

McGurk has led some of the most sensitive diplomatic missions in the Middle East over the last decade, including negotiations with partners and adversaries to advance U.S. interests. His most recent assignment established one of the largest coalitions in history to prosecute the counter–Islamic State campaign in Iraq and Syria. He was a frequent visitor to the battlefields in both countries to help integrate military and civilian components of the campaign.

In 2015 and 2016, McGurk led 18 months of secret negotiations with Iran to secure the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezain, U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, and Pastor Saad Abadini, as well as three other American citizens. He is credited with restoring diplomatic relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia after three decades of frozen ties, and helping to facilitate the formation of the last two Iraqi governments following contested elections in 2014 and 2018.

During his time at the State Department, McGurk received multiple awards, including the Distinguished Honor Award and the Distinguished Service Award, the highest department awards for exceptional service in Washington and overseas assignments.

McGurk will also serve at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies as the Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer.

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