Michael Brill

Position
6th-year Ph.D. student
Office
Jones Hall
Bio/Description

My research focuses on modern Iraqi history, particularly during the Baʿthist period of 1968-2003. Topics of interest to me include militias under Saddam Hussein’s regime, the last members of Iraq’s Jewish community, Iran-Iraq relations, Iraq’s foreign relations with the Arab world, and the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood. Although my work is based primarily on the archives of Saddam’s regime, during my research, I have also become very interested in the history of the various collections of documents in relation to the 1991 and 2003 wars. The history of the archives, in addition to being a valuable subject on its own, also has implications for historical memory of the Baʿthist period and politics in contemporary Iraq.

My dissertation is preliminarily titled “Baʿthism in One Country: Iraq and the Struggle for the Arab World.” Two chapters revisit the “Baʿth vs. Baʿth” rivalry between the Iraqi and Syrian branches of the party. The first, drawing on documents and video tapes, sheds new light on Baʿth Party co-founder Michel Aflaq’s time in Iraq. The second examines other exiled Syrian Baʿthist intellectuals and party members who migrated to Iraq and came to serve Saddam’s regime. Other chapters are based on the Iraqi Baʿth Party and state ministry records and cover such topics as the Popular Army, Iraq-Sudan relations, and foreign volunteers from across the Arab world who joined the Iraqi Baʿth Party or served in Iraq’s wars between 1980 and 2003. For my dissertation committee, I have the privilege of working with my adviser, Professor Bernard Haykel, Professor Michael A. Reynolds, and my M.A. thesis adviser from Georgetown University, Professor Joseph Sassoon.

Selected Publications

“The Captured Baʿthist State Records from the 2003 Iraq War: Repatriation and Retribution?” Hoover Institution: The Caravan Notebook (online), June 16, 2022, pp. 1-35 (with Bruce P. Montgomery)

“‘We attacked them with chemical weapons and they attacked us with chemical weapons’: Iraqi Records and the History of Iran’s Chemical Weapons Program, Part III,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: History and Public Policy Program (online), April 4, 2022.  

“‘We attacked them with chemical weapons and they attacked us with chemical weapons’: Iraqi Records and the History of Iran’s Chemical Weapons Program, Part II,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: History and Public Policy Program (online), March 31, 2022.

“‘We attacked them with chemical weapons and they attacked us with chemical weapons’: Iraqi Records and the History of Iran’s Chemical Weapons Program, Part I,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: History and Public Policy Program (online), March 29, 2022.

“‘We attacked them with chemical weapons and they attacked us with chemical weapons’: Iraqi Records and the History of Iran’s Chemical Weapons Program, Introduction,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: History and Public Policy Program (online), March 28, 2022.

“The archives of Saddam Hussein’s regime between historical sources and subjects,” Journal of Contemporary Iraq & the Arab World, Volume 15, Number 3 (September 2021), pp. 387-398.

“Falih al-Fayyadh’s Fall From Grace: The Inside Story Of The Treasury Department’s Sanctioning Of Iraq’s PMF Chairman And What Is At Stake,” Hoover Institution: The Caravan Notebook (online), April 2, 2021.

“The Bipartisan Path to Confirming Colin Kahl Runs Through Iraq,” The National Interest (online), March 27, 2021. 

“Remembering Desert Storm and the Gulf War(s) Odyssey of Iraq’s Air Force, Part 2,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: History and Public Policy Program (online), January 15, 2021.

“Remembering Desert Storm and the Gulf War(s) Odyssey of Iraq’s Air Force, Part 1,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: History and Public Policy Program (online), January 14, 2021.

Book review of Samuel Helfont, Compulsion in Religion: Saddam Hussein, Islam, and the Roots of Insurgencies in Iraq, Middle East Journal, Vol. 74, No. 4 (Winter 2020/2021), pp. 655-656.

“Thinking About the History of Militias in Iraq,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: History and Public Policy Program (online), December 3, 2020. 

“Setting the Records Straight in Iraq,” War on the Rocks (online), July 17, 2020.

“The North Iraq Dataset (NIDS) files: Northern Iraq under Baʿthist Rule, 1968-1991,” Journal of Contemporary Iraq & the Arab World, Volume 14, Numbers 1 & 2 (2020), pp. 105-126 (with Joseph Sassoon).

“The Ghosts of Past Wars Live on in a Critical Archive,” War on the Rocks (online), September 11, 2019 (with Bruce P. Montgomery). 

“‘Allah, al-Watan, al-Qa’id’: A Preliminary Study of Regime Militias in Iraq, 1991-2003,” M.A. Thesis, Georgetown University, December 2016.

“Saddam Did Not Create ISIS: Getting the Terrorist Group’s Origin Story Right,” Foreign Affairs (online), April 20, 2016 (with Samuel Helfont). 

“Saddam’s ISIS?: The Terrorist Group’s Real Origin Story,” Foreign Affairs (online), January 12, 2016 (with Samuel Helfont).