This article places the Iraqi National Conference of August 2004 in a comparative context by examining the role of national conferences in transitional and post-conflict countries. It argues that national conferences do not contribute significantly to a transitional process, if a prior political agreement on the process and on the role of the Conference among key stakeholders is absent. In Iraq, the disagreement over the transitional framework created by the Coalition Provisional Authority and the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council impeded a truly inclusive Conference from taking place. A core of established political parties, distrusted by the opposition, controlled the Conference preparations. A transparent preparatory process did not take place; the Conference did not serve as a forum for genuine dialogue. Finally, the National Council elected by the Conference did not expand political participation to credible opposition figures.