This Tuesday, April 4, IRIS will host a lecture and discussion with Mr. Ahmed Ali on Iraq, Kurdistan and U.S. policy toward the region after ISIS. Mr. Ali is a Program Officer at DC-based National Endowment for Democracy and a well-known commentator on Iraq, Kurdistan and U.S. policy. He was an IRIS Fellow from 2015-2016.
On January 22nd, 2017, The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) welcomed the Ambassador of the European Union to Iraq, Patrick Simonnet, for a guest talk on the state of relations between the European Union and Iraq. The talk was the first in the newly launched Diplomatic Lecture Series that will feature senior diplomatic figures, and will explore issues of international and regional importance. The lecture was attended in large numbers by students, staff and faculty members. AUIS President, Bruce Walker Ferguson, and Founder and Board Member, Dr. Barham Salih, were also in attendance and welcomed the Ambassador on his arrival on campus. The main focus of the talk was the role of the European Union in Iraq and its Kurdistan Region, including political and economic ties, humanitarian and development support, as well as initiatives for educational and governance reforms. Ambassador Simonnet began his talk by looking back on Europe’s history and the idea behind forming the European Union. He went on to discuss the various challenges currently facing the EU: migration and refugee crisis, the debt crisis in 2008, growing terrorism incidents, and the wave of the nationalist, populist movement currently taking place all across Europe. “The reality is that none of the challenges that we have: economic, internal, external, terrorism, climate change...none of these challenges can be addressed by one single country alone,” he said, stressing that all members of the of the European Union will have to find solutions to these challenges together. Ambassador Simonnet went on to say that 2017 will be another challenging year for the EU as key member states will be holding elections and the outcome can impact EU policies on several issues. Another challenge for the EU, he said, is to make itself more “relevant”, both within Europe and outside. That includes building a strong cultural “identity” based on their shared history and democratic values, and reforming areas of innovation, economy, and free movement that could impact everyday lives of the European citizens. Most of these challenges however cannot be attended to alone: “This is an idea that resonates in the Middle East, where challenges have become very regional,” he said, as there needs to be more collective action. Bringing the conversation to relations with Iraq, he said that although the European Union is still a young partner to Iraq, there are very strong links that have been built over the years in areas of trade, economy, development and humanitarian support. He called Iraq “a key international partner and strategic ally” as both the EU and Iraq share mutual goals in the fight against terrorism, in supporting the refugees and IDPs, and in efforts to stabilize the newly liberated areas from Daesh. He explained that the EU is one of largest humanitarian assistance providers in Iraq and its Kurdistan region, providing 160 millions euros in humanitarian assistance in 2016 alone. Strengthening trade and economic relations is an important objective for the EU in Iraq. The EU is Iraq’s second largest trading partner, and the third largest development partner investing in long-term projects in the region. “I hope there would be much more collaboration between the EU and Iraq in the business realm,” he said, adding however that strong regulations need to be in place. There is a need for political reform and reconciliation in Iraq, he said, saying it is the biggest challenge for Iraq in the long run. The event concluded with an engaging Q&A session with students, moderated by Christine van den Toorn, director of the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS). The students asked candid questions on diverse topics like the EU’s role in fight against ISIS, humanitarian and development aid, educational support, views on Kurdish independence, along with some international topics like how the EU is dealing with rise of the conservative parties in Europe, and EU’s relations with the United States after the American elections. AUIS students welcomed the opportunity of an open dialogue with the European Union representative in Iraq, and the University looks forward to holding similar discussions as part of our Diplomatic Lecture Series. Listen to Ambassador Simonnet’s talk in the podcast below.
Breast Cancer Awareness at the American University of Iraq, Sulamani Early detection of Breast Cancer can lead to prevention. Rebaz Foundation started this campaign in order to expand the knowledge related to breast cancer and how to detect it among young women. As part of this campaign, Rebaz Foundation would like to give a lecture/seminar by an experienced doctor, so that young women at the university know how to examine themselves. Dr. Kazdhim Faruq is from Kurdish origin. He studied Palliative Care Management in Applied Science Private University in Jordan. He continued his studies in Oxford University where he studied Good Clinical Practice and Clinical Trail Investigator. He received his MB ChB (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) in University of Sulaimani. In 2015 he acquired his Master of Science in Clinical Oncology in University of Birmingham and Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He currently works in Hiwa Cancer Hospital.
Dr. Barkey led his in-depth discussion of Turkey’s rise and its impact on foreign policy by identifying four reasons for Turkey’s major strategic shift in the past ten years. The first major influence on Turkey’s more assertive foreign policy is its booming domestic economy. Citing Turkish export growth from $2 billion to $198 billion between 1980 and 2008, Dr. Barkey talked about how Turkish business interests led the Turkish government to establish or improve diplomatic relations. “This has nothing to do with the current government, the AK Party or the Justice and Development Party,” Dr. Barkey explained. “It has to do with a major transformation that started in Turkey in the early 1980s, after the military coup, when Turgut Ozal was prime minister and later president” and led the country through an early series of economic reforms. Second in Turkey’s new foreign policy structure is a shift in the interest of pursuing relations with the European Union. Whereas previous governments sought to expand Turkish-EU relations based on an aversion to relations with Middle Eastern governments, the AK Party sees pursuing EU membership as a necessary check on the Turkish military. This relationship, Dr. Barkey argued in the question and answer period, is not a zero sum game: Turkey’s relationship with Europe makes it even more attractive for business relationships in the East. Third and fourth, Dr. Barkey analyzed how AK Party’s foreign policy ambitions match international developments in the region. AK Party leadership is now pushing Turkey to “punch above its weight,” as Dr. Barkey explained, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has vamped up diplomatic initiatives as part of his “zero problems with neighbors” policy. This has coincided nicely, Dr. Barkey argued, with international power politics in the region, particularly the vacuum left by the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. These four impacts on Turkish politics have led to a number of new initiatives in the Middle East. No more dramatic has this strategic change occurred than in Turkey’s relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. “I believe the situation for the Kurds is reaching a climax,” remarked Dr. Barkey, who pointed out that only a few years ago it would have been impossible to conceive of Turkish diplomats working with the KRG as an ally. The lecture was part of a two-day visit to AUIS sponsored by CPSS that also included a meeting with select AUIS students in the International Studies program.