Sulaimani Forum 2013
THE CHANGING POLITICS OF THE MIDDLE EAST
The Inaugural Sulaimani Forum, "The Changing Geopolitics of the Middle East", was held on the 12th and 13th of March 2013.
The first ever Sulaimani Forum featured distinguished international scholars, journalists, and government officials such as Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Iraq; Zalmay Khalilzad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations; and Max Rodenbeck, Chief Middle East Correspondent for The Economist. Participants considered broad issues such as the social and economic repercussions of energy policies; the emerging role of women leaders; and the global effects of the wave of unrest and change that swept the region in the wake of multiple and historic Arab uprisings. They also explored the particular cases of Iraq, its neighbors, and the Kurdish issue, along with the diverse geopolitical implications for the Middle East and beyond.
The Forum was a unique and groundbreaking gathering considering not only its timing but its location, as pointed out by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in his opening speech. While most experts gather in Washington and London to analyze happenings of the Middle East, this conference appropriately took place in the region where the actual events were taking place, not to mention in the midst of ongoing protests in various parts of Iraq, and in a city called the cultural capital of Kurdistan where some say a brief ‘Kurdish Spring’ took place in the winter of 2011. In his address, Barham Salih mentioned that he hoped the stability that allows for the conference to take place in the Kurdistan Region will spread throughout the Middle East: “I hope Kurdistan, beyond being just a success story for Kurds, can also offer a model, a catalyst for change and reform in our region.” The purpose of the Sulaimani Forum is to encourage this change and reform through better relationships, exchange, and dialogue. “Kurdish interest,” Salih concluded, “lies in being connected with our neighbors, connected with the rest of the world.”