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Cablegate: Eca a/S Goli Ameri's Meeting with Iraqi Higher Education

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGB #3455/01 3031427
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291427Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0151

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 003455

SIPDIS

STATE PASS TO ECA/A/E/NEA, NEA/PPD, NEA/I

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OEXC SCUL IZ
SUBJECT: ECA A/S GOLI AMERI'S MEETING WITH IRAQI HIGHER EDUCATION
OFFICIALS

1. (U) Summary. Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Barham Salih hosted A/S
Goli Ameri and Iraq's most important higher education officials for
a roundtable discussion in his home on October 20. The participants
from both countries stressed their commitment to revitalize higher
education in Iraq and their readiness to act. The DPM expressed
support for a higher education council and a willingness to match
Fulbright scholarships one-for-one, doubling the size of the current
Fulbright program in Iraq. Higher education officials also expressed
their desire to establish institutional linkages between U.S. and
Iraqi universities. End summary.

2. (U) On October 20, senior education officials of the Government
of Iraq (GOI) met with Goli Ameri, Assistant Secretary of State for
Educational and Cultural Affairs. The GOI team was led by Deputy
Prime Minister Dr. Barham Salih and included Dr. Abdul Dhiab Ojaili,
the Minister of Higher Eduation and Scientific Research; Dr. Taqi
Al-Musawi, President of Mustansiriyah University; Dr. Adnan
Al-Janabi, President of Nahrain University; Dr. Qahtan Al-Khazraji,
President of University of Technology, Dr. Mahmoud Shakir, Head of
the Technical Education Commission; and Dr. Zuhair Humadi, Advisor
to Vice President Adel Abd Al-Mahdi and Director of the Prime
Minister's Iraq Education Initiative. The U.S. side was represented
by A/S Goli Ameri; Counselor for Public Affairs, Ambassador Adam
Ereli; ECA Policy Advisor, Rick Ruth; Cultural Affairs Officer,
Helen LaFave; Fulbright Program Manager, Jay Taylor; and Assistant
Cultural Affairs Officer, Jinnie Lee (note taker).

3. (U) DPM Barham Salih convened Iraq's leading players in higher
education. He opened the discussion stating the people he invited
were ready to engage on promoting and improving higher education in
Iraq. He stated there may be disagreement on U.S. policy but none at
the table doubted the value and quality of American education, or
the fact that Iraq's future is tied to the success of its education.
He spoke of Iraq's role as the center of higher education in the
Middle East during the seventies and the desire to regain their
status as quickly as possible. He stressed the importance of
restoring linkages between U.S. and Iraqi institutions of higher
education.

4. (U) The Minister of Higher Education stated there are 25 public
universities, 25 private universities, and 40 technical/professional
schools in Iraq, including the Kurdistan region. There are a total
of 550,000 students, about a fifth of whom are post-graduate
students. His top priorities are international accreditation
issues, curriculum development, and collaboration in research. He
stated repeatedly that GOI is willing to pay, they just want the
U.S. to provide expertise and facilitation.

5. (U) The President of Nahrain University reiterated the group's
desires to see Iraqi education return to its pinnacle in the
seventies. He stressed the importance of exchanges with U.S.
institutions. He stated "Iraq has money, the U.S. just needs to give
us opportunities." He mentioned linking Iraqi universities with
American universities, matching departments based on specialties.

6. (U) The President of Mustansiriyah University, which claims to be
the world's first university in the world (established 1227) and the
second largest in Iraq, said his staff is in desperate need of
training. He also emphasized the importance of Internet access,
connection to U.S. institutions, and access to their virtual
libraries. He stated student and faculty exchanges were critical to
democracy; "Students need to see democracy to believe it." A
physician by profession, as a specific deliverable, he requested
access to the National Institute of Health's online resources.

7. (U) The DPM and higher education leaders definitely share a
clear, unified mission with specific initiatives:
-- Establishment of a Bi-national Commission for Higher Education
-- Increasing the number of educational exchanges, with GOI sharing
costs
-- Establishing institutional linkages with U.S. universities and
colleges
-- Access to online education, libraries and other resources on the
Internet
-- Training and train-the-trainer programs, especially for
management of higher education institutions
-- Assistance with GOI scholarships - seeking relief on visas,
receiving assistance for trained educational advisors and
counselors

8. (U) A/S Ameri thanked the group for their insights and proposed
bringing the Iraqi officials together with the higher education
community in the U.S. to present firsthand their needs and ambitions
for Iraq. A/S Ameri offered to convene U.S. higher education
professional associations (AAU, AACU) in D.C. to lay the groundwork
for partnership with Iraqi universities. She also stated her support
for a higher education council similar to the one in India, at which
point the DPM looked at the Minister of Higher Education and stated
that the Cabinet would find the funds and it was his directive to
get this mechanism established.

9. (U) Conclusion: With improvements in security, Iraqis are ready
to focus on education. GOI is willing to commit not only their
efforts but funds to these initiatives and seeks U.S. support and
expertise. We look forward to working with ECA to implement
Fulbright matching funds by GOI, to establish a higher education
council and to forge linkages with U.S. universities.

CROCKER

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