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Cablegate: Erbil Rrt: Standing Room Only Audiences for U.S. Election


DE RUEHGB #3545/01 3141505
R 091505Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

This is an Erbil Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) reporting


1. With the strong support of Embassy Baghdad's Public Affairs
Section, RRT Erbil's Public Diplomacy Section brought University of
Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Mike Hannahan to the Kurdistan
Region October 26-November 7 for a series of lectures at major
universities. Hannahan, the Director of the Civic Initiative
program at U-Mass, is an expert on American elections and focused
his talks on the U.S. presidential election. Hannahan spoke to more
than 1,100 people at major universities in Dohuk, Erbil, and
Sulaimaniyah. He moderated a video teleconference (VTC) on the eve
of the U.S. elections between students at University of
Kurdistan-Hawler and his own students at U-Mass. Hannahan delivered
the keynote remarks at RRT Erbil's election night event, carried
live by Zagros TV, and also met with the Kurdistan Regional
Government's Minister for Higher Education. The success of Professor
Hannahan's program demonstrates that American academics can and
should come to northern Iraq for extended periods for the purpose of
building stronger ties between Iraqi and American institutions. End

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Lectures at Dohuk University...

3. Professor Hannahan's first stop was Dohuk University, which
routinely hosts visiting faculty members from European universities
and whose leadership has frequently asked for USG support in
bringing U.S. academics to the school. Hannahan gave two lectures
at the university about the U.S. presidential election: a lengthy
talk to more than 100 students from the colleges of law and arts and
a smaller session with about 50 faculty members. The lectures were
so well-received that the Dohuk provincial government asked Hannahan
to deliver an unscheduled third lecture to an enthusiastic audience
of approximately 120 leading local politicians from all the
province's major parties. Dohuk University President Dr. Asmat
Khalid told RRT PD officers that Hannahan's visit was "exactly" what
he "had been hoping for," noting that he believed it was a historic
first step in building a strong relationship between Dohuk
University and U-Mass.

...Sulaimaniyah University...

4. Hannahan then traveled to the Sulaimaniyah University, where he
delivered two lectures. The first was a lengthy presentation and
Q&A session with approximately 160 students from the political
science department and the law college, many of whom stood or sat in
the aisles once the auditorium's seats were filled. As in Dohuk,
Hannahan also held a small seminar on the election with a group of
about 30 faculty members and graduate students. Sulaimaniyah
University President Dr. Ali Saeed pleaded for more interaction with
American academics, stressing to RRT PD officers that such visits
were badly needed after the long intellectual isolation of the
Ba'athist era. While in Suly, Hannahan also met with the Acting
Chancellor of American University in Iraq-Sulaimaniyah (AUI-S) to
discuss future cooperation between U-Mass and AUI-S.

...and a Full Schedule in Erbil

5. Hannahan capped his visit to the Kurdistan Region with a
multi-day stay in Erbil, where he was hosted by the University of
Kurdistan-Hawler. In addition to delivering a lecture to more than
200 students, Hannahan hosted a video teleconference (VTC) on
November 3 between his students at U-Mass and an audience of about
250 UK-H students, faculty, and officials from the KRG's Ministry of
Higher Education. The VTC was a huge hit, receiving significant
media coverage both in the Amherst area and in Erbil. A UK-H
faculty member told RRT PD officers that the VTC, which was
conducted in English, "absolutely electrified" the UK-H students.
"I've never seen the students so excited about something," she
added. Professor Hannahan also delivered keynote remarks at RRT
Erbil's election night event, which was attended by nearly 300 VIPs
from throughout the Kurdistan Region and covered live by a major
satellite TV network (Zagros).

6. During his stay in Erbil, Professor Hannahan met with KRG
Minister of Higher Education Dr. Idris Salih. Salih accompanied
Hannahan to Salahaddin University, where Hannahan delivered a
lecture to approximately 200 students and faculty members on the
result of the U.S. presidential election and its likely impact on
both American domestic and foreign policy.

Logistics Note

7. Programming Dr. Hannahan was made much easier by the willingness
of local Iraqi institutions to take the lead in handling logistics.

He traveled to Erbil via Austrian Airlines and was treated by his
host universities like any other foreign visitor. He stayed at
hotels in Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah and in a UK-H faculty apartment
complex in Erbil. His local transportation and security
arrangements were handled entirely by his host institutions. In his
out-briefing with RRT PD officers before his departure, Professor
Hannahan stressed that he was completely comfortable with the
universities taking the lead, noting that the Kurdistan Region is
"the safest place I've ever been." What this demonstrates is that
the Kurdish region is a safe and desirable destination for
USG-funded educational and cultural experts.

Comment: More, Please

8. Mike Hannahan's host institutions and the KRG Ministry of Higher
Education have a simple message for the USG: thank you for making
the visit possible and please send more professors! With the full
support of KRG Minister of Higher Education Idris Salih, Dohuk
University President Asmat Khalid has gone beyond asking for
short-term visitors and called for placing a Fulbright scholar at
Dohuk University. The school, he emphasized to us, needs U.S.
academics to stay on campus for longer periods of time, ideally one
semester or even an academic year. Given the success of Professor
Hannahan's visit, which proved that the Kurdistan Region's
universities are capable of hosting American academics with minimal
USG involvement, we would ask that ECA give all due consideration to
Dr. Asmat's request. End Comment

9. RRT Erbil also wishes to acknowledge that Hannahan's visit to the
Kurdistan Region would not have been possible without the strong
support of Embassy Baghdad's Public Affairs Section, and the
Fulbright Program Manager Jay Taylor, in particular.


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