Cablegate: Iraq Economic Recovery: Role of Science &

DE RUEHC #0227/01 3461705
R 111658Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: (A) BAGHDAD 2769 (B) BAGHDAD 3455

1. (U) Summary: To accelerate Iraq's economic recovery, a
roundtable of U.S. experts, convened by the Department, has
offered to help Iraq establish and develop its own National
Science Foundation (NSF). Science and technology (the
application of science) has long been a vital engine of
economic development but has not been leveraged in Iraq's
economic recovery. The roundtable of science and technology
(S&T) experts identified eight ways that an Iraqi version of
an NSF can contribute to Iraq's economic recovery, as well as
to the objectives of the Strategic Framework Agreement and
the International Compact with Iraq (see paragraph 7).
However, before the S&T roundtable can provide further
assistance, it requires more information from the Government
of Iraq (GOI) (see paragraph 9). End Summary.

The GOI Intends to Leverage S&T in Iraq's Economic Recovery
--------------------------------------------- --------------

2. (U) On September 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Science and
Technology (MOST) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU)
with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to
evaluate and recommend improvements to Iraq's S&T
capabilities and policies, so they can better support
economic development (reftel A). On September 15, the Iraqi
Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR)
announced the GOI's intent to establish and fund an
independent scientific research authority (SRA) to, among
other things, (a) evaluate and recommend improvements to
Iraq's S&T capabilities, policies, and practices; (b) promote
and fund S&T research; and (c) oversee university S&T
centers. These announcements are complementary and - along
with other recent GOI actions such as the proposed law to
increase compensation and incentives for top scientists -
demonstrate the GOI's intent to leverage S&T in Iraq's
economic recovery.

The Department Is Preparing to Assist the GOI: STIP Review
--------------------------------------------- -------------

3. (SBU) The UNCTAD MOU commissions a Science, Technology,
and Innovation Policy (STIP) Review for Iraq. The
Department, through the Office of the Science and Technology
Adviser to the Secretary, intends to place at least one
representative on the STIP Review team.

The Department Is Preparing to Assist the GOI: Roundtable
--------------------------------------------- ------------

4. (SBU) Since the GOI's concept of an SRA appears similar in
structure and function to the U.S. National Science
Foundation, which has long been an important contributor to
U.S. economic growth, the Department convened a roundtable
of S&T experts on November 20 to develop a recommendation for
how the U.S. government (USG) and the U.S. S&T community
might assist the GOI in establishing an SRA, modeled on the
U.S. National Science Foundation but unique to Iraq's
culture, governmental structure, and current economic
developmental needs. The roundtable was composed of one or
more representatives from the following organizations, with
all the representatives having experience in S&T in Iraq:

-- Department of State: Office of the Science and Technology
Adviser to the Secretary of State, Bureau of Oceans and
International Environmental and Scientific Affairs's Office
of Science and Technology Cooperation, Bureau of
International Security and Nonproliferation's Science Center
Programs, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs's Office of Iraq

-- Department of Defense: International Technology Programs
Office, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

-- Non-USG: National Science Foundation, National Academy of
Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of
Science, American Association of Engineering Societies, U.S.
Civilian Research and Development Foundation, Texas Tech

. . . S&T Is Vital to, but Underutilized in, Iraq's Recovery
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

STATE 00130227 002 OF 003

5. (U) Roundtable participants agreed that S&T research and
commercialization is a vital engine of economic development
in countries around the world, but lamented that S&T has not
been leveraged in Iraq's economic recovery. They discussed
the dire condition of Iraqi S&T: (a) scientists and engineers
have been targeted and killed, (b) many have fled Iraq for
safer locations, (c) the S&T community that remains in Iraq
is fragmented, (d) both the Iraqi S&T communities dispersed
outside Iraq and fragmented inside Iraq are isolated from
essential communication and collaboration with other Iraqis
and the international S&T community, (e) many S&T research or
educational facilities and much S&T infrastructure are
antiquated or destroyed, and (f) key S&T research or
educational funding has been eliminated. Consequently, Iraqi
S&T may be 20 or more years behind global state of the art
and Iraqi scientists and engineers, especially those in the
private sector, have been unable to make sufficient
contribution to Iraq's economic recovery.

. . . Window of Opportunity to Employ S&T in Iraq's Recovery
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

6. (U) Roundtable participants considered the improving
situation in Iraq: As security, governance, essential
services, and economic conditions improve, Iraqi scientists
and engineers are now needed even more for the next stage of
Iraq's economic recovery. And these improving conditions
have created a window of opportunity: (a) Iraqi scientists
and engineers are beginning to stay in or return to Iraq and
reconnect with each other; (b) the GOI can now focus more on
initiatives not directly related to immediate problems with
security, governance, and essential services; (c) the GOI is
more ready and able to fund S&T initiatives; and (d) U.S. S&T
institutions and companies that can contribute to S&T
initiatives are more able to work in Iraq.

. . . Through Iraqi Version of a National Science Foundation
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

7. (SBU) Roundtable participants identified the following
benefits to Iraq that an SRA could provide and that the U.S.
S&T community could support with appropriate advice and
assistance. These benefits could help achieve objectives in
both the Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq (SFA) and
the International Compact with Iraq (ICI); the benefits are
linked below to each document. (Note: None of the eight
items in the following list are actual terms or conditions in
the SFA or ICI, and none of these items would be funded by
the USG. Each of these items could, however, help achieve
the general intent of the referenced clause in the SFA or

-- Iraqi facilitating and funding of S&T research and
encouraging commercialization of that research - to fuel
Iraq's education and economic recovery (SFA IV.2, V.10)

-- Providing incentives for scientists and engineers not to
flee Iraq and for those who have fled to return - to
contribute to Iraq's education and economic recovery
(ICI 4.4.1)

-- Engaging Iraq's private-sector S&T expertise, a mostly
untapped resource, in Iraq's economic recovery (ICI 4.2.1)

-- Alleviating insufficient Iraqi ministerial capacity needed
to exploit S&T in Iraq's economic recovery and providing a
forum for improving cooperation between Iraqi ministries,
between the Iraqi central and provincial governments, and
between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan
Regional Government (SFA V.5)

-- Bridging ethno-sectarian divides that have hampered other
U.S. initiatives during Iraq's reconstruction, since S&T
activities are normally apolitical and cross-cultural -
thereby promoting social stability (ICI 3.1.1)

-- Equipping of university S&T research centers by the GOI;
funding of advanced research by the GOI; and facilitating
faculty and student S&T collaboration, partnerships, and
exchanges between Iraqi universities and between U.S. and
Iraqi universities - to modernize and rejuvenate Iraqi higher
education and develop Iraq's human capital (SFA IV.2, IV.3;
ICI 4.4.1) (see reftel B for complementary Post initiatives)

-- Engaging the global community, especially Arab countries,
in Iraq's economic recovery through S&T collaboration and
direct investment (SFA V.5, V.7; ICI 4.3.4)

STATE 00130227 003 OF 003

-- Accelerating redirection of Iraqi Weapons of Mass
Destruction (WMD) experts into activities that contribute to
Iraq's economic recovery - reducing national security risks
for the United States and its allies and terrorism risks in
Iraq (SFA III, ICI 3.1.1)

Should We Exploit This Window of Opportunity?

8. (U) S&T roundtable participants offered to (a) re-convene
as needed to continue to offer advice on U.S. S&T engagement
in Iraq and (b) assemble a small team of S&T experts, from
the organizations represented at the roundtable and from the
broader U.S. S&T community, to make one or more trips to Iraq
to assist the GOI in establishing and developing an SRA. The
roundtable participants agreed, however, that before they
could be of any further value, they needed more detailed
information on the GOI's desires, intents, and priorities.

9. (SBU) Comment: The U.S. S&T community is prepared to help
the GOI establish an SRA, but the community needs more
information on the GOI's desires, intents, and priorities
related to assistance in establishing an SRA. Post's
dialogue with the GOI could yield better understanding of how
to use U.S. S&T engagement in Iraq's economic recovery and in
development of an SRA. The Department is prepared to assist
Post in establishing this dialogue by sending an S&T
community representative to consult with the GOI on how the
community can best assist Iraq. NEA/I-EAA officer Jeff
O'Neal will consult with Post on the desirability and timing
of such a visit. End Comment.

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