Cablegate: Iraqi Mfa Welcomes Cohen-Google Delegation

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1. (U) Summary: On November 22, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hoshyar Zebari and MFA Senior Policy Advisor Fareed Yasseen
met with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, State Department Policy
Planning Staff member Jared Cohen, Trident Capital CEO Don
Dixon, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter
Pace, Google consultant Sophie Schmidt, and Embassy Minister
Counselor for Public Affairs. The group discussed the
potential role of technology in furthering GOI goals, as well
as possible ways in which Iraq can better leverage the
internet. Both sides welcomed greater collaboration between
Iraq and the United States to foster increased innovation and
technology adoption. End summary.


2. (U) After exchanging greetings with the Cohen-Google
delegation and welcoming the group, FM Zebari stressed the
value of technology in fostering non-military cooperation
between the United States and Iraq. He illustrated Iraq's
openness to technological expansion by remarking that Iraq
was the first country in the region to introduce television
in 1957 and utilize mainframe computers starting in 1964, and
that the nation boasts the highest rate of cell phone and
internet adoption in the Middle East. FM Zebari commended
Google's imaging project with the Iraqi National Museum, and
encouraged more partnerships of a similar ilk. In response
to a question from Google CEO Eric Schmidt about the GOI's
technology needs and priorities, FM Zebari stated that Iraq
is attempting to "catch up" with technology after a "painful"
period of stringent sanctions beginning in the 1990s. He
added that due to restrictions that currently prevent the
Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Agriculture
from engaging in particular types of scientific research, the
GOI is striving to leverage technological solutions to
enhance training and education for Iraqis as it strives to
get out from under Chapter VII status.

3. (U) Senior MFA Policy Advisor Fareed Yasseen emphasized
the role of technology in institution building, highlighting
its role in strengthening security, e-government tools, and
the digitalization of documents and archives. Yasseen
pointed out that religious and cultural institutions, in
addition to government entities, can be "transformed" by
technology. Both Yasseen and FM Zebari commented that in the
wake of the August 19 bombing that destroyed much of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the MFA was able to more quickly
resume operations because all of its important files,
archives, and documents had been scanned and saved.

--------------------------------------------- -----------

4. (U) FM Zebari shared with the Cohen-Google delegation
his view that the GOI needs to focus more on national
reconciliation efforts, which will take "time, patience, and
outreach." He stated that Iraq's upcoming elections will
answer "whether we can all live together," but stressed that
the USG still has a role to play in assisting Iraq with this
critical, transitional period. "The election is not a magic
solution, and there is a long time between now and the end of
2011," he added. When Google CEO Eric Schmidt asked the MFA
officials what the most difficult time in their experience in
Iraq has been, they recalled the "desperate" period in Iraq
in 1988, when more than 100,000 Iraqis disappeared, as well
as the period after the first Gulf War. FM Zebari concluded
that while conditions are much better now, "serious
challenges remain".
Qchallenges remain".

5. (U) Google CEO Eric Schmidt intimated to FM Zebari that
GOI efforts to expand Iraq's broadband network infrastructure
as widely as possible, particularly in Baghdad and other
Iraqi cities, would enable greater innovation and
entrepreneurship among the Iraqi people. He suggested that
providing increased internet access to city dwellers could
facilitate greater levels of discussion among entrepreneurs,
and provide citizens the tools to learn about current events
and participate in projects like the imaging efforts at the
Iraqi National Museum and the creation of the new National
Museum website. In response to the FM's comments about
reconciliation, Schmidt offered that a possible plan to
further GOI goals in this area would be to initiate a program
to enable Iraqis who have lost family members in the last 20
years to draft an on-line testimonial, thus providing every
Iraqi the chance to make the internet personally meaningful
and useful. MFA Senior Policy Advisor Yasseen stated that
this effort might be in line with similar initiatives that
the GOI and the Memory Foundation have participated in.

6. (SBU) S/P Cohen shared that in addition to the group's
meetings in Baghdad, the delegation will also visit Ur to

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determine the feasibility of providing imagery of the
archaeological sites associated with the Google-imaged
artifacts in the Museum. When asked by MFA Senior Policy
Advisor Yasseen if Google is accepting interns from Iraq, S/P
Cohen elaborated on Secretary Clinton's announcement at the
Business and Investment Conference that Iraq is the first
country in which the USG is piloting an internship program
for international students in collaboration with Google.
S/P Cohen thanked FM Zebari on behalf of the delegation and
expressed the hope that the Google delegation's visit would
pave the way for greater collaboration between the U.S.
private sector and Iraqi entities.


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