Cablegate: Provincial Participation in the U.S.-Iraq


DE RUEHC #5235 3102343
R 062338Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: Participation of Iraqi Provincial officials
in the U.S.-Iraq Business and Investment Conference produced
excellent results. Iraqi Governors and Provincial Investment
Commission Chairmen were well-prepared and active throughout
the conference and aggressively courted potential investors.
Seventeen remained in Washington for the follow-on
Intergovernmental Dialogue, a series of events planned
specifically for provincial officials, where they heard how
U.S. state and municipal officials attract business, spur
economic development and work as a group to lobby the federal
government. The Iraqis seemed surprised at the warmth of the
welcome they received from Americans of all stripes, and they
left with a sense that U.S.-Iraqi partnership was possible on
a cultural and community level, not just in the realm of
hard-power. A series of follow-up actions to capitalize on
the connections established at the conference are planned, on
both the U.S. and the Iraqi side. END SUMMARY.

Provincial Officials Go to Washington

2. (U) The delegation of over 100 Government of Iraq (GOI)
officials to the U.S.-Iraq Business and Investment Conference
included 35 Provincial Governors and Provincial Investment
Commission (PIC) Chairmen. The conference generated
tremendous energy from the hundreds of businesses and
investors exchanging information and striking deals with
Iraqi businesspersons and officials. For most of the
provincial officials (unlike many of their national-level
counterparts), this was their first visit to the U.S. and
their first opportunity to represent their provinces. They
came prepared-the Basrah delegation presented sophisticated
and effective marketing and informational materials, and
Karbala, Anbar, and Baghdad delegations aggressively (and
successfully) courted investors and other non-governmental
partnerships. PRT representatives advised their Iraqi
counterparts and assisted in the matchmaking, for example,
arranging for the Anbar Governor to hold a series of meetings
with energy companies following the conference, and for the
Baghdad Governor to meet with American University officials
to explore mutual interest in establishing an AU campus in
Baghdad (a memorandum of understanding was signed).

Intergovernmental Dialogue

3. (U) NEA/I/PRT and the Office of Provincial Affairs
(OPA) planned two additional days of events following the
two-day Investment Conference, specifically designed for
provincial officials. Continuing the focus on private
investment, these Intergovernmental Dialogue events
introduced the provincial officials to government and
non-governmental U.S. officials at local, state and federal
levels involved in economic and business development. The
Iraqi Governors and PIC Chairmen heard from Smithsonian
Museum directors, Maryland State officials, the National
Governors Association of lobbyists working on behalf of state
governors in Washington, DC, and congressional staff on the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Developing the State

4. (U) On the first day of the Intergovernmental Dialogue,
seventeen of the visiting provincial officials journeyed to
Annapolis, Maryland where they met with state executive and
legislative officials. Speakers highlighted Maryland's
efforts to attract businesses and investment, including
Kassie Lewis from Maryland's Department of Business and
Economic Development (DBED) who described a process of
listening to businesses and their problems and working to
addresses those problems through legislation, regulatory
action, financing, and incentives. The Iraqis were very
interested in the State's techniques for seeking and actively
recruiting businesses to locate in Maryland and they were
surprised to learn the extent to which state and local
officials were proactive and solicitous in visiting
businesses and trying to draw them into their borders. The
Iraqis seemed eager to follow up on this exchange and to
gather additional information on DBED; they believe that this
office could serve as a model for similar offices in
provinces across Iraq, and that Lewis and other Maryland
officials met throughout the day could serve as invaluable

5. (U) Discussion at the county level focused on zoning,
business councils, business incubators, and workforce
development, and how these areas relate to business
development and economic climate in the area. For example,
Anne Arundel County officials recently completed a 10-year
Master Development Plan, and they described the prominent
importance of zoning regulations to economic growth. The
officials further stressed the importance of involving all
aspects of the community, for example, citing business
incubators as partnerships between government, private
businesses, and universities that offer full infrastructure
and service support facilities and low rent space for
start-up companies and university spin-off enterprises until
they are self-sustaining.

6. (U) Discussion of the intense competition for the best
school systems within the state and the fact that education
constitutes a major part of the overall state budget grabbed
the attention of the Iraqis. They were also very interested
in hearing about the various sources of revenue for the
state. Hearing from actual practitioners seemed a very
valuable experience to the Iraqis, with several participants
echoing the feelings of a Karbala Provincial Council member
who stated, "For several years, we've been inching along in
Iraq with the development of our new government and the
reconstruction of our country. We have had a vague
understanding of what we're aiming for and what our U.S.
advisors on the PRT are trying to teach us. But now we come
on this visit to the U.S. and we see with our own eyes the
full picture of what we're working towards, and we get to
talk to people who can tell us the details of how an advanced
democracy works. This is very valuable and I wish it had not
taken so long to happen."

Affecting the National Government

7. (U) The last day of the Intergovernmental Dialogue
introduced the provincial officials to the National Governors
Association (NGA). Leaders of this bipartisan organization
had an informative discussion with the Iraqi Governors and
other representatives, centering on the mandate, funding and
mission of the NGA. The Iraqis commented specifically on how
the meeting gave them new ideas for organizing amongst
provinces. While a Governors Commission nominally exists in
Iraq, it has yet to become very active. The Governors of
Baghdad, Basrah, Muthanna, and Najaf agreed afterwards to
meet on a monthly basis to discuss joint initiatives and
means of lobbying the national government in Baghdad.

Follow-Up to the Conference

8. (U) Baghdad, Wasit, and Ninewa are currently planning
post-conference follow-up events, which PRTs in those
provinces will help facilitate. NEA/I/PRT will follow-up
with the individuals who met with the Iraqis during the
Intergovernmental Dialogue event in an effort to further
their involvement and transmittal of valuable knowledge to
the Governors and PIC Chairs. OPA, with assistance from
Basrah PRT, will obtain and distribute copies of the Basrah
delegation's marketing and informational materials for use by
other provinces and PRTs as models to emulate. The Iraqis
were interested in obtaining examples of Maryland's marketing
and investment promotion products, as well. NEA/I/PRT and
OPA will distribute these through the PRTs once obtained.
NEA/I/PRT stands ready to assist provincial officials,
through the PRTs, by following up with any business or other
contact in the U.S.

9. (U) COMMENT: The Iraqis were shocked to hear from some
of their compatriots who have recently emigrated to the U.S.
how far behind the Iraqi education system is compared to
American counterparts, especially at the grade school level.
The connection between school quality and attractiveness of a
city or region for investment was also clearly understood by
them and many declared their intention to return to Iraq with
a focus to tackle improvements to the Iraqi education system.
The officials made several key contacts with potential
investors and valuable U.S. counterparts in Maryland and
Washington. Our follow-up will help provincial officials
capitalize on the contacts they made in the U.S., along with
improving their skills at marketing their provinces. END

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