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Cablegate: Era of Closer Cooperation Begins with Basrah University

VZCZCXRO6220
PP RUEHBC
DE RUEHBC #0063/01 3490850
ZNY EEEEE ZZH
P 150850Z DEC 09
FM REO BASRAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0947
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0525
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHBC/REO BASRAH 0985

UNCLAS E F T O SECTION 01 OF 02 BASRAH 000063

SENSITIVE NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OEXC SCUL SOCI PREL PGOV IZ IR
SUBJECT: ERA OF CLOSER COOPERATION BEGINS WITH BASRAH UNIVERSITY

REF: BASRAH 061

BASRAH 00000063 001.3 OF 002


====================
Introduction/Summary
====================

1. (SBU/NF) In a December 3 meeting, Basrah University's new
chancellor, Dr. Saleh Najim, reviewed the status of the
province's premier academic institution and related plans to
create a new university devoted solely to petroleum and mineral
studies. The PRT outlined possible avenues of cooperation,
which received an enthusiastic response from Chancellor Najim,
who hopes such cooperation will diminish Iranian influence at
the university. The chancellor signed documents that formally
launch new U.S. programs to support agricultural and legal
studies at the university. The pro-American chancellor's
approval of these programs, and his enthusiastic endorsement of
other proposed cooperation, sets the stage for a sustained and
mutually beneficial relationship with this important Basrah
institution. End Introduction/Summary.

============
Basrah U 101
============

2. (U) Basrah University is the premier high-education
institution of Basrah province. Chancellor Najim informed us
that the university has some 30,000 students studying in its 15
colleges, and another 1,000 students doing post-graduate work.
Its two campuses in Basrah city house professional schools for
law, medicine, dentistry, and nursing. According to the
chancellor, 20 Basrah University students have received
scholarships from the Ministry of Education to study in the U.S.
this year. The Ministry of Education has asked Chancellor Najim
to help establish a second university in Basrah, one that will
be devoted solely to petroleum and mineral studies. The new
university, modeled after King Fahd University for Petroleum and
Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, will be located near the new
Sports City complex being built on undeveloped land within
Basrah city limits. Najim said the new university is expected
to take two years to complete once started.

==================================
New Prospects for U.S. Cooperation
==================================

3. (U) During the meeting, PRT section heads discussed possible
avenues of U.S. cooperation with Basrah University. These
include seeking greater involvement in USG educational and
cultural exchange programs, support for the establishment of a
TOEFEL center at the university, training for the university's
English instructors, increased cooperation in legal training for
law students, and opportunities for collaboration with
universities in the United States. (Note: Basrah University
currently has a relationship with the Colorado School of Mines
that is not meeting its expectations. Without going into
details, but suggesting that the relationship may be on paper
only and no longer viable, the Chancellor said Basrah University
might be partly to blame.) The PRT also discussed two proposals
to support the engineering department and dental school that are
expected to be funded under CERP and QRF.

============================================
An Opportunity to Diminish Iranian Influence
============================================

4. (SBU/NF) Chancellor Najim was enthusiastic about these
opportunities and expressed support for them. Having spent time
in Texas, the chancellor said he respected the U.S. and wanted
to increase cooperation with the USG and American academic
institutions. He hoped increased U.S. cooperation with the
university would diminish Iranian influence (reftel), which had
grown under the previous chancellor to include training of
students and faculty in Iran. Chancellor Najim wanted to
reverse course, and said that he had rejected an offer by the
Iranian Consul General to finance a journal that would be
published by Basrah University's Iranian studies department.

============================================= ===============
Launching Programs to Support Agricultural and Legal Studies
============================================= ===============

5. (U) PRT used the meeting to formalize two new programs at the
university. The Chancellor signed letters of sustainment for
three CERP-funded agricultural testing labs (water, soil, and
palm date tissue) worth almost one million dollars.
Establishment of these laboratories was one of the
recommendations made by the Borlaug Group after conducting an
extensive assessment of Basrah's agricultural sector.
Chancellor Najim also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on
the terms of the Access to Justice program, designed and

BASRAH 00000063 002.2 OF 002


implemented by the PRT's Rule of Law section. Under the
program, the university's law students will partner with lawyers
from Basrah's Bar Association to provide legal representation to
detainees in Iraq's criminal justice system.

=======
Comment
=======

6. (SBU/NF) PRT cooperation with Basrah University will increase
substantially over the near- and long-term now that Dr. Saleh
Najim has taken over as its chancellor. UK-educated and
westernized, Dr. Najim understands the advantages of cooperation
with the U.S. and welcomes it. Having developed a good working
relationship with the new chancellor when he was Dean of the
Engineering School, the PRT is well positioned to build a strong
and fruitful relationship with Basrah University. This is a
welcome change from the recent past when the former chancellor,
either because of inertia or suspected pro-Iranian sentiments,
made our dealings with the university difficult, most recently
by blocking the Access to Justice project proposed by the PRT's
Rule of Law section. Chancellor Najim's approval of this and
other programs, and his enthusiastic endorsement of other
proposed cooperation with the U.S., set the stage for a
sustained and mutually beneficial relationship with this
important Basrah institution.
NALAND

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