detail - Syria/Iraq Office
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The Syria/Iraq Office of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) supported the Al-Rafidain Center for Dialogue (RCD) - one of the leading centers for political debates in Iraq - in organizing its first annual forum in Baghdad from February 4-5, 2019. In the run-up to the conference, the RCD held a series of hands-on workshops on February 3, including a session on the impacts of climate change on Iraq, to better inform Iraqi officials and policymakers. The conference closed in Najaf on February 6 in the form of a panel of dignitaries of the various religious communities in Iraq and a visit to the world-famous Iman Ali Holy Shrine.
The first day of the conference on February 4 began with a speech by Iraqi President Dr. Barham Salih. The head of state emphasized that Iraq acts as a sovereign state in the Middle East and resolutely tackles the upcoming challenges in the region. Referring to the recent statement of US President Trump on keeping American troops in Iraq “to watch Iran,” Salih stated that no request was sent to Iraq yet and that the troops’ presence was allowed to support the fight against IS and provide capacity building. He called on the international community and foreign powers not to overburden Iraq with their own issues. The opening speech was followed by seven discussion rounds, including a debate with the President of the Council of Representatives, Mohammad al-Halbusi. The Sunni politician emphasized that the work of the parliament in the current legislative period would place a special focus on the multiple socio-economic problems in Iraq, such as poor electricity supply and rampant corruption. The final panel discussion, dubbed “Government Program between Achievements and Challenges,” was organized by the Syria/Iraq Office and highlighted the current work and upcoming projects of the Iraqi government. Speakers included Michael Knights, a world-renowned expert on the Iraqi security sector, and Laith Kuba, who acts as advisor to Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi. The first day of the conference concluded with two successive expert interviews within the framework of the so-called "Meet the Leaders" format, which featured inter alia the Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Qubad Talabani.
On the second day of the conference on February 5, five more round tables were held. Among the prominent speakers was former Iraqi president, Dr. Fuad Masum, who was interviewed by the spokesperson for the current Iraqi President, Lukman Faily, about his term of office in the context of the fight against IS. In addition, Faek Zidan, Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq, spoke about the problems and challenges facing the Iraqi judiciary. Another panel was made up of the French and European Union Ambassadors to Iraq, as well as the US Chargé d'Affaires to Iraq. The three diplomats discussed the current Western view on the country. The second day of the conference also concluded with two consecutive expert interviews which took place in the evening.
The RCD Forum 2019 was the first conference of its kind held in Baghdad and can be regarded as a success. The forum brought together Iraq's leading decision-makers and managed to foster dialogue between the different parts of Iraqi society, as well as initiate effective discussions on the challenges facing Iraq. Concrete suggestions were also put forward on how to overcome the hurdles for economic, security and social progress in Iraq.