'Region faces radical changes and challenges'

"The region is facing radical changes and challenges.”

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) and the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) hosted the fourth annual Sulaimani Forum (Suli Forum), where Kurdistan Region, Iraqi and foreign leaders focused on current events throughout the Middle East, Islamic State (IS), and the economic situation in Kurdistan Region.

The two-day event began Wednesday under the theme of “Renewed Challenges for the Middle East,” which according to AUIS was meant to "engage in meaningful dialogue and tackle the most complex issues facing the region.”

The AUIS forum was opened by a keynote address by Barham Salih, former prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and followed by a speech by the Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani. Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari gave a speech following that of the prime minister. 

Former prime minister Salih raised several issues facing Kurdistan Region, Iraq and the region in general. “There are great opportunities available at hand as the region is facing radical changes and challenges,” he said.

Salih added that Kurdistan Region is facing deep political and economic problems; therefore, changes are necessary. “Cooperation and coordination between the Iraqi government and the KRG is the only way to overcome these issues,” Salih added.

In his speech, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said that the desire to force political will on each other in the Region resulted in the current political misfortune, “We don’t need to win against each other, but we need to win against ISIS.”

According to Barzani, the Peshmerga were successful in protecting all ethnic and religious communities and is considered the most trusted force in the country. “The Peshmerga forces were able to free 2,426 women from ISIS; however, many are still held as hostages,” he added.

During his speech, the Iraqi foreign minister stated that “The war against ISIS is a world war; all ethnicities and religions are victims to it. The war does not differentiate between gender and age [either].”

Brett McGurk, Special US Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, spoke to the audience in the first panel of the Suli Forum. McGurk stated that in order for Mosul to be liberated, there is a need first to empower the locals, and bring all the different forces together under the leadership of authorities in Baghdad.

The forum concluded on Thursday covering topics such as "The Economic Crisis and Challenges of Reform," "Society Beyond Extremism: the War of Ideas," and "Turmoil and Disorder: a New Sykes-Picot."

The fourth annual forum, the signature event of the IRIS at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), featured senior politicians, leading academics, researchers and military experts from many different countries.

The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani was established in 2007 as a not-for-profit institution dedicated to providing a comprehensive liberal arts education for the benefit of Kurdistan, Iraq and the wider region.


Reporting by Baxtiyar Goran
Editing by Benjamin Kweskin and Ava Homa