Cablegate: Iraqi Scientists, Engineers Seek Funding For

Published: Thu 29 Sep 2005 10:38 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Iraqi Scientists, Engineers Seek Funding for
Practical R to Support Iraq Reconstruction
Ref: Amman 3791
1. Summary: The "International Conference to Engage Iraq's
Science & Technology Community in Developing its Country"
took place in Amman, Jordan on September 18-20 with support
and participation from DOE and State. Over fifty Iraqi
scientists and engineers attended to present and seek
funding for well-vetted R proposals in health, water,
agriculture, environment, and material sciences. Several
Iraqi ministries were represented at the Vice Minister
level. STAS Atkinson unveiled the Iraq Virtual Science
Library. USG support has created a cadre of Iraqi
scientists and engineers eager and able to assist with
practical reconstruction activities. Under continuing
threat, however, and with little U.S. funding for their
efforts to date, this cadre is a weakening pro-American
bastion. End summary.
DOE NNSA and Sandia Working With Arab S Foundation
--------------------------------------------- -------
2. The conference was co-sponsored by the Department of
Energy's (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories and the UAE-
based Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF). DOE's
National Nuclear Security Administration also funded the
conference. State representatives came from the Office of
the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State
(STAS), the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental
and Scientific Affairs' Office of S Cooperation (OES/STC),
and State's International Security and Non-Proliferation
Bureau (ISN)(formerly the Non-Proliferation Bureau). DOE
was represented by NNSA's Office of Global Security
Engagement and Cooperation at the Deputy Director level.
State's NP/PTR Bureau Working for Non-Proliferation
--------------------------------------------- ------
3. BACKGROUND: Both DOE and State are involved in engaging
Iraqi scientists and engineers, and the agencies have
cooperated closely to ensure there is not a duplication of
efforts. State's program, which works through Embassy
Baghdad's Iraqi Interim Center for Science and Industry
(IICSI) with ISN Bureau funding, focuses on Weapons of Mass
Destruction (WMD) scientists, with a goal of preventing WMD
expertise proliferation.
4. DOE and the Arab S Foundation initially had a broader
mission focused on reintegrating Iraqi scientists and
engineers into the global science community, and utilizing
their knowledge and skills for reconstruction. However,
recent DOE efforts are focused on WMD scientist engagement
as a priority, and proposals to be funded by DOE as a result
of this conference will include WMD scientists. State is
working closely with DOE to identify areas where we can
collaborate and possibly fund proposals jointly.
Conference Objectives - Collaborative R and Funding
--------------------------------------------- --------
5. The conference's goal was to bring together three sides
of a triangle: a "supply" of Iraqi and international
expertise, "demand" for that expertise from ministries and
other organizations in Iraq, and international funding
6. Part of the development process has been to pair up
Iraqi principal investigators (PI's) with international
collaborators from a variety of world-class research
institutions around the world, including Jordan, Egypt, the
United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and the
United States.
7. PI's and their international collaborators met in Amman
in May 2005 (reftel) to hone their initial proposals. Based
on the results of that meeting and further consultations
following it, PI's presented over thirty carefully developed
grant proposals at the September conference. Proposals
focus on health, water, agriculture, environment, and
material sciences, with a joint goal of re-engaging Iraqi
scientists and engineers with their global colleagues and in
reconstructing Iraq.
Supply, Demand and Funding - One Leg Missing
8. At the conference, there were engineers and scientists
from universities all over Iraq who comprise a "supply" of
experts with a wealth of practical experience and ability.
Universities represented at the conference included Baghdad
University, Basrah University, Al-Nahrain University, Mosul
University, the Iraqi Center for Cancer and Medical Genetics
Research, the Iraqi Academy of Science and Al-Mustansiriya
9. Representing the "demand" side of the equation, several
Iraqi ministries sent high-level participants to the meeting
to identify scientists who can assist with problems
confronting those ministries. The Ministries of Planning,
Environment, Science and Technology, Water and Construction
were represented at the Vice Minister or Secretary General
10. Funding institutions, the third and likely most
important part of the equation, were in disappointingly
short supply during the conference. ASTF, DOE, and State
supporters of this re-engagement process see the conference
as the kick-off for a longer term outreach process to find
funding for the consulting and project services that these
scientists represent. UNESCO, UN Environment Program (UNEP)
and the Arab League Education, Cultural and Scientific
Organization (ALECSO) were present. The UNESCO and ALECSO
representatives addressed the plenary session at the formal
opening of the conference, as did Jordanian Higher Council
for Science and Technology Secretary General Dr. Khalid
Iraqi Virtual Science Library - Liftoff!
11. STAS Dr. George Atkinson unveiled the Iraq Virtual
Science Library (IVSL) at the conference. The Library is a
powerful tool to provide the Iraqi scientific and
engineering communities, via the Internet, with access to
many professional societies' databases and thus thousands of
scientific and engineering journals and current research
papers. IVSL is a collaborative initiative between the
Defense Department and the State Department funded by the
Defense Threat Reduction Agency and managed by the National
Academy of Sciences. Perhaps more than any other single
factor, the IVSL will allow information-starved Iraqi
scientists to catch up with the current research in a huge
variety of scientific and technical fields and to increase
their direct contacts with the counterparts around the
world. The IVSL is undergoing "beta" testing with a group
of Iraqi universities and will be officially rolled out
later this year. Other academic institutions and Iraqi S
ministries can participate in the future. Dr. Atkinson
provided conference attendees with contact information at
the National Academy of Sciences for future inquiries.
Press Coverage Notes Themes of Tolerance, Cooperation
--------------------------------------------- --------
12. Dr. Atkinson gave an interview to a journalist from the
Jordanian daily "Al-Rai" newspaper following his speech to
the plenary. The article appeared on the back page of the
September 20 edition, headlined " U.S. Advisor Says: The
King's Remarks and Amman Message Strike A Beautiful Chord
for Tolerance and Equality." The sub-headline was "Atkinson
Announces the Virtual Science Library for Iraqis Program."
The article noted Atkinson's parallels between themes of
tolerance, equality and cooperation that run through King
Abdullah's "Amman Message," and the philosophical
underpinnings of science. Atkinson also stressed the
importance of good science to good policy, saying that the
human condition can be improved through good science that
informs the political process.
13. Comment: USG support for these R proposals merits
serious consideration. Such support would ensure that some
of the most democratic and secular members of Iraqi society
(most of whom were educated in the US, UK or elsewhere in
the West) can be gainfully employed to improve the lives of
many Iraqi citizens and help rebuild the higher education
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