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Former President of Iraq Joins Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center as Senior Fellow

Former Iraq President Barham A. Salih will join the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center as a senior fellow.
Former Iraq President Barham A. Salih will join the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center as a senior fellow. By Karina G. Gonzalez-Espinoza
By Patil Djerdjerian and Rachel M. Fields, Contributing Writers

Former Iraq President Barham A. Salih joined the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Middle East Initiative as a senior fellow, the center announced on March 22.

Salih will hold this position at the Belfer Center through the end of the 2024-2025 academic year. He joins “a community of scholars and experienced leaders convened by the Middle East Initiative and the Center overall to conduct research and teaching on the region,” according to the center’s press release.

Salih served as the eighth president of Iraq from 2018 to 2022. He has also previously served as deputy prime minister of Iraq and minister of planning in the transitional government in 2005.

Salih has also been a prominent figure within Kurdish leadership, serving as prime minister of the Kurdish Regional Government from 2001 to 2004 and prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdish Region from 2009 to 2011. His participation in the Kurdish national movement and opposition to Saddam Hussein made him a target of the Ba’athist regime, which led to multiple arrests.

Belfer Center Senior Fellow Edward P. Djerejian said Salih’s appointment is “filling an important void” and provides an “Iraqi, Arab, Kurdish perspective.”

In the press release, Belfer Center director Meghan L. O’ Sullivan said Salih’s appointment will increase understanding of “events in Iraq and the wider region, and around the evolving role of ‘middle powers’ in today’s global landscape.”

Tarek E. Masoud, the faculty chair of the Middle East Initiative, also praised Salih’s appointment as senior fellow.

Salih’s “experiences as a statesman and institution builder, coupled with his formidable mind, render him a most vital addition to our intellectual community,” Masoud said.

Salih also has extensive experience in education as the founder of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani.

Djerejian said the institution is part of a “great tradition” of “grassroots dialogue, interchange between cultures, education,” which is “one of [Salih’s] already great legacies.”

Salih’s appointment comes during formal talks between the United States and Iraq on the possibility of ending the coalition against the Islamic State and amid White House preparations to host the current Iraqi prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.

“All of us at the Middle East Initiative are looking forward to working with him to generate insights that can help the region become more peaceful, prosperous, and free,” Masoud said.

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