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The Pathway Forward to Reform and Representation in Iraq


May 14, 2020
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm



Panel’s Video:


After seven months of some of the worst political unrest in Iraq since 2003, the Iraqi Parliament confirmed the cabinet for Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. Kadhimi faces the challenge of responding to popular unrest demanding an end to corruption and bad governance and the reform of the electoral system. The new PM must form a cabinet while facing down the meddling of political parties as well as Iran and others. Kadhimi is under the pressure of a polarized nation split between disillusioned Iraqi youth and political parties vying to preserve their power within the government. The last two PM-designates failed to set up a government.

Kadhimi must balance Baghdad’s relations with an aggrieved Tehran and an administration in Washington determined to defend its interests in Iraq. With Iran, Baghdad has vital and unchallengeable economic, societal and religious ties, while Washington is Iraq’s strongest Western ally and the architect of its current political (dis)order.

Internally, resurgent Islamic State terrorism threatens Iraq while paramilitary groups assert increased power. Rising youth unemployment, a budget unable to meet the minimum requirements the Iraqi State (propelled in part by the collapse of oil prices) compounds the rising tension between a disenchanted society and ineffectual governments since 2003.

Though the challenges are not new, Kadhimi faces a uniquely difficult task to restore the stability of the country. If he does form a government, protestors will expect the incoming PM to immediately to change the electoral system and call early parliamentary elections to form a new government.

What are the priorities of the incoming government led by Kadhimi? Will ministers be chosen according to sect, ethnicity and political affiliation as witnessed under previous cabinets or based on their qualifications? Will the new government be a transitional body awaiting early elections or a permanent fixture until Iraq’s next scheduled election in 2022? Can Kadhimi balance relations with both Tehran and Washington that advance Iraq’s own interests? What is the status of U.S. presence in Iraq under Kadhimi’s government? Will early elections remain a popular demand, and can Kadhimi deliver them?

Featured Speakers:

Ambassador Patrick Theros (moderator), Dr. Randa Slim, Dr. C. Anthony Pfaff, and Ms. Maysoon Al-Damluji.

Speakers Bio:

Ambassador Patrick Theros (moderator)

Strategic Advisor, Gulf International Forum


Ambassador Theros has held such positions as Political Advisor to the Commander in Chief, Central Command; Deputy Chief of Mission and Political officer in Amman; Charge D’affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi; Economic Counselor in Damascus; and U.S. Ambassador to the State of Qatar. In a career spanning almost 36 years, he also has served in diplomatic positions in Beirut, Managua, Dharan and Abu Dhabi, as well as in the Department of State. During that period, he earned four Superior Honor Awards. After retirement Ambassador Theros served as President of the U.S. Qatar Business Council in 2000-2017.

Ms. Maysoon Al-Damluji

Adviser of Culture and Reconstruction for The President of the Republic of Iraq Barham Saleh

Ms. Al-Damluji currently serves as Adviser of Culture and Reconstruction for Iraq’s President Barham Saleh. She had previously served as Deputy Minister of Culture (2003- 2006) in Iraq. She also was  a Liberal Member of the Iraqi Parliament for three terms (2006- 2018), and  Chaired the Parliamentary Committee for Culture and Media.  Her main focus is on cultural issues and women’s rights in Iraq.

Dr. Randa Slim

Senior Fellow and Director of Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program, Middle East Institute


Randa Slim is the Director of the Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program at the Middle East Institute and a non-resident fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) Foreign Policy Institute. A former vice president of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, Slim has been a senior program advisor at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a guest scholar at the United States Institute of Peace, a program director at Resolve, Inc, and a program officer at the Kettering Foundation. A long-term practitioner of Track II dialogue and peace-building processes in the Middle East and Central Asia, she is the author of several studies, book chapters, and articles on conflict management, post-conflict peace-building, and Middle East politics.

Dr. C. Anthony Pfaff

Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Atlantic Council

Dr. Tony Pfaff is currently a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Iraq Initiative and the research professor for the Military Profession and Ethic at the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA.

A retired Army colonel and Foreign Area Officer (FAO) for the Middle East and North Africa, Dr. Pfaff recently served as Director for Iraq on the National Security Council Staff. His last active duty posting was Senior Army and Military Advisor to the State Department from 2013-2016, where he served on the Policy Planning Staff advising on cyber, regional military affairs, the Arab Gulf Region, Iran, and security sector assistance reform. Prior to taking the State Department position, he served as the Defense Attaché in Baghdad, the Chief of International Military Affairs for US Army Central Command, and as the Defense Attaché in Kuwait.

He served twice in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, once as the Deputy J2 for a Joint Special Operations Task Force and as the Senior Military Advisor for the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team. He also served as the Senior Intelligence Officer on the Iraq Intelligence Working Group and as a UN observer along the Iraq-Kuwait border. Prior to becoming a FAO, Dr. Pfaff served on the faculty at West Point as an assistant professor of Philosophy. As a company grade Army officer, he deployed to Operation DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM with 82nd Airborne Division and participated in Operation ABLE SENTRY with the 1st Armored Division.

Dr. Pfaff has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and economics from Washington and Lee University, where he graduated cum laude with honors in philosophy; a master’s degree in philosophy from Stanford University, with a concentration in the history and philosophy of science and where received a graduate fellowship at the Center for Conflict and Negotiation; a master’s in national resource management from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, where he was a distinguished graduate; and a doctorate in philosophy from Georgetown University.

Dr. Pfaff has authored more than twenty articles in professional and scholarly publications including, Proxy War Ethics, in the Journal of National Security Law and Policy; “A Crisis of Norms: Fighting Irregular Wars Well,” in Transformations of Warfare in the Contemporary World (Temple, 2016); “The Ethics of Complex Contingencies,” and “Officership and Character,” in The Future of the Army Profession, 2nd Ed (McGraw Hill, 2005), “Toward an Ethics of Detention and Interrogation: Consent and Limits,” in Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly (2005); and “Aligning Means and Ends: Towards a New Way of War” (2011) and “Officership: Character, Leadership, and Ethical Decision Making” (2005) in Military Review; and “The Ethics of Espionage,” in the Journal of Military Ethics (2003). He has also published a number of monographs with SSI including “Resolving Ethical Challenges in an Era of Persistent Conflict,” (2011), “Development and Reform of the Iraqi Police Forces” (2008), and “Peacekeeping and the Just War Tradition” (2000).

Dr. Akeel Abbas
Professor, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani


Akeel Abbas, a Middle East specialist, currently teaches at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. He has a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies from Purdue University, USA. Previously taught at Houston and Old Dominion universities. Research and publications deal with national and religious identities, modernity and democratization in the Middle East.


May 14, 2020
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


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