Iraq is in a critical stage of political and economic development, and its growing potential as a regional lynchpin runs alongside great domestic uncertainty, divisions and soul-searching about where the country is headed. Where is Iraq headed as a nation, and what can next-generation Iraqi leaders do to bridge regional and sectarian divisions? A young group of scholars, journalists, civil society members, development workers, government officials and entrepreneurs from Iraq, the United States, Turkey and the broader region met in Istanbul to discuss the economic and foreign policy challenges facing Iraq.
While this dialogue snapshot cannot convey to readers the full extent of the discussions, it presents several highlights:
- Iraq’s international image has improved more slowly than the country’s actual progress. In an interactive exercise, participants mapped Iraq’s progress, enduring challenges and potential fixes.
- Iraq produces multiple foreign policies that are often at cross purposes. If Iraq unifies its foreign policy, it will become a force to be reckoned with in the region.
- Iraq’s politics have become more pragmatic in the past two years, but this pragmatism is easier to spot locally within Iraq’s regions rather than nationally.
- It’s hard to see how Iraq can break its dependence on oil; but legal and capacity-building measures can deploy oil wealth to better foster social and economic development.