In the following video, Iraq’s first Ambassador to the U.S. in 16 years, His Excellency Samir Sumaida’ie, delivers an impassioned opening keynote address at the 2008 National Iraq Forum. Introducing him is former U.S. Ambassador to Jordan Edward Gnehm, Jr., a professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
Ambassador Sumaida’ie addresses the plight of his compatriots as a man who knows what it's like to flee one’s homeland. Following Saddam's seizure of power in 1973, he was forced to do just that. He was 29 years old.
The rapid deterioration of Iraq from 2003 through 2007 raises serious questions: How did a nation “liberated from tyranny and oppression” become less secure? Why is there a large-scale humanitarian crisis? How have pre-war conditions and post-war policies contributed to the violence? And, perhaps most critically, what can and is being done by the government of Iraq, the United States, and civil society to help Iraq's most vulnerable citizens, including an estimated 4.8 million Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)?
Opening Keynote (21:12) from Sarah Shannon on Vimeo.
Ambassador Sumaida’ie offers answers and a certain pragmatism that neither condemns nor excuses his government from its responsibility to protect and assist Iraq's most vulnerable citizens. Yet, with modesty, Sumaida’ie acknowledges that Iraq cannot address the deepening crisis alone. The magnitude of the crisis is far greater than what the present capacity of Iraq's government can handle. Stronger international assistance is also needed to help alleviate the burden on refugee-hosting countries like Jordan and Syria.
It is a remarkable speech that I hope you’ll watch and share with your friends. To watch now, click the video above.