Penn's Middle East Center to Train Iraqi-Bound U.S. Military Officers on Iraqi Politics and Society

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | jposey@pobox.upenn.edu | 215-898-6460September 1, 2005

PHILADELPHIA -- The Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania has organized a pair of military training sessions for 17 US. Army reserve officers returning to Iraq.

Men and women participating in the training will learn about Iraqi tribal and family structures, corruption and ways to combat it, the role of the Kurds in Iraqi politics and society and attitudes and policies of neighboring countries toward Iraq.  The trainees have already served one term of duty in Iraq and expect to be redeployed soon.

Brendan O'Leary, professor of political science and co-director of Penn's Solomon Asch Center for Ethnopolitical Conflict, will lead training about Kurdish politics and culture on Sept. 10 in the Van Pelt Library on Penn's campus.  O'Leary spent the last year serving as a constitutional advisor to the Kurdish parliament and Kurdish regional government in Northern Iraq.  

Following O'Leary's presentation, David Faris, a doctoral student in Penn's political science department, will give a talk on the comparative politics of the Middle East and on Syrian, Iranian and Saudi Arabian attitudes and policies toward the new Iraqi government.  

The first part of the training was held on campus on Aug. 6.  Deborah Harrold, professor of political science at Brywn Mawr College gave a comprehensive overview of family and tribal structures in Iraq.  

Erik Gustafson, of the Washington, D.C.-based Education for Peace in Iraq, a Gulf War veteran and author of an upcoming study on corruption in the Iraqi health sector, gave a talk on corruption and ways to combat it.

"The presentations and sessions may help save some lives," said Lt. Col. Gregory B. Doyle of the 358th Civil Affairs Brigade in Norristown, Pa., "because we're being given more tools to improve our ability to accomplish our missions."

The Brigade supports U.S. military operations abroad through liaison with local governments and working on civil infrastructure projects such as re-building roads, schools and improving water-treatment and public-health facilities.