Event Recaps

On Thursday, October 19, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, in collaboration with The Sentry at the Enough Project, hosted a discussion on illicit financial flows in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), occasioned by the release of the group’s new report: The Terrorist’s Treasury

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As the Trump administration formulates a new policy toward Iran, it is important that that policy be informed by accurate information about the realities of Iran’s rapidly changing society. On October 18, 2017, the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted sociologist and author Kevan Harris on the findings of the first Iran Social Survey, which challenged some prevailing views about the composition of Iranian society and presumed linkages between government benefits and voters’ political preferences.

The first nationally representative survey of social relations conducted in the Islamic Republic of Iran since the 1979 revolution, the sample of 5005 respondents, fielded in December 2016, contains rich data on family history, electoral behavior, ethnic identity and contemporary state-society relations.

An Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, Harris, spoke at length about the uniqueness of the survey through its five modules: Inter-generational mobility, political mobilization, state services, civic association and ethno-linguistic identification. Factors used in the survey included: voter choice and household income, employment, gender, age, marital status, location and educational attainment.

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On Tuesday, October 17, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center hosted Dr. Adal Ag Rhoubeid, President of the Movement for Democratic Renewal (MDR) Tarna, for a private roundtable discussion on the security situation in Niger and the broader Sahel region.

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On Monday, October 16, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, in collaboration with the International Republican Institute (IRI), hosted Ambassador Martin Kimani, director of Kenya’s National Counter Terrorism Centre and special envoy for countering violent extremism, and Dr. Korir Sing’Oei, legal adviser in the executive office of the deputy president of Kenya, for a private roundtable discussion on the security situation in Kenya amid its unprecedented and ongoing electoral crisis.

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On October 10, 2017, the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East held a panel discussion on the recent Kurdish referendum and the state of Iraqi-Kurdish relations. Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, the director of the Hariri center, moderated the event. Ambassador Stuart Jones, Dr. Harith Hasan Al-Qarawee, and Dr. Denise Natali contributed to the discussion as panelists. Ambassador Jones is currently the vice president of The Cohen Group and has extensive experience with Iraqi affairs from his former career at the US Department of States. Dr. Al-Qarawee, a nonresident senior fellow at the Hariri Center, previously a lecturer at Baghdad University and was a member of the Atlantic Council’s Task Force on the Future of Iraq chaired by Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Dr. Natali is the director of the Center for Strategic Research at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) and is an expert on the Kurdish regions of Iraq.

During the discussion, each of the panel participants highlighted different issues regarding the Kurdish crisis. Dr. Al-Qarawee began by examining the various motivating factors behind the Kurdish push for independence. He pointed out the ineffective, oil-dependent Iraqi government institutions, the prevalence of de facto politics over constitutional politics, and the continual failure of the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to agree on borders and oil resources. Furthermore, Dr. Qarawee discussed how Sunni Muslims share some of the grievances of the Kurds and noted that the Kurdish situation serves as both a challenge and opportunity for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Dr. Natali emphasized that the road to Kurdish independence is not a “one way street” and was influenced by many complex variables. She noted that although the leadership such as Prime Minister al-Abadi and KRG President Masoud Barzani will attempt to be rational in negotiations, some of the militias and other groups present in Iraq may try to take advantage of this sensitive situation. Furthermore, Dr. Natali emphasized the complex nature of the situation, pointing out the numerous other countries, such as Iran and Turkey, involved in the conflict and the many differences that exist within the KRG and other Kurdish groups.

Ambassador Jones touched on the inevitability of the referendum and the role that the United States should play going forward in the Kurdish crisis. In particular, he recommended that, for the time being, the United States continue to adopt a policy of “wait and see,” allowing things to play out on the ground as long as conflict is not imminent. Additionally, Ambassador Jones mentioned the moderate, restrained position that Prime Minister al-Abadi has taken toward the conflict and the role that he has played in developing ties separate from Iran. Ambassador Jones closed by voicing hope for the development of a positive atmosphere of negotiation in Iraq that prevents violence and conflict.
On Thursday, October 5, 2017, the Atlantic Council co-hosted a Brexit seminar, in collaboration with the British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia.

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On Thursday, October 5, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center hosted an exclusive briefing with Mr. Corneille Nangaa Yobeluo, President of the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

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On Thursday, October 5, 2017 the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center and Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center jointly hosted Mr. Gonzalo Aguirre, Mr. José María Castro, Mr. Giovani Machado, and Ms. Sue Saarnio for a discussion about the changing energy markets in Latin America and the role of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the regional energy mix. The discussion was moderated by the chairman of the Global Energy Center’s Advisory Group and Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center’s nonresident senior fellow, Mr. David Goldwyn.

The event opened with remarks from Mr. Goldwyn, who provided context on economic and energy developments of the last decade throughout Latin America, from increasing hydropower and renewable energy production to fiscal crises that have impacted cross-border trade. Following this introduction, Mr. Aguirre, Director of National Transport and Measurement of Hydrocarbons in the Argentinian Ministry of Energy and Mining, discussed regulatory frameworks for LNG in Argentina, as well as the country’s trade relationships with Bolivia and Chile. When asked about the status of energy in Colombia, Mr. Castro, general manager at Sociedad Portuaria El Cayao (SPEC LNG), touched on the country’s opening of a new LNG import terminal, the government’s mechanisms for financing projects including thermal generators, and the country’s trade relationship with Venezuela. Mr. Castro also called for increased energy integration throughout the region, pointing to a successful trade relationship between Bolivia and Brazil.

Mr. Machado, Head of Natural Gas and Biofuels at the Empresa de Pesquisa Energética (Brazil’s Energy Planning Agency) expanded on the need for growing regional energy trade, and suggested that seasonal differences across South America, particularly between the north and south, could create a synergistic relationship particularly regarding storage capacity. Additionally, Mr. Machado described the role of LNG, wind, and solar power in Brazil. Ms. Saarnio, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources, detailed opportunities for the United States to work cooperatively with Latin American countries on energy security and supply. She agreed on the need for increased regional trade.

Overall, each of the panelists signaled that their respective countries would be interested in further collaboration on these topics. They also agreed that there is potential for regional energy integration, and that LNG markets may contribute to cross-border integration.
Written by Dr. Gal Luft, Silk Road 2.0: US Strategy toward China's Belt and Road Initiative explores how the United States should engage with China's tremendous infrastructure-building project, and recommends the United States pursue a strategy of constructive participation. This strategy is built on five pillars: acknowledge, engage, adjust; articulate red lines; carve a role for the United States; integrate the BRI into the framework of overall US-China Relations; and present America's own vision for infrastructure development.

The discussion focused on two main themes: the geopolitical and strategic reasons why the United States should engage in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and how the United States can do so while maintaining and protecting its interests. Overall, the panelists felt the BRI provides avenues for a constructive and cooperative relationship with China, the United States should want a role in development of underdeveloped regions which also provide US companies the opportunity to compete, and, lastly, China’s accrued influence in the countries where their projects are a success will test other hegemonic powers including Russia and India. One particular area to watch is China’s large investments in long-time ally Pakistan’s development. Ambassador Gray, Dr. Oh, and Dr. Luft all described how engagement with the BRI is in the United States’ interest as it helps create the standards for infrastructure development. The BRI provides private sector businesses with transparency to the contract competition process, providing fair access to capital for proposed BRI projects. The US government should help ensure fair access and transparency to business who wish to enter BRI projects. The overall conclusion is this: the BRI is moving forward with or without the US – the strategy that is proposed in this Atlantic Council Strategy Paper provides a roadmap to supporting China’s interest and investments in international development while maintaining US interests and security by selectively choosing when to endorse and when to rebuff aspects of the BRI.
On October 3, The Atlantic Council’s Economic Sanctions Initiative held a two-paneled public event entitled: Economic Sanctions After Brexit: What Roles Should the Public and Private Sector Play? 

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