Iraqi Ambassador to the U.N. to Speak in Stonington

Jan 23, 2014

The La Grua Center was founded in Stonington to promote arts and culture programming in the town.
Credit La Grua Center

The Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations will speak in Stonington Thursday evening. Mohammed Alhakim is expected to talk about the challenges to Iraq's reconstruction.

Alhakim was appointed last May as permanent representative of Iraq to the U.N., after a stint at the Iraqi Foreign Affairs Ministry, and as a member of the country's national assembly.

Stuart Schwartzstein got to know him many years ago, while Alhakim was in exile in the U.S. before the fall of Saddam Hussein. He said he was delighted by Alhakim's appointment to the U.N. "It's not just a matter of ability in dealing with substantive issues," Schwartzstein said. "He's got a lot of personal charm, and that really does make an enormous difference in a place like the United Nations."

Schwartzstein, who now lives in Stonington, previously worked at both the State Department and the Defense Department, and served as an adviser to the Iraqi government in Baghdad in 2004. He personally invited Alhakim to give tonight's lecture, which is co-sponsored by the Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council. He said he was motivated by a personal mission. "I'd like to see far more interest and programming on foreign policy issues here," he said.

Schwartzstein said he's concerned that crises in other places have eclipsed news of what's happening in Iraq in America's limited coverage of foreign affairs. He said, "The civil war in Syria; what's been happening in Egypt really supplant the kinds of changes that have been taking place in Iraq. And of course, the withdrawal of U.S. forces has meant that there's considerably less reporting."

Alhakim is expected to talk about the challenges Iraq faces in its transition to democracy, including sectarian conflict, Kurdish separatism, and pressures from Syria and Iran. Though the talk takes place at a small venue, the La Grua Center in Stonington, the organizers hope its impact will be felt on a wider scale.