Kavkaz Files ISSN 2975-0474 Volume 17 Issue 3
Author: Giuliano Bifolchi
The recent visit of the North Caucasian Federal University (NCFU) delegation to Iraq marked a significant step towards fostering cooperation between the Russian North Caucasus and the Middle Eastern country.
The primary aim of the visit was to explore new avenues of collaboration, particularly in the humanitarian sector, joint scientific research in oil and gas, engineering, and the promotion of the Russian language.
In a notable development highlighting the recent improvement in connection and cooperation between the North Caucasus and Iraq, previously, SpecialEurasia reported the agreement between Enfil, the official representative of Iraqi Airways in Moscow, and the International Airport “Mineralnye Vody im. M.Yu. Lermontov” signed during the forum “Severnyj Kavkaz v menjajushhemsja mire” (The North Caucasus in a Changing World).
Both sides recognised the potential for fruitful collaboration in various areas of mutual interest. NCFU has outlined new collaboration projects with Iraqi universities, focusing on promoting the Russian language, mathematical modelling, artificial intelligence, and the development of engineering specialties.
The proximity of educational and scientific expertise in the oil and gas sector has opened up tremendous prospects for cooperation between the two countries, as noted by Dmitry Bespalov, the Rector of NCFU.
During the visit, the NCFU delegation engaged in a series of official meetings and discussions to lay the foundation for future collaboration. A meeting was held with Iraqi Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Aram Mohammad Qadir, where the Rector of NCFU presented proposals for scientific and educational international projects. The minister expressed interest in developing a partnership with Russia, highlighting the potential benefits it could bring to Iraq’s academic landscape.
Bilateral meetings with university leaders in Erbil and Soran further solidified the cooperation between the two regions. Dmitry Bespalov extended invitations to Iraqi scientists to participate in two upcoming events: the DMAI-2023: International Workshop on Data Mining and AI and the International Conference “Innovative Technologies in the Oil and Gas Industry,” both to be held in Stavropol in the autumn.
With the Dean of Salahaddin University, Dr Kamaran Younis Mohammadamin, the NCFU discussed strategic areas of cooperation in humanitarian and agricultural sciences and considered joint projects for the study of Arabic by NCFU students and Russian by Iraqi students.
At Erbil Polytechnic University, President Abdulkarim Sherwani highlighted the university’s strong engineering profile, including faculties specialising in automotive engineering, construction technology, and materials. Dmitry Bespalov proposed utilising the laboratory facilities of the Engineering Institute for joint scientific projects and the provision of advanced training courses for teachers, both in-person and online.
A meeting with the leadership of Tishk University emphasised the importance of international scientific and educational collaborations. Discussions revolved around joint projects in oil and mining engineering, as well as pedagogy and economics. Graduates of Tishk International University were informed of the opportunities to continue their studies in various master’s programs at NCFU.
President Shervan Sharif Kurtas of Soran University and Rector Dmitry Bespalov acknowledged the shared scientific interests between researchers in Russia and Iraq, particularly in oil and gas. Potential cooperation areas highlighted included environment and ecology projects, mathematical modelling, and geographic information systems.
To foster interest in engineering sciences among Iraqi schoolchildren, the NCFU delegation visited the Midia gymnasium in Erbil, where plans are underway to launch the first Russian week of engineering sciences in Iraq. These interactive events, which have garnered great interest among schoolchildren, have previously covered mathematics, computer science, physics, and the Russian language.
The Consul General of Russia in Erbil, Maxim Rubin, accentuated the significance of establishing contacts with the academic environment to propel the development of relations between countries. He expressed support for NCFU’s scientific and educational mission in Iraq.
The discussions also included projects aimed at teaching the Russian language to Iraqi citizens. NCFU shared its successful experience in implementing Russian as a foreign language courses and educational intensive programs abroad, using the Literary Cafe format.
Possible Scenarios and Outcomes
- Enhanced Academic Collaboration: The collaboration between NCFU and Iraqi universities flourishes, leading to an increase in joint scientific research projects, student and teacher exchange programs, and the opening of joint laboratories. This cooperation strengthens ties between Russia and Iraq, particularly in the fields of oil and gas, engineering, and the promotion of the Russian language. Exchange of knowledge and proficiency advantages both countries, promoting academic and cultural exchange.
- Expanded Educational Opportunities: NCFU successfully establishes partnerships with Iraqi universities, offering dual-degree programs and organising international conferences, summer schools, and internships. This collaboration provides Iraqi students with the opportunity to get qualifications from both NCFU and their home institutions, enriching their educational experience. The joint initiatives in various fields, such as mathematics, artificial intelligence, and engineering, contribute to the development of highly skilled professionals in Iraq and strengthen academic ties between the two countries.
- Geopolitical Implications of North Caucasus-Iraq Cooperation: The collaboration between the North Caucasus and Iraq extends beyond academic and scientific cooperation, forming strategic alliances with notable geopolitical implications. As Iraq holds a significant role in the region’s dynamics, the deepening ties between the North Caucasus and Iraq might impact regional power balances and alliances. This collaboration may provide an opportunity for the Russian Federation to strengthen its presence in Iraq, particularly in sectors such as oil and gas, mining, and education, potentially serving as a counterbalance to Western influence, particularly that of the United States, in the region.
Recent cooperation in academic and education fields serves as a strong testament to the existing relations between the North Caucasus and the Middle East, particularly with Iraq. This collaboration reaffirms the commitment of both regions towards enhancing mutual understanding and knowledge exchange.
Furthermore, it is essential to recognise the North Caucasus as a significant element in the Kremlin’s foreign policy, particularly in light of the Ukraine conflict and the subsequent imposition of Western sanctions.
Leveraging the North Caucasus’ strategic position, Russia seeks to establish and expand its presence in key markets within the Middle East and Central Asia. Given the Russian presence through state companies in Iraq’s oil and gas sectors, the recent agreements on academic cooperation between the North Caucasian Federal University (NCFU) and local Iraqi universities, specifically in these fields, may signify a growing involvement of Russian companies and entrepreneurs in the country. This cooperation holds the potential for further synergies in economic and strategic areas, consolidating Russia’s influence in Iraq and strengthening bilateral ties.
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