Harvard institution praises 'formidable mind'

Former President Barham Salih named senior fellow at Belfer Center

NEWSROOM – The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School has announced the appointment of Barham A. Salih, former President of Iraq, as a senior fellow.

During his presidency from 2018 to 2022, and previously as the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region and deputy prime minister of Iraq, Salih played a pivotal role in shaping Iraq’s political landscape. He will now contribute to the Belfer Center’s mission to address critical international security challenges.

Meghan L. O’Sullivan, director of the Belfer Center, praised Salih’s leadership skills and his commitment to learning and higher education, noting his foundational role at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. “Barham Salih is a leader of extraordinary talent, vision, and courage. In a wide variety of roles, he has navigated difficult and dangerous situations and brings those experiences and the lessons he learned from them to us at the Belfer Center.

“Such insights will help us as we seek to better understand the nature of leadership, events in Iraq and the wider region, and around the evolving role of ‘middle powers’ in today’s global landscape,” O’Sullivan stated.

Echoing O’Sullivan’s sentiments, Tarek Masoud, faculty chair of the Middle East Initiative at Harvard, highlighted Salih’s contributions as a statesman and academic leader. “Barham Salih brings great depth to the Belfer Center and the Middle East Initiative. His experiences as a statesman and institution builder, coupled with his formidable mind, render him a most vital addition to our intellectual community.

“All of us at the Middle East Initiative are looking forward to working with him to generate insights that can help the region become more peaceful, prosperous, and free,” Masoud remarked.

Barham Salih, born 1960 in Sulaymaniyah, began his political involvement in the late 1970s with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

After the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Salih was seen as a rising political star, taking on significant roles within both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Notably, he served as the deputy prime minister of Iraq and as the prime minister of the KRG.

In 2018, after leaving a new party he had just founded and returning to the PUK, Salih was elected as the President of Iraq. Holding the position until 2022, Salih did not secure re-election for a second term.

He notably skipped the 2023 PUK congress that consolidated Bafel Talabani’s control over the party.

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is a research hub within the Harvard Kennedy School that focuses on international security and policy. Founded in 1973 as the Center for Science and International Affairs, it was renamed in 1997 in honor of Robert A. Belfer, a philanthropist and the center’s primary benefactor.

The center aims to advance policy-relevant knowledge about fundamental issues of international security, and it brings together experts from various disciplines such as politics, economics, and science to analyze global challenges.