By Gil Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio
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(MADISON) As the U.S. war in Iraq appears to be winding down, officials at UW-Madison are exploring a unique partnership with the university in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.
President Barack Obama’s recent promise to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq by the end of this summer is good news for supporters of a plan to establish a formal relationship between UW-Madison and Tikrit University in Iraq.
So far, negotiations have involved only U.S. embassy staff in Iraq and the Department of International studies at UW-Madison. But plans are underway for a video phone conference between Tikrit University faculty and their counterparts in Madison within the next six weeks. UW-graduate Brett Bruen, now a U.S. Foreign Service officer in Baghdad, is helping design a memorandum of understanding between the two campuses. He’s hopeful that the agreement will be mutually beneficial.
“The University of Tikrit and their quite-capable professors can help the Wisconsin academics and students, to conduct research about Iraq,” says Bruen. “I think that that will be the most sustainable partnership that we can hope to develop.”
Once the security situation in Iraq stabilizes, the goal of the Madison-Tikrit partnership is allow for faculty exchanges between the two institutions. Tikrit is the capitol of Iraq’s bread basket so agricultural exchanges are high on the agenda.