About the Author: Aaron Snipe is a Foreign Service Officer with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Muthanna, Iraq.
If you've read my previous DipNote posts, you know that diplomats and development professionals are making a real difference in rural Iraq. Our work with our Iraqi counterparts in the Department of Veterinary Affairs is helping revive Muthanna's agricultural sector. This is certainly important work, but as a the PRT's public diplomacy officer, it's my job to ensure that Iraqis know about the work we are doing out in the field.
Driving through even the most rural areas of Muthanna it is common to see houses made of mud . . . with brand new satellite dishes on the thatched roofs. Rural Iraqis, like millions of others around the developing world, want to be connected to the rest of the world, and satellite TV is helping make this connection. Satellite networks across the Middle East, like Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and LBC out of Beirut, are the news sources many in the Arab world turn to. Here in Iraq, many Iraqis look to these satellite stations and their own state-owned network, Al Iraqiya. Not long ago, my Deputy Team Leader and I were invited to give an hour-long interview on the local Al-Iraqiya affiliate, Muthanna TV. The program called "Al Hadath" ("The Event") is a nightly broadcast and helps Muthanna's residents learn about what is happening in and around the province. The interviewer was gracious and genuinely interested in asking us about the work of the PRT. It gave us an opportunity to share highlights of what we've been up to and also stress the cooperative nature of the U.S. role in Iraq. I was particularly pleased to talk about the PRT's partnership with municipal officials in providing 500 tons of alum (aluminum sulfate) to help improve the quality of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Muthanna's residents.
While it's important to blog about our accomplishments, I'm pretty sure most of Muthanna's farmers and rural residents aren't reading DipNote. Having U.S. diplomats take the air waves to explain our policy is one of the best ways to get the message out.
Read more entries about Aaron Snipe's experiences serving with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Muthanna, Iraq.