Foreign Policy Blogs

Angelina Jolie's Star Power



The United Nations has asked the United States for $265 million for humanitarian relief to Iraqis. The aid would be allocated towards food, health, education, water and sanitation, housing and shelter, and protection.

"Nearly five years of war have badly worsened chronic problems in Iraq. UNAMI said an estimated 4 million people need basic food assistance. And at least 2.4 million people inside Iraq are believed to have been displaced from their homes."

On a related note, Angelina Jolie, long known for her refugee work in Darfur, has recently focused her attention upon Iraqi refugees and humanitarian relief.
"The US embassy said Jolie traveled to Baghdad with Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky "to discuss US humanitarian relief efforts for internally displaced persons and conflict victims.'

The trip, a statement said, is a follow-up to a visit by Jolie to the region six months ago and marks a "mission to support and implement joint solutions to assist Iraqi's displaced population.'

Jolie also met Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Immigration and Refugees Minister Abdel Samad Rahman Sultan.

She had lunch with American troops serving in Iraq after earlier meeting their top commander, General David Petraeus.

The actress also held talks in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone with UN head of mission Staffan di Mistura and met a group of internally displaced people."

Does Jolie have any influence and are her meetings with al-Maliki, Petraeus, and UN officials newsworthy? Perhaps they were answering a question posed by Dan Drezner in the National Interest, "Who would you rather sit next to at your next Council on Foreign Relations roundtable: Henry Kissinger or Angelina Jolie?"

Her star power can potentially draw attention to issues citizens in the United States and other countries might gloss over if it were a State Department official conducting a press conference. Jolie's recent trip to Iraq was not her first. In 2007, she met with 1,200 Iraqis outside the border with Syria. Following the meeting, Jolie launched a $150 million appeal by UNICEF to help educate one million children affected by war.

I’ve yet to read if Jolie's meetings in Iraq last week were in connection to the recent UN request, however this blogger wouldn't be surprised if they were.

UPDATE: A reader, Carol, points out that Jolie's trip to Iraq was part of a State Department mission. See Carol's comment below for more.