March 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 March 2007
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Expected Council Action
No Council action is expected in response to the quarterly report of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) due 8 March. On 15 March the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, will brief the Council. The US will also give a briefing on the activities of the Multinational Force (MNF).

Consultations are also expected on 7 March on the UN Monitoring, Inspection and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC). The Commission’s Acting Executive Chairman, Demetrius Perricos, will brief the Council. It remains to be seen whether there will be any concrete proposals on a possible termination of UNMOVIC mandate.

Key Recent Developments
On 6 December the Iraq Study Group, which was established by the US Congress and co-chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, recommended a new policy approach for the US in Iraq, including:

  • engaging directly with Syria and Iran;
  • renewing efforts toward a comprehensive settlement of all Middle East conflicts;
  • reducing support for the Iraqi government if it does not make progress toward reconciliation and security;
  • establishing clear steps toward national reconciliation, security and governance, and avoiding an open-ended commitment to a large US troops presence in Iraq; and
  • redeploying or increasing the number of US combat forces to stabilise Baghdad and avoiding a dramatic increase of the general number of troops in Iraq or an immediate and complete withdrawal.

In response to the last recommendation, US President George Bush decided in January to increase the number of American troops in Baghdad by 21,500.

Sectarian violence has increased, especially after the execution of Saddam Hussein on 30 December. Deadly bombings have multiplied. There is now an average of 100 civilian casualties every day.

The refugee crisis is also growing. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are 1.8 million internally displaced persons. In addition, because of the security situation, the food distribution system has deteriorated. Four million people in Iraq are now considered as “food insecure”. The UNHCR now estimates that there are about two million Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan.

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi has sought to secure regional support for peace efforts in Iraq through visits to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria and Iran. These began at the end of January.

Although no action is expected on UNAMI or on the MNF before the next review process in June, a presidential statement supporting the regional contribution to building security in Iraq and addressing the worsening refugee crisis, as well as the humanitarian situation in Iraq, remains an option.

On UNMOVIC, the most likely scenario is that the Council will resume but not conclude its discussion of a possible termination of its mandate. Options include:

  • continuing discussion on whether and how to retain UNMOVIC’s expertise;
  • reaching agreement on whether the conclusions of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) should be taken up in the context of the closure of the UNMOVIC mandate;
  • focusing on the details of what to do with UNMOVIC’s comprehensive compendium of Iraq’s programmes for WMDs and examining whether and how UNMOVIC’s records and archives should be transferred to the UN archive; and
  • deciding to terminate UNMOVIC’s mandate.

Key Issues
While the US and the UK may be contemplating several options to close UNMOVIC, at press time there are no concrete proposals on the table. (For more information on UNMOVIC, see our June 2006 Forecast.)

Issues likely to arise during consultations on UNAMI and the MNF in March include the need for a regional approach to peace in Iraq (this has already been emphasised by Qazi in December), in view of an assessment of Qazi’s regional tour.

The desire to find an adequate multilateral framework to address the situation in Iraq is therefore emerging and is likely to be discussed as the international compact on Iraq does not seem to be moving forward quickly. Several proposals have already been made: UNAMI suggested that the periodic meetings between Iraq and its neighbours be broadened to include the P5; and the League of Arab States has tried to organise a regional conference on Iraqi national accord.  It seems that a meeting is being organised in Baghdad which will gather officials from regional states, including Syria and Iran, and US and UK envoys.  It will take place in mid-March.

A second issue is the worsening humanitarian crisis and ways to address it, especially the refugee crisis and the fact that both Syria and Jordan may have to limit refugees or even close their borders.

Another issue is the initial assessments by the US of its new security plan and troop surge in Baghdad. This, however, will likely be more thoroughly considered in June, at the next MNF review process.

Council Dynamics
Dynamics on UNMOVIC remain the same. Both the US and the UK are reluctant for the Council to take up the ISG conclusions and perhaps for related reasons seem reluctant to pursue the idea of harnessing UNMOVIC’s expertise for the future. Russia, however, still seems to support a debate on the ISG conclusions as a necessary step for the closure of UNMOVIC. During consultations in December, Japan and Slovakia proposed to reallocate UNMOVIC experts to the 1718 Committee on North Korea and the 1540 Committee on the non-proliferation of WMDs. These proposals will likely come up again in March.

The idea of a possible presidential statement on the Iraqi refugee crisis has attractions for a number of members but it remains to be seen who would be willing to take the lead and what the US and the UK’s positions would be.

Any new dynamics on the activities of the UN and the MNF in Iraq might only arise during the June MNF review process.

Underlying Problems
There have been allegations by the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia that Iran is arming groups in Iraq, and a number of Iranians have been detained by US forces in Iraq. Iran stated at the end of January that it was planning to expand military and economic ties with Iraq.

Criticism is mounting over the Iraqi government’s ability to lead the country toward reconciliation. The government appears increasingly divided. The division of the country along sectarian lines seems to be increasingly becoming a reality, with the multiplication of sectarian enclaves.  On the other hand, the recent approval by the Iraqi cabinet of a draft law to equitably share oil revenues among Iraq’s 18 provinces may foster sectarian unity as it would remove a bone of contention between factions.  The law remains to be approved by the Iraqi parliament.

Selected UN Documents

 Latest Resolutions

  • S/RES/1723 (28 November 2006) extended the MNF mandate until 31 December 2007.
  • S/RES/1700 (10 August 2006) extended the UNAMI mandate for another 12 months.
 Latest UNAMI Report
 Selected UNMOVIC Reports
  • S/2007/106 (26 February 2007) was the latest UNMOVIC report.
  • S/2006/420 (21 June 2006) was the summary of the compendium of Iraq’s proscribed WMD programmes.
 Selected Letters
  • S/2006/987 and S/2006/988 (15 December 2006) was an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Council on an Iraqi request to transfer $40 million from the UNMOVIC account to the Permanent Mission of Iraq to the UN.
  • S/2006/963 (7 December 2006) was a letter from League of Arab States enclosing a statement by the Ministerial Committee on Iraq.

Other Relevant Facts

 Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq
 Ashraf Jehangir Qazi (Pakistan)
 Deputy Special Representative for Iraq
 Jean-Marie Fakhouri (Lebanon)
 Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs in Iraq
 Michael von der Schulenburg (Germany)

Useful Additional Sources

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