Expected Council Action
In June the Council will review the mandates of the Multinational Force (MNF), the Development Fund for Iraq and the International Advisory and Monitoring Board. There will be briefings by the US on MNF activities and by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq (the quarterly report of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) is due early in the month). The Council is expected to adopt a press statement or perhaps a presidential statement.
The report on the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) is due by 1 June. The Council will hold consultations in June and may adopt a resolution closing the UNMOVIC mandate.
The Council will be briefed by Yuli Vorontsov, High-Level Coordinator for Iraq’s compliance with its obligations regarding Iraq/Kuwait missing persons and property, as the next report is due in June. A press statement is expected.
Key Recent Developments
Several political initiatives were launched in the past three months in a renewed international effort to stabilise the country. A ministerial meeting was held in Baghdad on 10 March involving foreign ministers of the P5, the UN, regional organisations and Iraq’s neighbouring countries. The meeting launched committees in charge of security cooperation, Iraqi refugees and energy supplies-at press time none had been set up.
A follow-up conference in Sharm el-Sheikh on 3 and 4 May ended with a joint statement reaffirming Iraq’s national unity. It expressed readiness to support the Iraqi government. During the conference, the International Compact with Iraq (ICI) was formally launched. The Compact is an agreement between the Iraqi government and the UN to consolidate peace and pursue political, economic and social development over the next five years. Iraq received pledges of $30 billion in debt relief. Saudi Arabia separately agreed to forgive 80 percent of the Iraqi debt to the kingdom.
The refugee crisis continues to worsen. But at a ministerial-level conference, organised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva on 17 and 18 April, Iraq promised $25 million to help Syria and Jordan, currently hosting about 2 million refugees. The US agreed to accept 20,000 Iraqi refugees.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon travelled to Baghdad on 22 March to meet Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. In May, he attended the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting.
On 16 April six Shi’a Sadrist ministers withdrew from the government protesting the prime minister’s refusal to set a timetable for a MNF troop withdrawal.
On 10 May the media reported that a majority of Iraqi lawmakers in the National Assembly endorsed a draft bill prepared by the Sadrist bloc calling on a scheduled withdrawal of the MNF and requiring the Iraqi government to obtain parliamentary approval before requesting an extension of the UN mandate for the MNF. While the Sadrist bloc had promoted similar bills before, this was the first time it secured a majority of supporters.
A draft law approved by the Iraqi cabinet on 26 February allowing the central government to distribute oil revenues to provinces and granting regional oil companies or governments the power to sign contracts with foreign companies could not be adopted because of Kurdish and Sunni opposition.
US contacts with Syrian and Iranian officials at the March meeting in Baghdad have been interpreted as a shift in the US diplomatic approach to the region. The US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Ellen Sauerbrey, visited Syria on 12 March to assess the refugee situation.
The last UNAMI Human Rights Report underlined the growing violence and described a rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis, fuelled by “growing intolerance toward minorities”. The report also deplored that the Iraqi government had stopped providing casualty figures. On 22 February, the Council issued a press statement condemning all terrorist attacks in Iraq and reminding states of their obligation to prevent them, especially by thwarting the transit of weapons and terrorists to and from Iraq. Despite initiatives to include a reference to the humanitarian situation, it was not in the statement.
Adopting a presidential statement supporting regional contributions to building security in Iraq, encouraging a broader UN role in the political process, and encouraging political dialogue.
Adopting a statement focusing on the worsening humanitarian and refugee crisis, urging all parties to respect humanitarian law and possibly urging greater transparency regarding casualties.
In the absence of a formal request by the Iraqi government, any change in the MNF mandate is unlikely.
A draft resolution sponsored by the UK and US to terminate the UNMOVIC mandate is currently being discussed among the P5. Options include:
simple termination of its mandate;
inclusion of compromise language on the absence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq; and
transfer of UNMOVIC’s records and archives to the UN archives.
On the Iraq/Kuwait missing persons and property, the Council will likely adopt a press statement expressing concern at the plight of families, and welcoming any progress on the issue of missing property.
A developing key issue is whether and how to strengthen the UN role in the political reconciliation process. Iraq has requested it. The US would welcome it and the Secretary-General seems open to it. The difficult security environment, however, is the key obstacle to a bigger UN presence. In light of this, some Council members may prefer to emphasise the existence of other tracks such as participation in the ICI and increasing assistance to the constitutional review process.
The humanitarian crisis could play a key role in discussions. So far, the Council has not addressed this in any formal statement, concentrating instead on terrorist attacks. It is unclear whether this would attract support from the MNF powers.
Finally, there is the issue of “benchmarks” adopted by the US Congress on 24 May which the Iraqi government has to meet as a condition for receiving further reconstruction aid. It remains to be seen whether and how this will play out on the UN stage.
On UNMOVIC, the challenge is to find language on the absence of WMDs in Iraq, which will be satisfactory to China, France and Russia on the one hand and for the US and the UK on the other. The questions of UNMOVIC’s know-how and the role of the UN in archiving the Commission’s work are also on the table. (For more information on UNMOVIC, see our June 2006 Forecast.)
During consultations on 15 March China, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Panama, Peru, Qatar and South Africa all made statements raising humanitarian concerns. South Africa said that the powers granted to the MNF by the Council had to be exercised in a manner consistent with international law by all parties, while Indonesia said that insurgent activities may be a direct result of the presence of foreign forces. Many called for a timetable for troop withdrawal.
While the UK seems to be favourable to the Council addressing the humanitarian and refugee crisis (although not as a separate issue), the US appears more reluctant.
Sectarian violence is increasingly targeting minorities. The 15,000 Palestinians remaining in Iraq are particularly affected by the humanitarian crisis as they have nowhere to flee. Their enclaves in Baghdad have been the target of militia attacks and raids by the Iraq Security Forces. Violence against Christians in Baghdad is also mounting.
The security situation in Kirkuk, an ethnically mixed and oil-rich region in the north with a Kurdish majority, is also deteriorating. Neighbouring Turkey, with its own Kurdish issues, has threatened cross-border operations to fight the Turkish-Kurd militias, especially after Kurdish militants were accused of a suicide bombing in Ankara on 22 May.
Iraq’s Constitutional Review Committee is preparing to submit the results of its deliberation to the parliament. The 15 May deadline was not met and leaders from the Sunni Arab minority have threatened to quit the government.
|Latest Security Council Resolutions|
|Latest Presidential Statement|
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq|
|Ashraf Jehangir Qazi (Pakistan)|
|Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the International Compact with Iraq|
|Ibrahim Gambari (Nigeria)|
|Composition of the MNF (as of 17 January 2007)|
|Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Ukraine, UK, US (both Latvia and South Korea are to withdraw their troops by June)|
International Compact with Iraq website
Accepting Realities in Iraq, Gareth Stansfield, Chatham House and University of Exeter, Middle East Programme Briefing Paper, May 2007
War and Occupation in Iraq, Global Policy Forum and Partners, May 2007
Iraq Humanitarian Crisis Situation and NGO Responses, NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq, 14 May 2007
Iraq and the Kurds: Resolving the Kirkuk Crisis, International Crisis Group, Middle East Report No. 64, 19 April 2007
Civilians Without Protection: The Ever-Worsening Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq, International Committee of the Red Cross, 11 April 2007
UNAMI Human Rights Report, 1 January – 31 March 2007