December 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 November 2008
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Iraq (MNF-I)

Expected Council Action
The mandate of the multinational forces in Iraq (MNF-I) expires on 31 December. Resolution 1790, which had renewed the mandate on 18 December 2007, is therefore expected to be the last extension of MNF-I’s mandate, assuming that the bilateral agreement on status of forces (SOFA) between the US and Iraq is approved by Iraq’s parliament.

Resolution 1790 also extended arrangements relating to the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and its independent auditor, the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), including immunity provisions relating to the DFI which prevent creditors from being able to seize Iraqi funds or oil shipments. Council action in response to a request from Iraq seeking a resolution in December to extend the arrangements relating to the DFI and the IAMB is likely.

A statement from the Council in December to acknowledge new security arrangements for the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) following 31 December is also possible and, given the significance for Iraq of the end of the MNF-I mandate, a Council debate giving the possibility for a statement by Iraq in the Council is also possible.

Key Recent Developments
Violence has continued to lessen (October had fewer than 1000 security incidents, the lowest monthly figure since January 2004). However, serious lethal attacks continue on a daily basis. Iraq’s humanitarian needs remain extensive and acute. More than 4 million Iraqis remain internally displaced or refugees in the region.

On 16 November Iraq’s cabinet approved the final draft of SOFA. It includes provisions that US forces would not launch attacks on another country from Iraq and that US troops would withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities by 30 June 2009 and from Iraq completely by 31 December 2011. The US retains primary jurisdiction over US forces unless its troops commit grave, premeditated felonies while off-duty and outside US bases. Detainees who are currently held by US forces will be transferred to Iraqi custody. (Iraqi and international NGOs have raised concerns about the human rights implications of this.)

At press time, Iraq’s parliament was expected to vote on SOFA on 26 November. Some parliamentarians object to SOFA as a matter of principle. Others object to addressing it before a more generic “law to ratify international treaties and agreements” is passed. Parliament held the first readings of the treaties law and SOFA on 17 November. Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr opposes the pact and threatened to resume attacks on US forces if they did not immediately withdraw from Iraq. Some Sunni parliamentarians object to elements of the pact. Iraq’s most influential Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, indicated that he would not object to the pact if it passes with a comfortable majority in parliament.

On 3 November, the new provincial election law was amended to include provisions for minority representation in Baghdad, Basra and Nineveh. The six seats reserved for minorities were divided among Christians (three seats) and Yazidis, Shabaks and Sabian (one each). The amendment fell short of an earlier draft which provided 13 seats for minorities and UNAMI’s recommendation, which called for 12. Provincial elections are expected to be held on 31 January.

In late October, the IAMB indicated concern at the Iraqi government’s relatively slow implementation of recommendations following earlier audits, particularly by the spending ministries (e.g. transport, defence, education etc). Previously the IAMB has raised concerns regarding the absence of oil metering, the use of barter transactions for oil sales, and weak financial management controls in spending ministries. The IAMB continues to work actively alongside its eventual successor, the Committee of Financial Experts (COFE). Should an extension to IAMB and DFI arrangements be approved, IAMB intends to propose COFE assume its oversight role of the DFI.

On resolving residual issues from the Iraq oil-for-food programme, it appears the P5 are discussing a draft letter which provides Iraq 45 days to credibly contest the some 123 remaining letters of credit with claims of delivery, at which point the Council would consider next steps. (For more details on the oil-for-food issue please see our October 2008 Forecast.)

The most likely option, should the US/Iraq security pact be finalised before 31 December, is to allow the MNF-I mandate to lapse. A resolution formally terminating the mandate of MNF-I is an option but is unlikely. A related option may be a more general statement from the Council marking the historical significance of the situation.
AnotherAnother Another option is for the Council to address the security vacuum for UNAMI. (Resolution 1546had provided for an arrangement under MNF-I command to provide security for UNAMI.) An option for UNAMI, which will still require security support after 31 December, is a new security arrangement with US forces. Council recognition of this new arrangement could be done either in a more general presidential statement or via a letter to the Secretary-General from the Council president.

If the Iraqi parliament does not approve SOFA by 31 December, a temporary rollover of MNF-I’s mandate remains an option.

The most likely option on DFI and IAMB arrangements is adoption of a resolution to extend them. Other options include allowing them to lapse or formally terminating them in a resolution.

Key Issues
In accordance with resolution 1546 and its subsequent renewals, security remains essential for UNAMI to carry out its work in Iraq. To date UNAMI security has been provided by troops operating under the MNF-I mandate. A key issue therefore is how new arrangements beyond 31 December provide necessary security support. This is particularly important for UNAMI in Baghdad given, under SOFA, Iraq will have full responsibility for security in the “green zone” (although Iraq can request US support).

Another issue is what response the Council should take if the Iraqi parliament does not approve the security pact. A related issue is whether the new elements agreed in the current SOFA negotiations should then be included in any extended mandate.

A separate issue for the Council is whether to renew the DFI and IAMB arrangements and the associated immunity provisions which prevent creditors from being able to seize Iraqi funds or oil shipments. The DFI, which holds all of Iraq’s oil and gas proceeds, has accounts with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Central Bank of Iraq. Iraq’s ambassador to the UN, Hamid al-Bayati, has reportedly said, should the immunities lapse, Iraq had other options to protect its funds, including in the US (executive order 13303 of 22 May 2003 protects from US judicial process the DFI and certain other property in which Iraq has an interest). There are reports of $20 billion in outstanding court judgements against Iraq in the US. Iraq has over $60 billion dollars in external debt.

A possible issue will be how to mark the significance of the expiry of the MNF-I mandate and the historical importance of it for Iraq and the UN, as well as the MNF-I countries. Related issues include whether a debate should be held or a statement issued—and if so the content—or both.

Council Dynamics
There seems to be support to extend the mandate of MNF-I if the security pact is not finalised before 31 December, should the request for such an extension originate from Iraq.

The Iraqi government is keen for the DFI immunity provisions to continue after 31 December. Members, including South Africa, Costa Rica, Panama, China and Russia, have previously raised concerns regarding irregularities in the administration of the fund. Some, such as Russia, have previously argued for the DFI’s closure given its lack of transparency, poor administration and repeated failure to reform. It appears SOFA includes provisions for continued US protection of the DFI account in New York from its judicial system, as well as US support for a resolution extending immunity provisions.

On the oil-for-food programme, the Iraqi government would like to be provided with more time to resolve residual issues, particularly the legitimacy of the remaining contracts.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1830 (7 August 2008) renewed UNAMI for a further year.
  • S/RES/1790 (18 December 2007) renewed the mandate of the MNF-I for one year, with a review by 15 June.
  • S/RES/1770 (10 August 2007) expanded UNAMI’s mandate.
  • S/RES1546 (8 June 2004)

Latest UNAMI Report

Last Security Council Briefing and Debate on Iraq

Latest Letter

  • S/2008/676 (28 October 2008) was a letter from the Syrian ambassador condemning US aggression in Syrian territory.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Staffan de Mistura (Sweden)

Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs

Michael von der Schulenburg (Germany)

Deputy Special Representative for Humanitarian, Reconstruction and Development Affairs

David Shearer (New Zealand)

Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the International Compact with Iraq

Ibrahim Gambari (Nigeria)


  • Strength as of October 2008: 147,800
  • Composition as of November 2008: US, UK, Georgia, Australia, Romania, El Salvador, Bulgaria, Albania, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Ukraine, Macedonia, Japan, Lithuania, Korea, Moldova, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Tonga.


  • Composition as of 30 September 2008: 222 troops (Fiji), seven military observers, up to 446 international civilian staff and 592 local civilian staff.

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