June 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 May 2009
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MIDDLE EAST

Iraq

Expected Council Action

A Secretary-General’s report on the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) is due by 31 May. The Council will likely be briefed on recent developments by his Special Representative for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, and also hold a public debate, currently expected on 18 June.

A Secretary-General’s report on the activities of both the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) is also due in June. A review of DFI and IAMB immunities is due before 15 June under resolution 1859, which was adopted on 22 December. (Both the DFI and the IAMB were provided with immunities to prevent creditors from seizing Iraqi oil revenue and financial assets.) A briefing by the UN Controller, Jun Yamazaki, is likely.

Resolution 1859 mandated the Secretary-General to submit a report after consultation with Iraq “on relevant facts necessary for the Council to take action enabling Iraq to regain its international standing prior to being placed on the Council’s agenda.” The aim is to review all Council resolutions adopted on Iraq since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. At press time it was unclear when the report would be submitted, but there were indications that it would be towards the end of June. It is therefore unlikely that it would be considered by the Council until July.

Key Recent Developments

Despite overall improvements in the security situation, recent months have seen a heightened number of terrorist attacks against Iraqi civilians. On 23 and 24 April in Baghdad and nearby Diyala, there were serious attacks killing at least 155 people. In a press statement on 25 April the Council condemned these attacks.

On 16 April the Council was briefed in consultations by Yamazaki on DFI and IAMB activities. In 2006 the Iraqi Council of Ministers had established a Committee of Financial Experts (COFE) to work alongside the IAMB. Yamazaki said the IAMB believes the COFE would be ready to oversee the DFI by the end of 2009.

Also on 16 April, the Council was briefed by Gennady Tarasov, the Secretary-General’s High-Level Coordinator for the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and the repatriation of Kuwaiti property. This followed a report by the Secretary-General on 8 April providing a timescale to complete the mandate. The report said that there has been no further progress recovering remains of missing persons and that more progress was unlikely. A confidence and cooperation-building period until June 2010 was also proposed in the report. The Council issued a press statement confirming its agreement to finance the activities of the Coordinator for an additional six months.

The February Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI said that Iraq’s humanitarian conditions had improved substantially. However, he added that potential for tensions in Kurdistan remained. De Mistura briefed the Council on 26 February.

At the end of April, UNAMI issued its latest Human Rights report, covering the period from 1 July to 31 December. The report emphasised that there were further security improvements in the second half of 2008. However, indiscriminate attacks against civilians remained frequent and impunity continued, the report said. (The publication of UNAMI human rights reports, which were previously published every two or three months, are now delayed by several months, making some of their information nearly obsolete.)

On 27 February US President Barack Obama announced that the US would withdraw all US combat troops from Iraq by August 2010. Under this plan, between 35,000 and 50,000 troops would remain to train Iraqi security forces until December 2011. Nonetheless, the current level of approximately 140,000 troops is not expected to change before parliamentary elections, provisionally scheduled for the end of January 2010.

Provincial elections in Iraq were held on 31 January in 14 out of 18 governorates. The voter turnout was 51 percent, which was deemed encouraging since Sunni voters had largely boycotted the 2005 elections. On 3 February the Council adopted a press statement commending the Iraqi people for their commitment to democracy. 

Options

The following are possible options:

  • limit action in June to the technical DFI and IAMB issues;
  • use the proposed public debate in June to set the scene for considerations of the wider issues expected to come up in the mandate review;
  • set up an informal working group to begin discussions on the mandate review;
  • delay decisions on the mandate review report until August so as to discuss all issues on Iraq when considering the UNAMI mandate (UNAMI expires in August, the High-Level Coordinator for the Iraq/Kuwait missing persons and property mandate expires in October and DFI and IAMB immunities expire in December); and
  • review issues on Iraq on a case-by-case basis.

Key Issues
Issues regarding UNAMI activities include:

  • Disputed internal boundaries: UNAMI on 22 Aprilsubmitted a report to the Iraqi and Kurdish governments on disputed areas in the Kurdistan region including analysis of the disputed factors and options. An issue is whether these options will be taken into account by the parties on the ground.
  • Upcoming elections: On 25 July provincial elections will be held in Kurdistan, and Iraqi parliamentary elections are scheduled for early 2010.
  • Human rights: Council members may want to address the latest UNAMI report on the human rights situation.
  • Security: Recent large-scale attacks on civilians have renewed concerns about the fragile situation. An issue is whether UNAMI’s protection can continue as US troops gradually withdraw. A related question is whether Iraqi security forces will be capable to take over this responsibility soon.

On mandate review, a preliminary issue is determining which Council decisions taken under Saddam Hussein’s regime are still effective. The next issue is which mandates should be closed because Iraq has fulfilled its obligations or because the situation has changed. A related issue is what conditions will have to be fulfilled in order for Iraq to be removed from the Council’s agenda. Key past decisions include the following:

  • Iraq/Kuwait: Kuwaiti claims following the first Gulf war still amount to approximately $25 billion. Every year, 5 percent of Iraqi oil proceeds are used to pay compensation through a mechanism administered by the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC). Iraq has requested a smaller percentage, but this has so far been rejected. Other obligations include demarcation of the border between Iraq and Kuwait, and cooperation with the UN and Kuwait on the search for missing persons and missing Kuwaiti property. (While Iraq would like to see the mandate of the High-Level Coordinator closed, this remains a sensitive humanitarian issue for Kuwait.) A question is whether the parties can now resolve those outstanding issues bilaterally.
  • Oil-for-Food: The UN is holding funds in escrow to cover the costs of residual contracts passed under the oil-for-food programme. The UN Secretariat can release payments only upon receipt of documentation confirming delivery. However, this documentation has not been provided by Iraq and the issue has been lingering for years. Last year, Costa Rica blocked an attempt from the P5 to pay creditors without authentication documents, out of concern about exposing the UN itself to claims by creditors. Costa Rica made a number of proposals, including verification measures for authorising payment to suppliers in cases where there is no confirmation of receipt of goods by Iraq. None of these proposals were taken up. (Please see our October 2008 Forecast on Iraq (Oil-For-Food).)
  • Sanctions: The Council in 2003 decided to freeze the assets of individuals and entities linked to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Resolution 1518 established a sanctions committee which mostly inherited the list of individuals and entities already subject to measures under resolution 661 of 1990. The committee has recently been seized of delisting requests. The reintegration of former Ba’athist officials into Iraqi public administration raises the question of whether or to what extent sanctions should be lifted. An arms embargo remains. A key question is whether the embargo should still be maintained.
  • Immunities for the DFI and IAMB: It seems that Iraq wants those immunities retained to prevent claims.

Council Dynamics
There is a general sense of approval in the Council that Iraq is progressively regaining full sovereignty but also a sense that the Council needs to continue to provide support. At the same time, most members also believe that Iraq still needs to fulfil outstanding obligations.

The Iraq/Kuwait issue is sensitive, as evidenced by the latest negotiations on the renewal of financing for the High-Level Coordinator. The US and the UK tend to favour a closure of the mandate of the High-Level Coordinator at some point. But Russia tends to support the Kuwaiti position that until the bodies of all missing persons are found and all Kuwaiti property is recovered, the mandate should continue. Others such as France and Turkey have been more neutral. However, there appears to be general agreement on the need for better cooperation between the two parties, including with compensation and border demarcation, and that ultimately those issues can be solved only bilaterally. But there seems to be no appetite for initiatives to bring the parties together.

Another divisive issue is whether the DFI immunities should be lifted in line with the termination of other Chapter VII mandates related to Iraq or whether they should be maintained on an exceptional basis.

On outstanding oil-for-food issues, many members think that Iraq should try to provide authentication documents to enable payment and eventually close this file. This may be used as a bargaining chip for closing other mandates. Likewise, the issue of immunities may be used to pressure Iraq to make more progress, for instance on its cooperation with Kuwait.

Finally, as to positions in the Council on UNAMI, some members seem especially interested in human rights. Others focus on security. Most are willing to address the issue of internal boundary disputes because of their implications for general stability.

Selected UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1859 (22 December 2008) extended the arrangements for the DFI and the IAMB until 31 December 2009 with a review by 15 June and requested the Secretary-General to report on all Council decisions regarding Iraq since 1990 in view of conducting a review.
  • S/RES/1830 (7 August 2008) renewed the UNAMI mandate for 12 months.
  • S/RES/1518 (24 November 2003) established a sanctions committee.
  • S/RES/1483 (22 May 2003) established sanctions against the previous Iraqi government, created the DFI, provided immunity to Iraqi petroleum products and envisaged the termination of the oil-for-food programme.
  • S/RES/1284 (17 December 1999) requested the Secretary-General to report on compliance by Iraq with its obligations regarding the repatriation of Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and property, and appointed a High-Level Coordinator.
  • S/RES/692 (20 May 1991) established UNCC.
  • S/RES/687 (3 April 1991) affirmed that Iraq was liable for any direct loss, damage or injury as a result of its unlawful invasion of Iraq, and called upon the Secretary-General to help Iraq and Kuwait demarcate their border.

Selected Press Statements

  • SC/9643 (25 April 2009) condemned the terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Diyala on 23 and 24 April.
  • SC/9637 (16 April 2009) agreed to finance the activities of the High-Level Coordinator for six months.
  • SC/9587 (3 February 2009) welcomed Iraq’s provincial elections.

Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2009/190 (8 April 2009) was the latest report of the Secretary-General on Iraq/Kuwait missing persons and missing property.
  • S/2009/102 (20 February 2009) was the latest UNAMI report.

Letters

  • S/2009/226 (30 April 2009) was a letter from the UNCC welcoming the willingness of Iraq and Kuwait to discuss unpaid compensations on 20 May 2009.
  • S/2008/521 (25 July 2008) and S/2008/588 (26 August 2008) were letters from Costa Rica on the oil-for-food-programme.
  • S/2008/206 (26 March 2008) was a letter from the Council to the Secretary-General about financing the activities of the High-Level Coordinator for an additional 12 months and requesting a report providing a timescale for completion of the mandate.

Latest Council Briefing and Debate on Iraq

Other Document

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq

Staffan de Mistura (Sweden)

Secretary-General’s High Level Coordinator for Iraq/Kuwait Missing Persons and Property  

Gennady Tarasov (Russia)

Chair of the 1518 Sanctions Committee

Ambassador Michel Kafando (Burkina Faso)

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