Expected Council Action
In November, the new Special Representative, Nickolay Mladenov (Bulgaria), will brief the Council on the report on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Council members are also due to receive a separate report from UNAMI on Iraq’s compliance with resolution 1284 regarding the repatriation or return of Kuwaiti nationals or their remains and the return of Kuwaiti property.
This will be the first time that UNAMI will report on Iraq-Kuwait issues following the adoption of resolution 2107, which transferred this task to UNAMI. (This reporting was formerly assigned to the High-Level Coordinator for Iraq-Kuwait Missing Persons but the Council allowed financing of this mandate to lapse in December 2012.)
The UNAMI mandate expires on 31 July 2014.
Key Recent Developments
On 16 July, the Council received its final briefing from former Special Representative Martin Kobler, who emphasised four key issues for the future of Iraq: the full implementation of the constitution, the equitable distribution of resources, the protection of the environment and the importance of providing opportunities to women and youth.
Violence this year has increased to levels not seen since the all-out sectarian warfare of 2006 and 2007. There have been almost daily fatal attacks, many of them coordinated and sectarian in nature, against civilians, law enforcement and government officials. The most recent series of attacks occurred on 27 October when car bombs across Iraq killed at least 66 people in one day. According to UNAMI, 1,000 civilians were killed in September with a total of at least 5,740 civilians killed since January, in comparison to 3,238 in all of 2012.
Analysts have said that the surge in violence is related to a government crackdown against Sunni protests that began in April, largely over the perception that the Shi’a-led government was consolidating its hold on power. Tension has also been exacerbated by the destabilising effects of the Syrian crisis. Spillover from that crisis—in which Iraq is officially neutral—has complicated Iraq’s foreign policy, which requires a delicate balance of good relations with both Tehran and Washington, D.C. US officials believe Iran flies military supplies over Iraq to sustain the Syrian government’s advantage, with Iraq alleging it cannot stop the over-flights. On 17 July, Iran’s outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to discuss cooperation between their countries. On 15 August, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari similarly met to discuss their cooperation, as well as the links between Al-Qaida activities in both Iraq and Syria. At press time, Maliki was due to meet with US President Barack Obama on 1 November.
A 21 July attack on a prison outside Baghdad resulted in the escape of hundreds of inmates, reportedly including several senior Al-Qaida leaders. The Al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham claimed responsibility, with suspicions that some level of collusion would have been required with Iraqi security forces. Interpol issued an alert on 24 July that this jailbreak posed a major threat to global security. Maliki fired the prisons director, and since the jailbreak, Iraqi forces have arrested hundreds on suspicion of terrorism, targeting mainly Sunni neighbourhoods in Baghdad. Rather than staunching the violence, the arrests have angered Sunnis, who view the crackdown as unfairly targeting their community. On 6 October, Mladenov called on all Iraqi leaders to work together to halt the surge in violence.
The Kurdish Regional Government announced on 10 August it would support Syrian Kurds following clashes between Syrian Kurdish armed groups and Al-Qaida. It reopened its border with Syria, and more than 37,000 refugees crossed in August alone. The border closed following a 29 September suicide bombing in Erbil, the first to hit this region in six years. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that there are almost 198,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq; the vast majority are located in this semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
On 1 September, violence also struck Camp Ashraf (or Camp New Iraq), a temporary home of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (a group of Iranian exiles opposed to the government in Tehran). Fifty-two residents were killed, a majority from gunshot wounds to the head. Media reports indicate that camp residents accused Iraqi forces of carrying out the assault. Iraq denies the allegation and has said it will investigate. The Secretary-General, UNAMI and UNHCR condemned the incident and called on the government to ensure the security of the residents. On 11 September, the remaining 42 individuals at the camp were transferred to a transit facility known as Camp Hurriya (or Camp Liberty), where there is a programme for resettlement outside Iraq.
On 26 August, the Federal Supreme Court struck down a law, passed by parliament in January, limiting the prime minister, president and parliament speaker to two terms in office. Analysts perceive this as a move for Maliki to further monopolise power and run for a third term. Iraqi general elections have been set for April 2014.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 9-10 October, 42 individuals were reportedly executed by the government on terrorism charges, bringing the total number of executions this year to 140. On 11 October, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed that such large-scale executions were “most probably in contravention of international law” and called on the government to halt all executions immediately. The statement added that the claim that the death penalty deters terrorism was clearly a fallacy, given the rise in civilian killings.
The key issue for the Council is how UNAMI can continue to contribute to the stability of Iraq and play a role in facilitating an end to the political stalemate and sectarian tension.
A further issue will be whether and how to address the destabilising impact of the Syrian conflict on Iraq—in particular the proliferation of extremist armed groups with linked activities in Iraq and Syria.
The issue of Camp Hurriya, and the future disposition of the Iranian exiles housed there, will likely also be of concern to Council members in the wake of the 1 September attack.
The most likely option is for the Council to receive the briefing and take no action. However, the Council could issue a statement on any number of issues, including:
- encouraging reconciliation between various political factions and urging national dialogue; and
- given the escalation in sectarian violence, condemning recent attacks and calling on all parties to prevent further strife.
Despite the escalating violence and continuing instability, beyond the routine annual renewals of UNAMI the Council has remained otherwise silent on Iraq since 15 December 2010. Regarding UNAMI, there is general consensus that the mission is contributing to the stability of the country.
Council members have found that publicly addressing the growing violence in Iraq is difficult, primarily because of US sensitivities related to its 2003 invasion. However, some Council members are finding it untenable to ignore the implications of increasingly violent sectarian splits and political dysfunction in Iraq and may be interested in sharpening the Council’s discussion of the issues.
Several Council members are of the view that the larger problems Iraq is facing deserve at least as much attention and response by the Council as is given to Camps Ashraf and Hurriya which—while important, particularly to the US—represent only a minor fraction of the security issues facing the country.
The US is the lead on Iraq issues in general, and the UK is the lead on Iraq-Kuwait issues.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|24 July 2013 S/RES/2110||This resolution extended the mandate of UNAMI until 31 July 2014.|
|27 June 2013 S/RES/2107||This resolution transferred Iraq/Kuwait issues to the UNAMI mandate.|
|11 July 2013 S/2013/408||This was a report of the Secretary-General on UNAMI.|
|17 June 2013 S/2013/357||This was the 35th report of the Secretary-General on Iraq/Kuwait issues.|
|Security Council Letter|
|1 August 2013 S/2013/462||This letter noted the appointment of Nickolay Mladenov (Bulgaria) as the new Special Representative for Iraq and head of UNAMI.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|16 July 2013 S/PV.7002||This was the final briefing on UNAMI from Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq Martin Kobler.|