July 2015 Monthly Forecast


Iraq (UNAMI)

Expected Council Action

In July, Special Representative Ján Kubiš will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s reports on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and on Iraq’s compliance with resolution 1284 regarding the repatriation or return of Kuwaiti missing persons or property. UNAMI’s mandate, which expires on 31 July, will likely be renewed for a year.

Key Recent Developments

The surprise takeover of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) over a year ago has led to a widespread protection crisis that, according to UN officials, has left Iraq on the “verge of collapse”. Valerie Amos, the then-head of OCHA, briefed the Council on 14 May, reporting that three million people were internally displaced and 8.2 million people required assistance, an increase of three million in five months. According to OCHA, needs over the past year have grown by nearly 400 percent.

Kubiš also briefed on 14 May and said that for military gains against ISIS to hold, the government would have to restore civilian authority in areas liberated from ISIS—a reference to the Sunni western provinces, which have a strained relationship with the Shi’a-led government in Baghdad. Kubiš welcomed the government’s commitment to exert control over all elements taking part in liberation operations across Iraq (a reference to Shi’a militias). He also welcomed the extension of Iraq’s parliamentary session so that lawmakers could continue to discuss de-Baathification and a proposed national guard. (In February, parliament approved the draft national guard law—envisioned as a way for the government to arm Sunni fighters against ISIS—but the exclusion of former Baath party members from public service has stalled the legislation.)

Three days after the briefing by Kubiš, Ramadi fell to ISIS as government forces fled, leaving behind US-supplied military equipment. There were subsequent reports that Iraqi authorities were blocking civilians fleeing Ramadi from entering Baghdad. On 8 June, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien visited Iraq in his first mission as the new head of OCHA. He urged the government to ensure freedom of movement for all Iraqis fleeing violence.

The fall of Ramadi spurred the US-led anti-ISIS coalition to meet in Paris on 2 June. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attended and argued for more help to fight the well-equipped and well-organised ISIS. In addition to arms, he requested more intelligence and surveillance support. Many of the Western members of the coalition said there was no military solution without a political one, and suggested that reclaiming territory from ISIS could not be done without the Sunni population joining the fight alongside the Iraqi Army (which is majority Shi’a). Abadi said Iraq would like to purchase arms from Iran and Russia. France and the US agreed to send more weapons, such as anti-tank rockets powerful enough to counter ISIS’s use of armoured trucks as suicide vehicles.

The US agreed to send more trainers and weapons despite ongoing tension between Baghdad and Washington over anti-ISIS strategies. In late April, Abadi criticised a bill in the US Congress to directly arm Sunni and Kurdish fighters, bypassing the Shi’a-led government in Baghdad, as an attempt to further divide Iraq along sectarian lines. The US said it supported a unified Iraq and that military assistance is delivered through the government. (The draft provision was inserted into a bill authorising funding to train Iraqi forces. There were concerns that Baghdad was withholding weapons from Kurdish peshmerga forces. Baghdad has also been reluctant to provide arms to Sunni fighters in provinces controlled by ISIS.)

Baghdad relies upon US airpower, but control on the ground has been sustained by the Kurdish peshmerga and Shi’a militias known as the popular mobilisation forces, which are widely believed to be supported and directed by Tehran. Regarding the peshmerga, the US had hoped they would eventually help Iraqi forces retake Mosul. But Kurds have focused on defending their semi-autonomous provinces from further ISIS encroachment rather than participating in a broader offensive against ISIS. Meanwhile, the US fears that Iraq’s use of Shi’a militias in Sunni areas stokes sectarian tension, deepens the distrust of the Shi’a-led government among Sunni leaders in the western provinces and entrenches support for ISIS. The air support provided by the US-led coalition has been conditioned on the withdrawal of Shi’a militias. However, Abadi has not been able to exert the same level of control over the deployment of Shi’a militias in Sunni western provinces as he did prior to the fall of Ramadi. While some Sunni fighters recognise the effectiveness of the Shi’a militias against ISIS, they remain unconvinced that their deployment will lead to stabilisation in areas recaptured from ISIS.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 15 May, the special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) urged the government of Iraq to step up its efforts to assist IDPs and give them higher priority. IDPs from all ethnic and religious communities are surviving in precarious conditions, often under the threat of violence and further displacement and without adequate shelter, healthcare, food and water. Meanwhile, the situation of hundreds of thousands of IDPs living in areas controlled by ISIS is unclear and deeply worrying.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is supporting a genuinely inclusive government. In this regard, an issue is determining how the Council and UNAMI can encourage greater cooperation on security and humanitarian issues between the dominant Shi’a Dawa party of Abadi and Kurdish and Sunni parliamentarians and thereby build confidence in the central government and fortify Iraq’s response to ISIS.

Another issue is how to address the mutually destabilising impact of the war in Syria and the Iraq crisis.


UNAMI’s mandate has not significantly changed since the adoption of resolution 1770 in 2007. One option is to adopt a resolution that renews the existing mandate without adjustment.

Although UNAMI is a political mission not equipped to address the various and very serious security issues, another option is to adopt a resolution mandating UNAMI to provide better capacity to address the inter-relationship of the crises in Iraq and Syria, support the establishment of a more inclusive political system and facilitate a humanitarian response.

The resolution renewing UNAMI could explicitly call for the government to work towards enhanced security and humanitarian coordination with the Kurdistan Regional Government and Sunni leaders. In the resolution, the Council could also condemn human rights violations by ISIS and associated armed groups (an indirect reference to former Baathists and Sunni tribal leaders) as well as by Iraqi security forces and associated armed groups (an indirect reference to Shi’a militias).

The Council could invite Special Representative on Sexual Violence Zainab Bangura to brief alongside Kubiš on her recent visit to the region, which included Iraq.

Council Dynamics

Council members uniformly support UNAMI’s mandate, which they believe is broad enough and flexible enough to allow Kubiš to fulfil the mission’s good offices role.

Despite a flurry of activity in the latter half of 2014 in response to the spread of ISIS, Council members have quickly reverted to a “wait-and-see” mode on Iraq. Except through the lens of counter-terrorism, Council members have been unable to approach the connected crises in Iraq and Syria holistically. It is likely that they will continue to treat the two situations as discrete issues. Condemning the Tehran-backed regime in Damascus is difficult to reconcile with supporting the Tehran- and US-backed government in Baghdad.

Similarly, the Council has been less directly engaged in grappling with the underlying political divisions among Iraq’s Shi’a, Sunni and Kurdish populations except for bland calls for an inclusive government. For example, Council members have yet to directly condemn violations by Iraqi security forces or militias. This trend will likely continue given the degree to which the US seeks Iraq’s agreement prior to Council outcomes on Iraq.

Council members France, Jordan, Lithuania, New Zealand, Spain, the UK and the US are part of the anti-ISIS coalition—though not all directly participate in air strikes.

The US is the penholder on Iraq issues in general, and the UK is the penholder on Iraq-Kuwait issues.

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UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
30 July 2014 S/RES/2169 This resolution renewed UNAMI for a year and increased the reporting period to every three months versus every four months.
Security Council Meeting Records
14 May 2015 S/PV.7443 This was the regular quarterly briefing on Iraq.
Secretary-General’s Reports
1 May 2015 S/2015/305 This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI.
29 April 2015 S/2015/298 This was the Secretary-General’s report on Iraq/Kuwait missing persons and property.

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