July 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 July 2016
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MIDDLE EAST

Iraq

Expected Council Action

In July, Special Representative Ján Kubiš will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). UNAMI’s mandate, which expires on 31 July, is likely to be renewed for a year.

Key Recent Developments

When Kubiš briefed the Council on 6 May, he reported on Iraq’s deepening political crisis and challenges to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reform efforts; the financial crisis resulting from corruption, plunging oil prices and the high cost of fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); and projected increased humanitarian needs in the context of counter-ISIL operations.

On 23 May, the campaign to retake Fallujah from ISIL was launched by Iraqi forces with the Shi’a militia Hashd al-Shaabi—or the popular mobilisation forces (PMF)—that are nominally under the command and control of the government. The PMF operated mostly on the perimeter of Fallujah. The campaign was also supported by local Sunni fighters and airstrikes from the US-led anti-ISIL coalition. This is a notable shift from past practice as the US-led coalition has not previously participated in offensives that included the PMF, in deference to the US position that Iraq’s use of Shi’a militias in Sunni areas stokes sectarian tension and deepens the distrust of the Shi’a-led government among Sunni leaders.

The PMF has been accused of abusing Sunni men and boys fleeing Fallujah during security screenings. Allegations include disappearances, torture to elicit forced confessions, and summary executions. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that while screening civilians is legitimate when done in strict accordance with international human rights and international humanitarian law, it should not be conducted by paramilitary groups. Abadi has said the government will establish an investigative committee to look into all alleged abuses.

The Fallujah campaign has also resulted in a humanitarian situation verging on disaster. Some 82,000 civilians have fled the city during the month-long offensive, according to OCHA. While the government secured a corridor for civilians to flee Fallujah, they have been barred from entering Baghdad to seek shelter and services, and outside of the capital there are insufficient camps and resources to respond effectively to the needs of the surge in internally displaced persons (IDPs).

On 17 June, Abadi announced the recapture of Fallujah, but this military advance is unlikely to translate into political stability in light of continuing violence against Sunnis, disastrous conditions for IDPs, and insufficient re-stablisation of areas liberated from ISIL. UN officials have repeatedly flagged the concern about lagging re-stabilisation. UNAMI has said that for military advances against ISIS to hold, the government, in cooperation with the UN, would have to work quickly to restore the rule of law and basic services. This is particularly important in relation to the Sunni provinces, which have a strained relationship with the Shi’a-led government in Baghdad.

On 21 June, Kubiš briefed Council members under “any other business” via video-teleconference from Baghdad on the situation in and around Fallujah, particularly on the human rights situation and humanitarian needs. On 22 June, the US announced it would host a humanitarian pledging conference for Iraq on 20 July.

The government’s campaign to retake Fallujah was driven by Abadi’s need to consolidate his leadership by securing a significant victory prior to the resumption of parliament in July. Abadi’s attempt in April to put forward a reform cabinet of technocrats to counter corruption and curtail the power of political actors opposed to reform efforts continues to be stalled in parliament. The Fallujah victory seems unlikely to fundamentally shift that dynamic. On 7 June, however, Abadi fired the intelligence director and the heads of six state-owned banks, all of whom had been appointed by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki, who belongs to the same Shi’a Dawa party as Abadi. Malaki continues to pose a significant obstacle to Abadi’s reform efforts.

Later this year, the government is expected to launch a campaign aimed at retaking Mosul. The PMF has insisted it will play a role in that offensive, despite objections from the US-led coalition and Iraqi government forces. Meanwhile, Sunni fighters have signalled their unwillingness to participate in the Mosul offensive alongside the government if Shi’a militias are involved, especially after the reports of abuses resulting from the militia’s participation in the Fallujah operation.

UN officials anticipate that the humanitarian consequences of a campaign to dislodge ISIL from Mosul, which has a population of 2 million, could be significantly worse than the result of the Fallujah exodus. The UN Refugee Agency reported in late May that 4,200 Iraqis fled from Mosul to Syria amid reports that ISIL had increased executions of men and boys in Fallujah as the government fought to retake the city.  

In other developments, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav JenĨa briefed Council members in consultations on 23 June under “any other business” on cross-border issues involving Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. The Turkish presence in the Ba’shiqa region near Mosul, which Turkey maintains to counter the activities of ISIL and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, was raised. It seems ongoing Turkish airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq was not discussed.

Human Rights-Related Developments

A report on a May visit to Iraq by the Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs concluded that intensified efforts by the Iraqi government are required to meet the humanitarian needs and protect the human rights of many of the millions of IDPs; that Iraq has neither a legal framework for addressing the rights and needs of those persons nor a comprehensive policy in line with international standards that is implemented in practice; and that its resources are diminishing, reducing its capacity to respond effectively to the displacement crisis (A/HRC/32/35/Add.1).

The Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a report on 16 June that found that ISIL had committed, and continues to commit, the crime of genocide against the Yazidis. The Commission recommended that the Security Council refer the situation to justice, such as the ICC or an ad-hoc tribunal, and invite formal briefings by the Commission to the Security Council, including a further update on ISIL’s crimes against the Yazidis (A/HRC/32/CRP.2).

Canada has sent two letters to the Security Council, asking it to establish a mechanism to investigate reports of violations of international law by ISIL in Iraq and Syria, determine whether these violations constitute acts of genocide or other serious international crimes and identify the perpetrators of such violations and take measures to ensure accountability, including a referral to the ICC (S/2016/499 and S/2016/545).

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is promoting a genuinely inclusive government that is accountable to the Iraqi people. A related issue is determining how the Council and UNAMI can support Prime Minister Abadi’s reform process and encourage greater cooperation on financial, security and humanitarian issues between Abadi’s dominant Shi’a Dawa party and Kurdish and Sunni parliamentarians, and thereby build confidence in the central government and fortify Iraq’s response to ISIL.

Another issue is how to address the impact of the anti-ISIL military campaigns on the human rights, humanitarian and security situations in Iraq.

Options

Options seem limited since the security response to ISIL is happening outside the Council’s purview. However, an option is to include in the resolution renewing UNAMI a call for the government to work towards enhanced security and humanitarian coordination with Kurdish and Sunni leaders, and for UNAMI to support the government in that effort. In the resolution, the Council could also condemn human rights violations by ISIL and by Iraqi security forces, including the PMF.

The resolution could also call on the government to enhance its cooperation with UNAMI in areas that may require prioritisation in the mandate renewal, such as human rights, humanitarian response, rule of law, security sector reform, stabilisation activities in areas liberated from ISIL and best practices for child protection and gender policies.

Options for the Council to address the pressing issue of accountability would be to refer the situation to the ICC or express support for the High Commissioner’s call from June 2015 for the Iraqi government to accede to the Rome Statute and, as an immediate step, to accept the ICC’s jurisdiction with respect to the current situation. A narrower accountability option for the Council would be to consider Canada’s request for the Council to establish a mechanism to investigate reports of ISIL’s violations of international law.

Council Dynamics

Council members support UNAMI and some subscribe to the view held by the US and Iraq, as well as by Kubiš, that the mission’s mandate is sufficiently broad and flexible to fulfil its good offices role. Other Council members believe that UNAMI would benefit from a resolution that updates and prioritises its tasks since the mandate has not changed since resolution 1770 was adopted in 2007.

Spain and the UK, as co-chairs of the 2242 Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security, would like to see some of the gender priorities identified during the Group’s 29 April meeting on Iraq incorporated into the mandate renewal, especially in relation to sexual violence in conflict. The Informal Expert Group on Protection of Civilians is also keen to strengthen language in the mandate regarding the issue of human rights violations in the context of IDP detention. Others believe that opening up the mandate to changes will give Russia a window to highlight the Turkish presence in Iraq, an issue the P3 would prefer not to address directly in an Iraq-related resolution.

Regarding accountability, it seems there has been some limited P3 discussion of Canada’s request, but with a very low appetite for an ICC referral that would include Iraq in any way. On the issue of accountability focused solely on ISIL violations, some Council members feel that such a selective approach would set a highly problematic precedent.

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

UN DOCUMENTS ON IRAQ

Security Council Resolution
29 July 2015 S/RES/2233 This resolution renewed UNAMI for a year.
Security Council Meeting Record
6 May 2016 S/PV.7689 This was a briefing on the Secretary-General’s reports on UNAMI and on Iraq/Kuwait missing persons and property.
Secretary-General’s Report
27 April 2016 S/2016/396 This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI.

 

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