Expected Council Action
In May, the Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Ján Kubiš, will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI and the most recent developments.
The mandate of UNAMI expires on 31 July.
Key Recent Developments
Iraqi government forces defeated the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in December 2017 after three years of fighting that has resulted in massive destruction of infrastructure and several million internally displaced people in the areas previously held by ISIL. Amidst these conditions, Iraq will hold parliamentary elections on 12 May, during which some 7,000 candidates will compete for 329 available seats in the parliament. Election campaigning officially started on 15 April in most of Iraq and a day later in the Kurdistan region.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki—who are both members of the Shi’a Dawa party—will lead separate coalitions within the same party. Hadi al-Amiri—the leader of the Badr organisation, the political arm of a Tehran-backed Shi’a militia—has entered the race with his own coalition. A prominent Shi’a cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, has formed an alliance with the Communist Party. The political landscape in Iraq has been marked by divisions among and within major sectarian groups. Some Sunni politicians have called for the elections to be postponed due to concerns that the Sunni population, displaced as a consequence of the fight against ISIL, would not be able to return in time to vote.
Leading up to and during the start of the election campaign, a number of candidates were attacked on different occasions. On 15 April, a car bomb targeted a convoy transporting a Turkmen candidate in Kirkuk. At least one person died and over ten were injured in the attack. The same day, another candidate from the Wataniya Coalition was fired upon in Baghdad. Two days earlier, the motorcade of another Turkmen candidate was attacked on the road connecting Baghdad and Kirkuk. In a press statement, Kubiš condemned the attacks on the candidates and called on the Iraqi government to ensure a secure environment for the upcoming elections.
In March, representatives of the political parties and coalitions were invited to sign the Electoral Charter of Honour drafted by UNAMI and Iraq’s High Electoral Commission. The charter denounces the use of violence, sectarian and ethnic rhetoric, and voter intimidation. Kubiš called on all signatories to abide by the charter’s provisions and reiterated the mission’s readiness to support the election process.
There has been some easing of tensions in relations between Baghdad and Erbil. In March, Al-Abadi announced the reopening of airports in Erbil and Sulaymani-yah for international flights. According to al-Abadi’s statement, Kurdish authorities have also agreed to the central government’s control of the airports. The Iraqi government had imposed a ban on international flights to and from Kurdistan following the referendum on independence held in the region in September of last year. Kubiš welcomed this positive development and called for continued dialogue on other outstanding issues between Baghdad and Erbil.
In September 2017, the Council adopted resolution 2379, which requested the Secretary-General to establish an investigative team to support Iraqi domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable for crimes it committed in the country. After months of negotiations between the Secretariat and the government of Iraq, the Secretary-General submitted the terms of reference (TOR) for the investigative team to the Council in February. In April, a needs-assessment mission was deployed to Iraq to evaluate the conditions on the ground for the investigative team. At press time, the Secretary-General had yet to appoint the Special Envoy who will head the investigative team as mandated by resolution 2379.
Issues and Options
The Council will closely follow developments related to the upcoming parliamentary elections, given their importance for the stability of the country and because UNAMI will play a role in the process by providing electoral assistance to the government of Iraq. Looking ahead, the Council could consider conducting a visiting mission to Iraq after the elections to show support for the government and to get a better understanding of the current challenges on the ground (a visit to Baghdad planned for late April was cancelled at the request of the government due to problems with timing).
Following the defeat of ISIL in December of last year, the Council’s attention has gradually started to shift towards other immediate issues, such as human rights and the humanitarian situation and the threats posed by terrorism. In addition to regular briefings on UNAMI, the Council could consider receiving updates on the human rights and humanitarian situations from the UN agencies with a field presence, given the reports of violations committed by pro-government forces.
As for accountability efforts, the Council will continue to monitor the developments regarding the formation of the investigative team that will support Iraqi domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable for the crimes committed in the country. The Council could consider holding consultations with relevant Secretariat officials involved in the formation of the investigative team to get a better understanding of the process. Also, the Council could explore the option of holding a meeting with the Secretariat to review and comment on the TOR for the investigative team, given that some delegations had concerns with some aspects of the TOR.
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 support the mission’s good-offices role. Other Council members believe that UNAMI would benefit from a resolution that updates and prioritises its tasks, given that the mandate has not changed since resolution 1770 was adopted more than ten years ago. Some members have previously expressed interest in incorporating stronger language in the mandate renewal resolution on such issues as the promotion of national reconciliation; accountability; security sector reform; deeper political and economic reforms; women, peace and security; children and armed conflict; and the right of internally displaced persons to return to their homes. It seems that the US, the penholder, and Iraq, the host country, are reluctant to make any substantial changes to UNAMI’s mandate.
The US is the penholder on Iraq issues in general, and the UK is the penholder on Iraq-Kuwait issues. Poland is the chair of the 1518 Iraq Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON IRAQ
|Security Council Resolutions|
|8 December 2017 S/RES/2390||The Council unanimously adopted resolution 2390, which indicated that measures imposed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter regarding the oil-for-food programme had been fully implemented.|
|21 September 2017 S/RES/2379||This resolution established an investigative team tasked with collecting, storing and preserving evidence of ISIL crimes in Iraq.|
|14 July 2017 S/RES/2367||This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNAMI for another year.|
|Security Council Letters|
|9 February 2018 S/2018/118||This was a letter from the Secretary-General to the Council containing the terms of reference for the investigative team to support domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable by collecting, preserving and storing evidence of war crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq.|
|19 January 2018 S/2018/63||This was a letter in which the Secretary-General requested the extension of the deadline for the submission of the terms of reference for the investigative team to hold ISIL accountable until 9 February 2018.|
|15 November 2017 S/2017/966||This was a letter containing the executive summary, observations and full set of recommendations of an independent external assessment of the structure and staffing of UNAMI submitted by the team of experts.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|21 September 2017 SC/13002||This was a statement expressing concern over the destabilising effects of the referendum on independence organised by the Kurdistan Regional Government.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|22 December 2017 S/2017/1078||This was the annual report of the 1518 Sanctions Committee.|