Expected Council Action
In March, the Council expects to receive a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, on the most recent developments in the situation in Iraq and on the two latest Secretary-General’s reports—on UNAMI and on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives.
UNAMI’s mandate expires on 31 May 2020. The mandate of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) expires on 21 September 2020.
Key Recent Developments
Widespread popular protests in different parts of Iraq, including Baghdad, started in early October 2019 and have continued with varying intensity. Protesters are voicing long-standing demands regarding basic services and infrastructure, which are lacking as a result of government neglect and failure to reconstruct the country, and overall corruption. Protests with similar demands have occurred sporadically over the past years. This time, protesters also seek structural change, including amendments to the constitution and the electoral system and an end to outside influence in the country. Briefing the Council on 3 December, Hennis-Plasschaert said that “events spun out of control on the very first night of the demonstrations, with authorities immediately resorting to excessive force”. In a 13 December press statement, Council members “expressed grave concern” over violence against protesters in Iraq. In a 17 February press release, Hennis-Plasschaert strongly condemned the use of hunting guns against protesters, which had caused high numbers of casualties. According to the latest Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI, violence in the context of the protests resulted in at least 457 deaths and 9,132 injuries between the start of the protests and 26 January. The report further suggests that if injuries caused by the excessive use of tear gas were to be included, the number of injured people might exceed 21,000. In this latest report, the Secretary-General calls human rights violations in relation to the protests a “grave concern”.
On 1 February, Iraqi President Barham Salih appointed Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, a politician with cabinet experience, as the new Iraqi Prime Minister. The protesters have reportedly rejected the nomination. One of the protesters’ demands is a government of independent figures without any previous government or legislative experience or affiliation since 2003. According to the Iraqi constitution, the Prime Minister-designate has 30 days to form a new government.
US facilities continue to be targets of rocket attacks, including a 16 February attack on a base used by the US-led Global Coalition against Da’esh. Apart from the 8 January attack, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks to date. On 3 January, Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, was killed by a US strike near the Baghdad airport. On 5 January, the Iraqi parliament adopted a resolution calling on foreign troops to leave Iraq. In a 6 January letter to the Council president, Iraq condemned the attack as violating “the sovereignty of Iraq and the principles of international law”. In a 9 January letter, the US argued that it had acted in self-defence. On 8 January, Iran retaliated by striking a base in Iraq, injuring approximately 100 US troops, according to media reports. In his latest report on UNAMI, the Secretary-General expresses his deep concern over the “impact of increasing regional tensions on Iraq”.
The 23 December 2019 report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Iraq described “disturbing trends and patterns of grave violations committed against children, notably high numbers of verified child casualties”. These are caused by both “extreme violence” committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh) and “military operations by parties to the conflict”. The report counts grave violations against 2,114 children between July 2015 and July 2019.
A January report by UNAMI and the OHCHR on the administration of justice in Iraq focused on trials under the Iraqi anti-terrorism laws. On the one hand, the report noted a “consistent pattern of well-organized trial proceedings”. On the other hand, the report found that “basic fair trial standards were not respected”. Such concerns included, inter alia, a disadvantaged defence in comparison to the prosecution, reliance on confessions allegedly produced under torture, and prosecution under an “overly broad and vague definition of terrorism and related offences”.
According to the 25th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team supporting the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL/Da’esh Committee, ISIL “has begun to reassert itself” in Iraq.
The Secretary-General’s tenth report on the threat posed by ISIL to international peace and security, and the range of UN efforts in support of member states in countering the threat, said that ISIL has around 4,662 fighters in Iraq, according to numbers from UNAMI.
A February report by UNAMI and the OHCHR on the right to education with a focus on the consequences of the effects of ISIL territorial control in Iraq concluded that ISIL territorial control has consequences on access to education to this day and has created “a marginalised generation of children and young adults, many of whom are or will be entering adulthood without any post-primary schooling”.
At press time, the UN’s 2020 humanitarian response plan for Iraq of $519.8 million was funded at 1.2 percent, with $513.6 million outstanding. According to the latest Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI, there are about 1.4 million internally displaced persons in Iraq as at 31 January 2019.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, visited Iraq from 15 to 23 February to assess the human rights situation of the 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country. She visited Baghdad, Erbil and other locations hosting IDPs. At press time, she was expected to issue a public statement on her preliminary conclusions.
Key Issues and Options
Depending on political developments, an immediate option for Council members would be to issue a statement voicing support for the progress in forming a new government and potential subsequent steps towards meeting some of the protesters’ demands.
As chair of the 1518 Iraqi Sanctions Committee, Estonia could continue seizing the momentum and political will of Council members and the Iraqi government to further advance the delisting of entities and follow up on concrete proposals on the unfreezing of Iraqi assets.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are generally unanimous in their support for UNAMI, Iraq’s post-ISIL reconstruction needs, and the positive developments in Iraq-Kuwait relations.
Regional dynamics continue to affect Iraq, as evidenced by the killing of Soleimani and the Iranian retaliation. The Iraqi government routinely states that Iraq has no intention of taking sides and becoming a theatre for regional and Iran-US tensions. Iraq is also affected by the conflict dynamics in neighbouring Syria, including the issue of the 30,000 Iraqi nationals currently in the al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria.
Turkey continues to have troops stationed in Iraq, over Iraq’s objections.
The US is the penholder on Iraq issues in general, and the UK is the penholder on Iraq-Kuwait issues and UNITAD. Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia) is the chair of the 1518 Iraq Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON IRAQ
|Security Council Resolutions|
|20 September 2019S/RES/2490||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNITAD until 21 September 2020.|
|21 May 2019S/RES/2470||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNAMI until 31 May 2020.|
|21 February 2020S/2020/140||This was the latest report on UNAMI.|
|20 February 2020S/2020/133||This was the Secretary-General’s 25th report on missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives.|
|4 February 2020S/2020/95||This was the Secretary-General’s tenth report on the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh to international peace and security and the range of UN efforts in support of member states in countering the threat.|
|23 December 2019S/2019/984||This was the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Iraq.|
|Security Council Letters|
|20 January 2020S/2020/53||This was the 25th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team supporting the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL/Da’esh Committee.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|3 December 2019S/PV.8676||Special Representative and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNAMI, the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, and the most recent developments in the country.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|2 January 2020SC/14068||This was a press release on the removal of 15 entities from the sanctions list.|
|19 December 2019S/2019/963||This was the annual report of the 1518 Iraq Sanctions Committee.|