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Briefing on Iraq Elections and Humanitarian Situation in Anbar Province

Tomorrow (4 June), Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Nickolay Mladenov will brief Council members under “any other business” following consultations on Syria’s chemical weapons. The US, the penholder on Iraq, may decide to circulate a draft press statement after hearing Mladenov’s remarks tomorrow.

Mladenov requested to brief Council members in order to provide post-election analysis as well as an update on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Anbar province. Council members expect that discussions will also focus on the impact of the Syrian crisis on Iraq’s security–particularly as Mladenov has highlighted this aspect of the Iraq situation with increased intensity in his last two briefings. Finally, some Council members may have questions about the 22 May export of oil from the autonomous northern Kurdish region of Iraq that occurred without the consent of the central government.

Regarding the elections, on 20 May Council members issued a press statement welcoming the provisional results of the 30 April parliamentary elections and urging the quick formation of the government (SC/11404). Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc won 92 of 328 seats in parliament—winning the largest number of seats, but not securing the majority needed to ensure Maliki a third term as prime minister without needing to form a coalition that would include Kurds and Sunnis. Final certification of the election results is expected soon, and Council members will likely be interested in Mladenov’s assessment about when and on what terms a government might be formed, given that in 2010 this process took ten months to complete.

Council members may also be interested in hearing whether Mladenov believes that recent oil exports from the Kurdish north are being used as possible political leverage during the negotiations to form a new government. (In 2007, after a new national hydrocarbon law under negotiation between the Kurds and Baghdad failed, the Kurdish parliament passed a law regulating oil and gas contracts in the region. Since, the Kurds have signed exploration and production agreements with many foreign companies and initiated or completed construction of several pipelines bypassing the portion of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline controlled by Iraq. Despite the mounting challenges to the authority of the central government, the Council has remained impervious to the issue.)

Regarding the security situation, according to UNAMI, at least 7,818 civilians were killed in 2013, in comparison to 3,238 in 2012. The surge in violence can be traced to a government crackdown against Sunni protests that began in April 2013, largely over the perception that the Shi’a-led Maliki government was consolidating its hold on power. (In late August 2013, Iraqi courts struck down a law limiting the prime minister to two terms in office, allowing Maliki to run for a third consecutive term.) Tensions have also been exacerbated by the destabilising effects of the crisis in neighbouring Syria and the proliferation of the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) fighters in both eastern Syria and western Iraq—a contiguous area crossing state borders and controlled by ISIS.

The surge in violence has continued in 2014, with UNAMI reporting that the death toll in May reached 799—excluding deaths as a result of the Iraqi military operation in Anbar. Regarding Anbar province, the security situation deteriorated sharply in May with thousands of civilians reportedly fleeing Falluja and Ramadi as the military intensified its assault on the cities. Maliki campaigned vowing to rout the fighters who had seized part of the province. Today (3 June) Mladenov called for the utmost restraint in ongoing military operations and the protection of civilians. He said that an inclusive solution must be found so that those displaced by the fighting can return and reconstruction can begin.

Council members expect that Mladenov will focus much of his briefing on the humanitarian situation in Anbar where the UN Refugee Agency has reported 427,000 internally displaced persons as a result of fighting there. Mladenov is also expected to convey to Council members the need to fund the humanitarian appeal launched in March, which to date is only 10 percent funded.

Despite near-daily fatal attacks in Iraq in the lead-up to elections over the course of 2013 and in 2014, UNAMI’s mandate has not significantly changed since the adoption of resolution 1770 in 2007. UNAMI’s mandate ends on 31 July, and some Council members have indicated it may be a good time to take stock and deliver a more strategic response in the next renewal.

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