What's In Blue

Posted Tue 21 Nov 2017

Iraq Briefing and Consultations

On Wednesday (22 November), the Security Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the situation in Iraq. Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), will brief on the latest report on UNAMI (S/2017/881) and recent developments. Major Anna Patrono from the Arma dei Carabinieri, Team Leader of the First Female Policing Course in Baghdad, is also expected to brief.

Developments on the ground have been dominated by the ongoing efforts by the Iraqi government forces (aided by Kurdish troops, Sunni tribal fighters, and air support from the US-led coalition) to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In the last few months, Iraqi forces have taken control of some of the major ISIL strongholds on Iraqi territory, including Mosul in July and Tal Afar in August. Most recently, on 17 November, the Iraqi government liberated Rawa in Anbar province, the only remaining town that was still under ISIL’s control. While the immediate threat from ISIL has subsided significantly, Council members might be interested in getting more information from Kubiš on the humanitarian and human rights situation in the aftermath of the anti-ISIL operation. According to the latest update by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are still a large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of the military operations. In Ninawa province, which includes Mosul, there are still close to one million IDPs, while some 67,000 people were displaced during the latest military operations in Anbar province.

In addition to the ongoing fight against ISIL, another issue that the Council has been following closely and would be interested in hearing more about from Kubiš is the rift between the central government and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). On 25 September, the KRG held a referendum on independence for Kurdistan, including the Kurdish region and disputed territories under control of Kurdish forces, which increased tensions in the region. The situation further escalated in October when Iraqi government forces launched a military operation to establish control over Kirkuk and surrounding areas in the disputed territories. Reported hostilities between the KRG and central government forces prompted Council members France and Sweden to call for a meeting on this matter under “any other business” on 26 October. Following the meeting, Council members issued press elements expressing their concern and calling on both sides to engage in constructive dialogue.

Since the beginning of the crisis, UNAMI has been offering its good offices to facilitate possible discussion between the KRG and the central government. UNAMI has called on the KRG authorities to respect the 6 November ruling of Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court that the Constitution does not allow for secession of any of the country’s components. On 14 November, the KRG authorities issued a statement confirming that they would respect the ruling of the Court and that they are ready to engage in an inclusive national dialogue with Baghdad to resolve outstanding issues. Yesterday, the Court confirmed its 6 November decision and ruled that the referendum was unconstitutional, and that its results should be annulled. Council members are likely to want more information from Kubiš on these developments. Some members may be particularly interested in the potential role UNAMI could play in mediation efforts between the KRG and the central government.

On 15 November, the Secretary-General submitted to the Council the executive summary, recommendations and observations from a report on a review of the structure and staffing of UNAMI and related resources, which was requested by resolution 2367. This was the first time the Council had requested an independent and external assessment of the UN mission, whose mandate has not been changed since 2007.

The assessment team concluded that, broadly speaking, UNAMI was working on the right priority issues based on its mandate, although the report makes some recommendations to update the mission priorities and make them more focused. In its executive summary, the assessment team notes that the mission needs to have clearly defined objectives, a strategy to achieve them, and a performance measurement framework. The main recommendations by the team cover: strategic priorities and strategy setting; organisational structure, resources and staffing; collaboration and coordination between UNAMI and the UN country team (UNCT); UNAMI and UNCT common services and cost sharing; and performance measurement reporting. The report recommends increasing the capacity to deliver mandate-related results by adding political, human rights and analytical capabilities, especially outside Baghdad.

The report of the assessment team is not officially on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting, although some members of the Council may use this opportunity to highlight some of its recommendations. The Secretary-General has created a group led by the Department of Political Affairs and consisting of the representatives of the Department of Field Support (DFS) and UNDP to assess the report. The group is expected to submit to the Secretary-General by 12 January 2018 the outcome of their assessment of the review with an aim of developing the implementation plan. Some members may decide to focus more intensively on the outcome of the review (and the implementation plan) early next year, as this information will most likely be used to inform discussions on the renewal of UNAMI’s mandate, which expires next June.

The terms of reference (TOR) for the investigative team on accountability for crimes committed in Iraq by ISIL, mandated by resolution 2379, have yet to be submitted to the Council, although the initial deadline was 20 November. At press time, it is not clear when the TOR, which are being produced as a result of negotiations between the government of Iraq and the UN Secretariat, will be finalised.