What's In Blue

Iraq: Briefing and Consultations on UNAMI

Tomorrow morning (28 August), the Security Council is scheduled to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The Special Representative and head of UNAMI, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, is expected to brief via video teleconference.

Hennis-Plasschaert is expected to focus her statement on recent developments in the situation in Iraq and on the two latest Secretary-General’s reports—on UNAMI (S/2019/660) and on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives (S/2019/632).

Civilian casualty numbers continue to decline in Iraq since the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was militarily defeated. The latest Secretary-General’s report notes 287 civilian casualties, with 94 people killed and 193 people wounded, in the period from 1 April to 30 June, which it describes as a substantial decline compared to the same period last year. The main cause for the casualties are improvised explosive devices. The Secretary-General’s report further states that 2,941 Yazidis are still believed to be in ISIL captivity.

The difficult humanitarian environment may also feature in the briefing. There are some 1.7 million internally displaced persons in Iraq, and humanitarian actors continue to experience access constraints. On recovery and stabilisation efforts in areas formerly controlled by ISIL, the United Nations Development Programme’s Funding Facility for Stabilization is still in need of $1,055 million out of a total requirement of $1,380 million.

On the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives, Hennis-Plasschaert may note that excavations from two burial sites in Samawah district in March led to the exhumation of the remains of about 48 Kuwaitis. In cooperation with the Medical-Legal Department of the Ministry of Health of Iraq, Kuwait cross-checked DNA profiles with its Kuwaiti prisoners of war DNA database and further examined bone samples. The remains were handed over by Iraqi authorities to Kuwaiti authorities on 8 August. This was the first time since 2004 that human remains had been exhumed.

Members may also be interested in hearing more about security sector reform. On 1 July, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi issued an executive order that brings the “Popular Mobilization Forces” (PMF) under the exclusive control of the Iraqi state. The PMF was established in 2014 from different mostly Iran-backed Shia Muslim fighters for the fight against ISIL. The executive order further announced that the PMF had to cut all links with political entities and warned that armed groups operating outside the control of the Iraqi state are illegal and subject to prosecution.

In late August, several explosions occurred in bases and weapons depots of the PMF, which blamed the US and Israel for the strikes. The Pentagon stated that it had not conducted the attacks, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at Israel’s involvement. On 26 August, Abd Al-Mahdi and the Iraqi president, Barham Salih, condemned the air strikes as an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty. Similar attacks have been carried out against other Iranian-backed forces in Lebanon and Syria. This is adding to regional tensions, with Iraq repeatedly emphasising that it has no intention of becoming a theatre for regional and Iran-US tensions, stressing its good relations with both countries.

Council members may further be interested in hearing from Hennis-Plasschaert about developments in Iraq’s political situation such as the ongoing government formation and the relationship between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

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