What's In Blue

Posted Mon 22 Nov 2021

Iraq: Briefing and Closed Consultations

Tomorrow (23 November), the Security Council is scheduled to hold a briefing on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The Special Representative and head of UNAMI, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, is expected to brief on Iraq’s 10 October parliamentary election and developments in the country since the election took place. A female civil society representative is also expected to brief regarding the role and participation of women in Iraqi political life. The briefing will be followed by closed consultations.

Tensions in Iraq have risen dramatically in the aftermath of the election. On 12 October, the Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF)—a group that comprises several Shiite political parties, many of which lost ground at the election—issued a statement questioning the results and raising allegations of fraud against Iraqi authorities and the UN. On 16 October, the SCF announced that it fully rejected the preliminary election results. The SCF has also lodged a series of complaints with Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).

Protests in support of the SCF have since erupted in a number of Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, Basra and Wasit. On 5 November, two protesters were killed and dozens more were wounded during a demonstration against alleged electoral fraud that took place near Baghdad’s Green Zone, an area in central Baghdad that houses government agencies and foreign embassies. Following this incident, Qais Khazali, the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, a Shiite militia and political party closely aligned with Iran, accused Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi of ordering security forces to use live ammunition against protesters.

On 7 November, a drone strike targeted al-Kadhimi’s Baghdad residence. Al-Kadhimi was not harmed in the attack, which wounded six members of his security detail. In a press statement issued on 8 November, Council members strongly condemned the attack on al-Kadhimi and underlined the need to hold the perpetrators accountable. During tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are expected to reiterate their strong condemnation of the attack and stress that disputes regarding the electoral process should be resolved through established legal channels without resorting to violence.

During her briefing, Hennis-Plasschaert is expected to provide an update regarding the electoral complaints lodged with the IHEC. Under Iraqi law, these complaints must be resolved before the election results can be sent to Iraq’s Supreme Court for ratification. The Secretary-General’s report on Iraq’s electoral process and UNAMI’s support to that process, which was requested by the Council in resolution 2576, was published on 8 November. According to this report, 1,436 challenges against the preliminary election results have been received. Council members are likely to ask Hennis-Plasschaert about the timeline for resolving these complaints.

Although Iraq’s Supreme Court is yet to ratify the election results, negotiations regarding the formation of a new government are ongoing. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose movement won the highest number of seats at the election, has reportedly held a series of meetings with leaders of other political parties, including Sunni speaker of parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi, who leads the Taqaddum party, and former prime minister Haider al-Abadi, the head of the Victory Alliance. Council members may be interested in hearing Hennis-Plasschaert’s analysis of the potential outcome of these negotiations. Some members are expected to call for the formation of an inclusive and representative government that is capable of managing the challenges facing Iraq.

Hennis-Plasschaert is also expected to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on Iraq’s electoral process. The report describes the work undertaken by UNAMI to support the election, including its strategic messaging campaign regarding election preparations, its technical assistance to the IHEC, and its provision of logistical support to international election observers. It notes that UNAMI, in collaboration with the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), deployed 150 UN international electoral experts and approximately 550 national support personnel to fulfil the electoral monitoring aspect of UNAMI’s mandate. The report concludes that the election was generally peaceful and that polling was well managed in stations monitored by UN experts. On 15 November, Council members issued a press statement which, among other matters, welcomed this report and congratulated Iraq and the IHEC “for conducting a technically well-managed and generally peaceful election”. At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to express support for UNAMI and commend Iraqi authorities for the way in which the election was conducted.

During tomorrow’s meeting, some Council members are expected to welcome Iraq’s recent diplomatic efforts in its region. On 28 August, Iraq hosted the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership, a regional summit aimed at easing tensions among states in the Middle East. The conference was attended by representatives of Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron. Foreign ministers of the participating countries subsequently met on the sidelines of the General Assembly in September, where they agreed to establish a follow-up committee spearheaded by Iraq and Jordan in cooperation with France.

The threat posed by terrorism is another likely topic of discussion at tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s latest report on key developments in Iraq and the work of UNAMI, which was published on 11 November, notes that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) carried out 157 attacks against Iraqi security forces between 25 August and 9 October, including a 5 September attack that killed 13 police officers. Council members may urge the international community to assist Iraq with its fight against terrorism and express support for its counter-terrorism efforts.

Council members are also expected to raise the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives. According to the 32nd Secretary-General’s report on this issue, which was published on 8 November, 40 individuals have been identified from the 44 sets of human remains that were delivered to Kuwait in 2019. The report also notes that Iraq has expressed confidence that a shipment containing additional Kuwaiti property could be sent to Kuwait by the end of 2021.