Posted 28 February 2013
Expected Council Action
In March, Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), will brief the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNAMI. No outcome is expected.
UNAMI’s mandate expires on 24 July.
Key Recent Developments
Kobler last briefed the Council on the work of UNAMI on 29 November 2012. In that briefing, he highlighted the ongoing political stalemate, including an Arab-Kurdish rift, that has endangered the progress towards provincial elections scheduled for 20 April and the strengthening of state institutions. Kobler also noted the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, continuing issues related to Iranian refugees in Camp New Iraq and Camp Hurriya (formerly Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty) and tentative progress on improving bilateral relations between Iraq and Kuwait and the former’s fulfilment of its Chapter VII obligations.
Since the briefing, the political situation in Iraq has not improved. On 18 December, President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke and was transferred soon after to Germany for treatment, where he remains. Talabani had played a mediating role between various political constituencies, especially between the Arabs and the Kurds, and his absence has reportedly exacerbated an already tense political situation.
Also in late December, the arrest of bodyguards for Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, a Sunni, sparked demonstrations against the Shi’a-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The protests have continued in the weeks since, spreading to multiple provinces and expressing a variety of grievances, including over human rights violations, perceptions of mistreatment of Sunnis by the security forces and an unequal distribution of power in the government among various communities. On 8 January, Kobler called on those taking part in the protests to refrain from violence and on security forces to show restraint in maintaining law and order. (Four people were killed on 25 January when Iraqi troops opened fire on protestors in Fallujah.) On 6 February, Muqdad al-Sharifi, the chief electoral officer of the Independent High Electoral Commission, expressed concern that the demonstrations could hamper efforts to conduct the 20 April provincial elections.
The security situation in Iraq has also significantly worsened in recent months, with 39 pilgrims killed during the Shi’a festival of Arba’een on 31 December. Ifan al-Issawi, a member of parliament, was assassinated on 15 January in an attack that killed five others. A suicide bomber killed at least 35 individuals in an attack on a Shi’a mosque in Tuz Khurmato in northern Iraq on 23 January. Kobler issued individual statements following each attack condemning the violence.
On 25 January, the Secretary-General released a statement strongly condemning “the recent wave of terrorist attacks across Iraq, which have killed hundreds of people and left many more wounded”. An attack on a police headquarters in Kirkuk on 3 February killed at least 36 people and injured 105. Multiple bombings on 8 February that killed at least 26 people prompted a statement from Kobler appealing to Iraqi leaders to prevent sectarian violence from spreading. Most recently, on 17 February, a string of car bombs targeting outdoor markets in Baghdad killed at least 37 people and injured more than 100.
On 9 February, a mortar attack on Camp Hurriya—temporary home to more than 3,000 exiles belonging to the Mujahedin-e Khalq Iran (an organisation opposed to the government in Tehran)—killed six people and injured several others. The same day the Secretary-General issued a statement calling on the government to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.
There has been some progress in recent months on the relationship between Iraq and Kuwait. Gennady Tarasov, then High-Level Coordinator for Iraq/Kuwait missing persons and property, briefed the Council in consultations on 18 December on the Secretary-General’s latest report on this issue (S/2012/931). The report noted that “Iraq continues to make steady progress towards regaining its rightful place in the region…and the broader international community”. Funding for the High-Level Coordinator position expired on 31 December. The Secretary-General is expected to report by June on the issues previously covered by the High-Level Coordinator’s mandate. On 15 January, the long-delayed Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Maintenance Project, the subject of a 1 December 2012 Council press statement (SC/10843), reportedly began; it is expected to be completed by the end of March.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The report on the human rights situation in Iraq, prepared by UNAMI in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and covering the period from January to June 2012, was released on 19 December 2012. High Commissioner Navi Pillay called on the government to address the serious human rights violations highlighted in the report and in particular to declare a moratorium on all executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty in the near future.
The key issue for the Council is how UNAMI can continue to contribute to the stability of Iraq and play a role in facilitating an end to the current political stalemate.
The worsening security situation and its impact on the political situation and upcoming elections also constitutes a significant issue for the Council.
The issue of Camp New Iraq and Camp Hurriya, and the future disposition of the more than 3,000 exiles housed there, will likely also be of major concern to Council members in the wake of the attack on 9 February.
The most likely option is for the Council to receive Kobler’s briefing and take no action. However, the Council could issue a statement on any number of issues, including:
- encouraging reconciliation between various political factions and urging national dialogue;
- supporting elections slated for April; and
- given the recent escalation in sectarian violence, condemning recent attacks and calling on all parties to do what they can to prevent further strife.
The Council is generally cautious in its approach to Iraq and is reluctant to make pronouncements on the issue. Regarding UNAMI, there is general consensus that the mission is contributing to the stability of the country, and the consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI is viewed as a routine issue for the Council. However, some Council members interested in looking ahead to the renewal of UNAMI’s mandate in July may be interested in discussing ways in which its mandate to provide good offices and facilitate political dialogue might be sharpened or focused.
Divisions on the Council regarding Iraq/Kuwait issues were apparent in December when some Council members supported adding the mandate of the High-Level Coordinator to the responsibilities of UNAMI, while others saw a need for renewing the position or developing some other interim mechanism to replace it. Council members appear unwilling to address this issue again in the near term (given how contentious it had become) and will likely wait until they receive the Secretary-General’s next report on the subject, expected by June, before taking it up again. If progress continues to be made on the Iraq/Kuwait Boundary Maintenance Project, most Council members will take this as evidence of Iraq’s good intentions and may allow the Council to formally end the mandate previously assigned to the High-Level Coordinator.
The US is the lead on Iraq issues in general, and the UK is the lead on Iraq-Kuwait issues.