15 December 2005
Tomorrow's Vote, in Face of Formidable Challenges, to Provide Measure of Iraqi Confidence in Future, Security Council Told
Council Hears Briefings on Iraq Situation by UN Under-Secretary-General, United States, Iraqi Representatives
NEW YORK, 14 December (UN Headquarters) -- On the eve of the parliamentary elections in Iraq and amid a new wave of violence there, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, told the Security Council today that tomorrow's vote would provide a measure of the confidence that the Iraqi people were ready to place in their own future at a time of continued formidable security, political and economic challenges.
Briefing the Council following his visit to Iraq last month with the Secretary-General, Mr. Gambari said that, after the election tomorrow, a new political landscape would emerge in Iraq. The framework laid out in resolution 1546 (2004) had sought to promote national dialogue and reconciliation. In turn, that was intended to improve the security situation. That had not occurred, and much remained to be done to develop a momentum within the political process that emphasized what the Iraqis had in common rather than what divided them.
After three years of dramatic change and decades of deprivation, Iraqis were still looking to their leaders for the tangible improvements necessary to better their everyday lives and stabilize their country, he said. It was in the interest of the region, therefore, particularly Iraq's neighbours, and the international community to continue to provide Iraq long-term support. The Security Council had a special responsibility in that regard to help normalize Iraq's status as a full member of the international community.
He noted that the Secretary-General had repeatedly drawn attention to the plight of human rights in Iraq, condemning terrorist, insurgent, and paramilitary attacks against innocent civilians, and calling on all sides to strictly observe their obligations under international humanitarian law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had also been seized of the matter. The situation required, not only the Organization's continued attention, but, more importantly, urgent action, particularly by the Iraqi authorities and the Multinational Force (MNF).
On behalf of the MNF, John Bolton (United States) said that the MNF continued to work with the Iraqi Government to train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), which continued to develop despite an insurgency actively attempting to disrupt them, destroy their infrastructure and equipment, and intimidate recruits. Iraqis were taking on more of the fight, but it must be acknowledged that the Iraqi forces were not yet ready to conduct independent operations unilaterally, he added.
He said that, even with the progress in wresting territory from enemy control, the MNF and its Iraqi partners faced multiple challenges in the security sphere. Those included: countering the intimidation and brutality of enemies who were not constrained by law or moral norms; building representative Iraqi security forces and institutions whose first loyalties were to the Iraqi Government; neutralizing the action of countries such as Syria and Iran, which provided comfort and/or support to terrorists and the enemies of democracy in Iraq; and understanding the composition of, and relationships between, terrorists and other enemy networks.
Turning to security for the United Nations in Iraq, he said that the distinct entities of the Multinational Force, notably the Georgians, Romanians and South Koreans, continued to provide security for the United Nations in Baghdad, Basra and Erbil, respectively. They provided static site security, security patrols, reconnaissance, convoy escorts, checkpoints and, when necessary, MEDEVAC and emergency evacuation. The contributions of the United Nations, most notably preparations for tomorrow's election, were vital. He urged the Organization to continue to fulfil its mandate as per resolution 1546, and recalled that, on 8 December, the United Nations and the United States signed an agreement formalizing the security arrangements already in place for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
Iraq's representative said that, until the Iraqi Security Forces built their capability, he sought an extension of the mandate of the MNF. The major challenge facing Iraq as it built its democracy and launched its reconstruction was standing up to terrorism, but defeating it could not be done without global support, particularly that of Iraq's neighbours. Iraq was exposed daily to all kinds of "blind terrorism" -- indiscriminately targeting all walks of life, bombarding hospitals, airports, markets and schools -- the purpose of which was to halt the democratic changes in Iraq and send it back into darkness.
Stressing that advances in the constitutional referendum and other areas would not have been achieved without great sacrifices by the Iraqi people and without the Multinational Force in support of political change, or without the United Nations, he said those gains should not hide the fact that the United Nations presence in Iraq was still below what was required. While he sought an increase in the number of United Nations staff, he said it was high time to "turn the page of disarmament" of the previous regime and close the file of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).
The meeting began at 3:30 p.m. and was adjourned at 4:10 p.m.
Having accompanied the Secretary-General during his visit to Baghdad on 12 November, IBRAHIM GAMBARI, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Council on the work of the mission and shared some first-hand impressions of the challenges facing the United Nations in Iraq as the new year approached. He said the election tomorrow was about to bring to a conclusion the political transition process outlined in resolution 1546 (2004). To have kept that process on track under difficult conditions was a testimony to the commitment of most Iraqis to participate in shaping Iraq's future through peaceful, democratic means. The growing strength of popular participation in the three polls held this year was a sign of a new political dynamic developing in Iraq.
He said that tomorrow's vote would provide a measure of the confidence of the Iraqi people were ready to place in their own future at a time when they continued to face formidable security, political and economic challenges. The United Nations, once again, encouraged all Iraqis to exercise their democratic right to vote and appealed to all parties to refrain from violence or any action that could undermine the democratic process. Of course, the political transition was far from complete. The framework laid out in resolution 1546 had been intended to promote national dialogue and reconciliation. In turn, that was intended to have a positive impact on the security situation. In fact, that had not occurred, and much remained to be done to develop a momentum within the political process, which emphasized what the Iraqis had in common rather than what divided them.
Iraq's political leaders knew that the overwhelming majority of the country's citizens wished to live in a stable, peaceful and democratic Iraq, he said. Under the auspices of the League of Arab States, a group of Iraq's political, social and religious leaders had come together in Cairo, Egypt, from 19 to 21 November to discuss the need for national reconciliation and the development of confidence-building measures to lessen tensions, reassert aspirations that all Iraqi communities shared and, no less important, agree that violence and negative external forces should have no place in Iraq's political life. Although that was only a preliminary meeting, it showed that, given the right encouragement and space, Iraq's representatives could contribute substantively to a political process that drew back from civil strife and put what Iraqis had in common ahead of ethnic and sectarian identities.
He said that Special Representative Qazi and his team had been encouraged to support the League's efforts to create a forum in which real differences could be discussed meaningfully. The Secretary-General had expressed the United Nations' commitment to continue to work with the League, the Iraqi Government and all participants at the Cairo meeting to ensure that that initiative led to a sustained process of dialogue and reconciliation, in accordance with resolution 1546 and in full respect for Iraq's national sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity.
After the election, a new political landscape would emerge in Iraq, he continued. All political initiatives would have to take account of that. Hopefully, the Council of Representatives would assemble at the earliest opportunity after the results became clear and that the new government would be formed as soon as possible. The United Nations encouraged all of Iraq's elected representatives and political leaders to do their utmost to speed the formation of the administration, so that the positive momentum created by the election carried through to Iraq's new sovereign government.
He said that one of the most important tasks facing the new Council of Representatives would be to establish the Constitutional Review Commission and enable it to undertake its work in a credible and effective manner. The result of the constitutional referendum showed that a significant proportion of Iraqis could not support the draft constitution in its current format. The Cairo meeting showed that the basis for national consensus on difficult issues existed. The United Nations remained confident that consensus could be reached on those points in the constitution on which agreement had not yet been reached. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) stood ready to assist the new Council and the Constitutional Review Commission in discharging their duties.
Irrespective of the election's outcome, the need for national dialogue and reconciliation was real, he said. And, so was the opportunity for Iraq's political constituencies to reach out to one another, with a view to building their future together, through dialogue, mutual understanding, and compromise. The United Nations stood ready to contribute to supporting that goal in a "direct and practical" way. Iraq's greatest asset was the diversity of its people, their skills and their shared history. The United Nations could continue to make every effort to help facilitate genuine political progress and promote greater understanding between Iraq's diverse communities. Dialogue and reconciliation, therefore, would be at the heart of its activities in all areas of its mandate.
He stressed that an important aspect of the United Nations' work in that regard related to the human rights situation, particularly in light of increasingly disturbing reports in recent weeks. The Secretary-General had repeatedly drawn attention to the plight of human rights in Iraq, condemning terrorist, insurgent, and paramilitary attacks against innocent civilians, and calling on all sides to strictly observe their obligations under international humanitarian law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had also been seized of the matter. The situation required, not only the Organization's continued attention, but, more importantly, urgent action, particularly by the Iraqi authorities and the Multinational Force (MNF).
In that regard, he said he welcomed the commitment of the Multinational Force to take initial corrective steps, particularly as concerned the issue of detainees. He urged the Iraqi Government to follow up on its announced actions to address that serious situation. The UNAMI would continue to encourage all concerned to make all efforts to ensure that the basic human rights of all Iraqis were respected, and that both past and present abuses were addressed. The United Nations expected the full backing of the Security Council in implementing that important aspect of its mandate. Equally important would be the need for the new Government to be able to deliver quickly on the real needs and genuine expectations of the Iraqi people.
After three years of dramatic change and decades of deprivation, Iraqis were still looking to their leaders for the tangible improvements necessary to better their every day lives and stabilize their country, he said. It was in the interest of the region, therefore, particularly Iraq's neighbours, and the international community to continue to provide Iraq long-term support. The Security Council had a special responsibility in that regard to help normalize Iraq's status as a full member of the international community.
He emphasized that the capacity of the United Nations in Iraq depended on the commitment of the Member States. He was pleased to report that, on 8 December, he had signed with Ambassador Bolton the agreement between the United Nations and the United States, as the overall commander of the MNF, concerning the establishment of security for UNAMI. That important agreement formalized the security arrangements already in place for the United Nations in Iraq; however, in order for UNAMI to remain effective and to expand its activities beyond Baghdad, it needed "your continued support and adequate resources". In that respect, the necessary air assets for moving into and around the country were critical for UNAMI's future development.
He said that the United Nations had accompanied Iraq at "every step of its transition thus far". The men and women of UNAMI deserved our admiration and support for their dedication and efforts in the cause of peace. In accordance with its mandate, as circumstances permitted and as requested, UNAMI was determined to continue to work for all the people of Iraq, in partnership with the Iraqi Government and the international community.
JOHN BOLTON (United States), briefing the Council on behalf of the 30 countries that made up the Multinational Force, said "we cannot and should not gloss over the violence and instability in Iraq". To do so would disrespect those, both foreign and Iraqi, who had lost their lives fighting for a federal, democratic, pluralistic and unified Iraq. At the same time, however, it was not possible to dismiss Iraq's successful political transition, and strides in training and equipping Iraq's security forces.
Regarding the security situation, he said that in the run-up to the October referendum, there had been an increase in insurgent attacks leading up to tomorrow's election. Insurgent attacks remained concentrated in four of Iraq's 18 provinces (Baghdad, Nineveh, al-Anbar and Salah ad Din). Although about 80 per cent of all attacks were directed against the MNF, about 80 per cent of all casualties were suffered by the Iraqi population. While attacks on Iraq's infrastructure accounted for a small portion of total attacks, they continued to have a significant impact on the Iraqi Government's oil revenue and provoke public dissatisfaction with essential services. Attacks on infrastructure had increased in the current reporting period, but were below the historic highs of 2004.
Despite persistent security challenges, he said significant progress had been made in wresting territory from enemy control. Parts of Iraq previously under terrorist control were now, due to the MNF and Iraqi-led operations, under Iraqi Government control. Furthermore, residents of those areas could participate freely in the political process, which continued to move forward.
The Multinational Force continued to work with the Iraqi Government to train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces or ISF, he said. "We have worked together to identify a force structure to meet Iraq's security needs and we continually reassess force requirements based on current threats." The goal was to complete total force generation, which referred to institutional capacity, by August 2007. Despite repeated brutal attacks against volunteers for the ISF, recruiting continued to outpace demand even as the ISF rapidly expanded. Those recruits were from the Shia, Kurdish and Sunni communities.
The ISF, which now numbered more than 214,000, continued to develop despite an insurgency actively attempting to disrupt the forces' development, destroy their infrastructure and equipment, and intimidate recruits, he continued. Iraqis were taking on more of the fight, both combat missions and follow-on operations, including bringing supplies, medical help and other services to return affected communities to normalcy. While mindful of that progress, it must be acknowledged that the Iraqi forces were not yet ready to conduct independent operations unilaterally without the MNF's assistance, which the MNF stood ready to continue to provide.
Turning to security for the United Nations in Iraq, he said that the distinct entities of the Multinational Force, notably the Georgians, Romanians and South Koreans, continued to provide security for the United Nations in Baghdad, Basra and Erbil, respectively. They provided static site security, reconnaissance, security patrols, convoy escorts, checkpoints and, when necessary, MEDEVAC and emergency evacuation. The contributions of the United Nations, most notably preparations for tomorrow's election, were vital. He urged the Organization to continue to fulfil its mandate as per resolution 1546. Considerable work, including humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, remained to be done, and expansion was necessary for UNAMI to do that work and fulfil its mandate.
He said that even with the progress he had outlined today, the MNF and its Iraqi partners continued to face multiple challenges in the security sphere. Those included countering the intimidation and brutality of enemies who were not constrained by law or moral norms; building representative Iraqi security forces and institutions whose first loyalties were to the Iraqi Government; neutralizing the action of countries such as Syria and Iran, which provided comfort and/or support to terrorists and the enemies of democracy in Iraq; and understanding the composition of, and relationships between, terrorists and other enemy networks.
Additional challenges were addressing the militias and armed groups that were outside the formal security sector and central government command; ensuring that the security ministries had the capacity to sustain Iraq's new army and police forces; and integrating political, economic and security tools -- and synchronizing them with Iraqi Government efforts -- to foster good and transparent governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and the well-being of all Iraqi citizens.
He said the MNF was serving its mandate and working with the Iraqi Government to build security and stability in Iraq. The Force was helping the Iraqis develop police forces and combat units, as well as the elements necessary to manage, control and sustain them. It was moving towards fulfilling its mandate, and it looked forward to the day when the Iraqis were able to assume full responsibility for the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq.
In closing, he wished Iraq a safe and successful election tomorrow. It was important that Iraq's election be transparent and inclusive. He urged all Iraqis to participate in the election to make their views known regarding the future of Iraq. He welcomed the efforts of the Iraqis, the United Nations, and other members of the international community that were enabling Iraqi citizens to participate in their political process.
Following the two briefings, SAMIR SHAKIR MAHMOOD SUMAIDA'IE (Iraq) said now was a turning point in the history of a modern Iraq. The gains made, however, should not hide the fact that the presence of the United Nations in Iraq was still below what was required. He was seeking an increase in the number of United Nations staff in Iraq to facilitate communication between State institutions and civil society, and to help United Nations agencies in Iraq. Clearly, things had been proceeding in accordance with paragraph 4 of resolution 1446 (2004), and a referendum on the constitution had been completed on 15 November. Tomorrow, Iraqis country-wide would go to the polls to elect representatives to the National Assembly. Advances in the realm of the constitution and other areas had been achieved with great sacrifices by the Iraqi people and with the MNF in support of political change. None of that would have been done without the United Nations.
Still, he said, Iraq faced great challenges, requiring sacrifice and assistance. Terrorist attacks had been escalating, targeting infrastructure and innocent civilians in an attempt to incite civil war and block the political process leading to democracy, multilateralism and peace. Clearly, the provisional Government should include people from "all walks" of Iraqi life, in the same manner in which the committee charged with drafting the constitution had been expanded. The "political march" seemed more inclusive now, following the Cairo Conference of 19 November. More political parties would be absorbed into the process, as long as they declared their commitment to peace and refused violence. By 15 December, the political process would have been completed and a new process launched.
The major challenge facing Iraq in the future, as it built its democracy, good governance and launched its reconstruction, was standing up to terrorism, he said. The aim was to defeat terrorism, to eradicate it completely. That could not be done, however, without international support, particularly that of Iraq's neighbours. Iraq was exposed daily to all kinds of "blind terrorism" -- indiscriminately targeting all walks of life, bombarding hospitals, airports, markets and schools -- the purpose of which was to halt the democratic changes in Iraq and send it back into darkness. Iraq was committed to standing up to terrorism, on behalf of the principles of Islam, humanity and freedom. Stability could not be achieved in his country without eliminating terrorism. The armed forces and the police carried the major burden, assisted by the Multinational Force, until the Iraqi Security Forces built their capability. For that reason, he had asked for an extension of the mandate of the Force.
Apart from combating terrorism, his Government's main task was that of reconstruction. Great efforts were being made in that regard, and even greater efforts would be made by the new Government, following the upcoming elections, particularly towards activating the economy, rebuilding infrastructure and providing basic services for the Iraqi citizens. The terrorist acts blocked economic progress, and, thus, Iraq was in dire need of international support. It was high time to accelerate the implementation machinery of the commitments made in Madrid and other donor conferences, in order to accelerate Iraq's economic process. On the human rights question, Iraq had to take a courageous stand against human rights violations, but that subject should be seen in its proper context. There had been a few individual cases, which had not represented systematic behaviour and was not a policy of the Government. Gross human rights violations had occurred under the previous regime. The response of the new Government had been swift. Now, it sought to develop institutions through which it could apply internationally accepted criteria in the field of human rights.
He said his country was entering a new phase. It had adopted a permanent Constitution, which prohibited any activity aimed at building or acquiring weapons of mass destruction. It was high time to "turn the page of disarmament" of the previous regime. The file of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) should be closed, as leaving it open was "not acceptable under any pretext". "The Iraq of today was not the Iraq of Saddam Hussein", he said. Every day, Iraqis were writing new pages about their heroism with their blood; they were writing a shining history in their march for freedom. In Baghdad, from where he had recently returned, he had found a conflict between the terrorisms and criminals of the first regime and their "likes from the outside of Iraq", on the one hand, and the dreams of millions of people facing death without hesitation, on the other hand. Tomorrow, the whole world would hear the voice of hope; tomorrow would be the final judgement of the defeat of terrorism.
Before the Security Council was the report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 30 of resolution 1546 (2004), which requested him to report on a quarterly basis on the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The report provides an update on United Nations activities in Iraq since the last report of 7 September. It presents a summary of key developments in the political transition process in Iraq, particularly regarding the constitutional and electoral processes, and also covers regional developments pertaining to Iraq. The report also provides an assessment of the security situation and an update on operational matters, including security arrangements for the United Nations presence in Iraq.
With the adoption of a new constitution, states the report, Iraq is now moving towards the scheduled completion of its current political transition process outlined in resolution 1546 (2004): the holding of elections for a new Council of Representatives on 15 December. This will be the third time in less than one year that the people of Iraq will have exercised their democratic right to vote on the future of their country. The fact that the political process has remained on target against an ambitious timetable is a considerable achievement in itself, given the difficult conditions under which it has taken place.
Despite meeting these benchmarks, however, Iraq today remains beset with formidable security, political and economic challenges, the report continues. The forthcoming election and formation of a new permanent Government will not mark the end of the country's political transition, but rather the beginning of a new phase in which responsible politics and leadership will make the difference between success and failure. In this regard, the Secretary-General welcomes the clear message given by the Council in its resolution 1637 (2005) for continued efforts after December in promoting national dialogue and reconciliation and shaping the democratic future of Iraq.
Inside Iraq, promoting an inclusive, participatory and transparent political process that responds to the aspirations of all of Iraq's communities continues to offer the best prospect for improving the overall security situation. The writing of a new constitution presented an opportunity for Iraq's main political constituencies to develop a national framework defining Iraq's future political shape and course. The Secretary-General welcomes the extensive negotiations that have taken place among all political groups in an effort to accommodate each other as much as possible in this process. The most positive development has been the determination of the Sunni Arab community to make their voice heard through engagement in the political process.
That such large numbers of people have participated actively in the referendum and the current political campaign is an encouraging sign of Iraqi popular support for democratic processes. For a permanent Government to enjoy the confidence of the Iraqi people will first require a credible electoral process. Therefore, the Secretary-General encourages the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq and the thousands of domestic observers to remain vigilant to ensure a sound election. He also calls for an open electoral process, in which candidates can campaign freely and voters can participate fully without fear for their personal safety.
Elections alone, however, will not resolve all of Iraq's political problems. The outcome of the referendum, which exposed Iraq as dangerously divided along sectarian lines, has underlined the importance for Iraq's communities to continue to reach out to one another. Irrespective of the outcome of the election, the formation of a permanent Government will provide a new opportunity to ensure that all Iraqis are adequately represented and made to feel that they have a stake in the future of their country.
Similarly, the constitutional review process envisaged by the constitution provides an opportunity to broaden the scope of support for the constitution itself and the institutions that are to be established under it. Although it is for the Iraqis alone to decide on their political system, it is in the interest of all that Iraq should be a viable and functioning State for all Iraqis. It is the Secretary-General's hope, therefore, that Iraq's political constituencies will use the constitutional review process as an opportunity to resolve outstanding constitutional issues by engaging in a genuine national dialogue. Developing a national compact in this regard offers the best prospect for successfully implementing a constitution that will serve the interests of all Iraqis. The United Nations stands ready to continue to provide its assistance in this regard, as requested by the Government of Iraq.
The Secretary-General remains gravely concerned by the high levels of civilian fatalities and injuries caused by terrorist, insurgent, paramilitary and military actions. The quicker and better Iraqi Security Forces can be trained, the sooner they will be able to assume full responsibility for their national security. Meanwhile, the Multinational Force and Iraqi Security Forces have a special responsibility to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, particularly with regard to the civilian population. The continuing lack of security represents a serious challenge to the objectives of the Council. Ultimately, military efforts alone cannot fully address the causes of violence in Iraq and cannot substitute for negotiated political solutions.
The Secretary-General also remains concerned about the human rights situation in Iraq, which holds the potential of undermining national dialogue and reconciliation efforts. It is also important for the new Iraqi Government to deliver tangibly on the needs and expectations of the Iraqi people in terms of infrastructure, basic services and employment. While Iraq has all the necessary resources and potential to build a prosperous future for itself, strengthening the State's institutional capacity at the central, regional and local levels will remain a major challenge in the years to come. In this regard, he urges the international community to ensure that Iraq can continue to rely on sustained long-term assistance through the existing donor mechanisms.
In order for UNAMI staff to do their job effectively, they need to have the necessary support, expertise and resources, including dedicated air assets. As observed in the last report, the prospective and phased transfer of responsibilities from the Multinational Force to the Iraqi Security Forces will create a new security environment that will have a significant impact on UNAMI operations. Arrangements for UNAMI's work environment, accommodation and life support will have to be reviewed carefully, taking full account of any changes in the security situation.
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