16 June 2006
With New Government, Iraq's Three-Year Political Transition Complete, although Accompanied by Instability, Violence, Security Council Told
UN Official Briefs, United States, Iraq also Address Council; Steps Being Taken to Improve Security, Promote Inclusion Highlighted
NEW YORK, 15 June (UN Headquarters) -- While welcoming the completion of Iraq's political transition -- with the establishment of its first constitutionally-elected Government -- a senior United Nations official told the Security Council this morning that the key to success remained finding lasting inclusive solutions to the country's most pressing challenges, within an overall framework of national reconciliation.
Briefing the Council on developments in the nascent democracy, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane said that, over the past three years, Iraq's transition had moved successfully from the Governing Council to the Interim Government and the Transitional Government, culminating in December 2005, with Iraq's first elections for a constitutionally-elected Government.
That successful political transition, however, had been accompanied by continued instability, violence and gross violations of fundamental human rights by all sides, she continued. "While it may be understandable that, due to their transitory character, previous Governments were unable to take some of the hard decisions required to address the urgent needs of the Iraqi people, the establishment of a constitutionally-elected Government for a full four-year term offers new hope."
She said the new Government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, must now be empowered to enable it to heal the social and political divisions through dialogue and confidence-building, strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law, and improve the living conditions for all Iraqis. Its effectiveness would largely be defined by its ability to inspire the confidence of the Iraqi people, by taking immediate measures to improve security. That would require the new Government, first and foremost, to gradually take full ownership of its national affairs, including in the vital area of security, assisted, as necessary, by the international community.
Reporting to the Council on behalf of the 29 countries making up the Multinational Force in Iraq, the representative of the United States said the latest reporting period had borne witness to a striking development, namely the killing on 7 June of al-Qaida terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and one of his key associates, Sheikh abd Al-Rahman. Although the original leader of al-Qaida in Iraq was now dead, he had been replaced, and the terrorist organization still posed a threat, as its members would continue to attempt to intimidate the Iraqi people and threaten the country's Government as it moved toward greater stability and prosperity.
"The measure of success will be the dawn of the day when the Iraqi people are fully able to secure their own safety, freedom and prosperity," he said, expressing his hope that Prime Minister Maliki's Government would work to promote national dialogue and inclusion, as well as strive tirelessly to deliver improvements in security, stability and quality of life to the Iraqi people.
"With the formation of the new full-term Government and recent elimination of the most notorious terrorist, al-Zarqawi, we sense great momentum among the Iraqi people, and a very real chance to turn our situation around," Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, told Council members. While the country's new Constitution and the formation of the first constitutional Government testified to Iraq's historical progress towards a pluralistic, federal and united democracy, he acknowledged that a difficult and destructive security situation persisted. Among the challenges were insurgency, crime, incidents of sectarian violence and foreign terrorists trying to incite civil war and prevent consolidation of democratic gains.
As such, he emphasized continued cooperation between Iraqi forces and the Multinational Force, which were vital for the country's security and critical to attaining the goal of self-sufficiency in defending Iraq and securing peace. At the same time, he noted, security operations must go hand in hand with initiatives to promote national consensus, tolerance, justice and respect for human rights. He added that, despite increased incidents of sectarian violence, contrary to media portrayal, a civil was not taking place in Iraq. "This is the beginning of a new chapter in Iraq's transformation from dictatorship to a sovereign, peaceful and prosperous federal democracy as voted by the Iraqi people," he stated.
The meeting began at 11:05 a.m. and ended at 11:55 a.m.
The Security Council met this morning to discuss the situation in Iraq. Before the 15-nation body was the Secretary-General's latest report (document S/2006/360), which provides an update on the United Nations activities in the country since early March. The main focus of the Organization's attention during the period was the process of the formation of the new Iraqi Government. Since the election of a new Parliament -- the Council of Representatives -- in December 2005, Iraq had witnessed a period of extensive and complex negotiations to form its first constitutional Government for a full four-year term.
According to the report, political leaders representing a broad political, ethnic and religious spectrum have participated in these negotiations. The bombing of the holy Shiite shrine of Imams Ali Al-Hadi Al-Hassan al-Askari in Samarra on 22 February, and the increasing sectarian violence in the aftermath, led to further complications, as well as delays in those negotiations. But, nevertheless, the formation of the first constitutionally-elected Government on 20 May 2006 represents the culmination of the country's political transition.
Among the observations that conclude the report, the Secretary-General says that it is encouraging that Iraq's political leaders, building on the broadly participatory 2005 elections, have demonstrated that they can rise to the challenge and engage in a spirit of compromise to form an inclusive and democratic Government, despite the difficult overall circumstances. However, the protracted nature of the negotiations and serious deterioration of the security situation following the Samarra bombing indicate that the people of Iraq have "arrived at an important turning point".
If the new Government is able to develop and implement a concrete national agenda to quickly address the basic needs and concerns of all Iraq's different communities, the country could be put on a path towards peace and prosperity. On the other hand, the Secretary-General observes that, unless a strong, positive dynamic towards national reconciliation is generated soon, there will be "grave danger of increased polarization, sectarian strife, and potentially, civil war". The need for sustained intercommunal dialogue and confidence-building measures, therefore, remains as urgent as ever, he adds.
He also says the new Government must be empowered so as to enable it to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that their participation in elections will lead to tangible improvements in their daily lives. Among the key national, regional and international level steps that could be taken in that regard, he notes that one concrete example of a measure to prevent sectarian strife is the idea of an Iraqi-led peace initiative for the city of Baghdad, aimed at promoting confidence-building, both within and between communities.
At the regional level, Iraq's neighbours and other countries have an important role to play in supporting national reconciliation and, to that end, the United Nations was looking into the possibility of establishing a contact group at the working level, composed of Iraq and its neighbours. It could be a helpful forum for dialogue between neighbouring countries and the wider region to discuss ways to promote stability inside Iraq. At the global level, the Secretary-General stresses that, with the democratic election of a new Government in Iraq, the international community now has the opportunity to help accelerate the country's recovery through fulfilling existing pledges of assistance by means of agreed funding mechanisms, and among other things, increasing levels of debt forgiveness. He adds that early agreement on an Iraqi-led framework for mobilizing new and additional international assistance for the country should be considered a priority.
Finally, he observes that, while the United Nations remains fully committed to implementing its mandate under relevant Security Council resolutions, the Organization's presence and ability to operate inside the country are severely hampered by the security environment. In order to provide United Nations staff with the best security possible, and thereby ensure that the Organization is able to maintain a presence in Iraq, a number of mitigating and protective measures are in place that are expensive, time consuming and restrictive, he adds.
ANGELA KANE, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that, during the past months, the Government formation process had been at the centre of political attention in Iraq. Following the election for a new Parliament on 15 December 2005, Iraq's political leaders had engaged in a period of extensive and complex negotiations, which had culminated on 20 May in the formation of the first constitutionally-elected Government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Differences of view within and among the political blocks had delayed three ministerial appointments. Following further negotiations, that process had been completed on 8 June, with the confirmation of the Ministers of Defence, Interior and National Security.
Through that process, Iraq's political leaders had shown that they could rise to the challenge of dialogue and compromise with a view to forming an inclusive and democratic Government, despite difficult overall circumstances. That was all the more remarkable, given the serious deterioration of the security situation following the Samarra bombing in February 2006. Of particular concern was the mounting loss of civilian life, as a result of insecurity, high levels of violence and break-down in law and order. It appeared that intercommunal violence and criminal activities had compounded insurgent violence as threats to national security and stability. Among the most affected provinces were Baghdad, Ninewa, Salahuddin, Anbar and, more recently, Diyala and Basra.
While the United Nations did not have precise information about the numbers and breakdown of the victims of violence and the perpetrators, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) had concluded, in its latest bimonthly human rights report, that "hundreds of civilians are reported killed or wounded weekly, including women and children, as targeted or unintended victims of violent attacks". The Secretary-General's report emphasized that "March 2006 was the fourth most deadly month since May 2003, with twice as many Iraqis killed as in December 2005". Targeted assassinations, including attacks against prominent politicians and their relatives, intimidation, threats and kidnappings appeared to be aimed directly at provoking sectarian strife, lawlessness and ungovernability, as well as a general atmosphere of fear and the loss of public trust in the authorities. That violence had led to an increase in internal displacement -- since late February, more than 100,000 people had been displaced, adding up to a total of approximately 1.3 million internally displaced persons countrywide.
She said it was encouraging that, immediately upon taking office, Prime Minister al-Maliki had expressed his commitment to improve the security situation and promote national reconciliation as his key priorities. His new Government must now be empowered to enable it to heal the social and political divisions through dialogue and confidence-building, strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law, and improve the living conditions for all Iraqis. That approach offered the best prospects for ensuring that the political process impacted positively on the security situation. A promised review of anti-terror and de-Baathification legislation would help to shape a more conducive environment for national reconciliation. However, achieving positive results in all those areas would require time. At the outset, the effectiveness of the new Government would largely be defined by its ability to inspire the confidence of the Iraqi people, by taking immediate measures to improve security.
First and foremost, that would require the new Government to gradually take full ownership of its national affairs, including in the vital area of security, assisted as necessary by the international community. Efforts by the Multinational Force to speed up training and equipping the Iraqi security forces remained indispensable in that regard. A determined effort was also needed to control militias and other unauthorized armed forces, with a view to re-establishing a State monopoly on weapons. In tackling violence, both the Iraqi security forces and the Multinational Force had a particular responsibility to act in full accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. Notwithstanding their efforts to address Iraq's security challenges, the United Nations was deeply concerned about reported violations of those standards, and urged the Iraqi security forces, as well as the Multinational Force, to ensure full, transparent and effective investigations of all such incidents to prevent recurrences.
Furthermore, the United Nations hoped that the new Government would make it a priority to set a robust human rights agenda, which addressed both past and current human rights violations, and included the establishment of an independent national human rights commission and a centre for missing and disappeared persons. A robust human rights protection mechanism must include investigating all allegations of human rights violations and bringing perpetrators to justice, in order to prevent the development of a culture of impunity. In that context, the United Nations remained concerned about the large number of detainees held in detention centres countrywide without investigation or criminal charges.
In addition to security measures, she said, the new Government would have to take broader measures with the ultimate aim of promoting national reconciliation. Although the new Government naturally bore primary responsibility in that regard, regional countries and the wider international community could play an important role in support of the Government's efforts. The following steps at the national, regional and international levels might be considered.
At the national level, it was not just the responsibility of the Government, but of all Iraqi political, social and religious leaders, to eschew the politics of sectarianism, hatred and violence, in which everybody ultimately stood to lose, and instead embrace dialogue, compromise and intercommunal harmony in the larger national interest, in which all stood to gain. Through their increasingly active participation in Iraq's democratic process, the vast majority of Iraqis had demonstrated time and again that, despite severe provocations, they rejected the politics of extremism pursued by a few, and were determined to resolve their differences peacefully.
That demonstrated that Iraq had a strong foundation for national reconciliation, she noted. Three main elements were needed to succeed: an inclusive political process that was responsive to the needs of all Iraqi constituencies; the political will by all Iraqi leaders to work towards that end; and effective mechanisms to promote dialogue and consensus-building. The review of the Constitution that was agreed on last year by Iraq's political leaders could be an effective vehicle for advancing the process of national reconciliation, including for reaching a national consensus on a strong framework for the Iraqi State. The Constitution provided for the early establishment of a constitutional review committee of the new Parliament. She hoped the new Parliament would address that issue as a matter of priority and remained fully committed to providing continued assistance through UNAMI's Office of Constitutional Support in Baghdad.
The new Parliament would also be required to form specialized committees on important issues, such as the adoption of a new electoral law and the establishment of a new independent high electoral commission. Those would be fundamental steps for ensuring effective preparations for future electoral events, such as the planned governorate council and municipal elections. UNAMI also stood ready to continue its support role in that important area.
At the regional level, the League of Arab States was planning to convene a Conference on Iraqi National Accord. Such a forum could serve to encourage dialogue and consensus among different Iraqi political groups and, thus, contribute to national reconciliation. Special Representative Qazi and UNAMI were working closely with the League on the preparations for that Conference, scheduled for August, in follow-up to the November 2005 Cairo Conference. Thorough preparations, ensuring broadly and truly representative Iraqi participation and effective follow-up would be important elements for the success of the Conference.
At the international level, there was now an opportunity to build a deeper consensus in support of Iraq's transition, including in the Security Council, she said. In addition to fulfilling existing pledges and increasing the levels of debt forgiveness, support for reconstruction and foreign investment, and an Iraqi-led framework for mobilizing new and additional international assistance for Iraq that had the broadest possible support from the international community, should be considered as a matter of priority. For its part, UNAMI and the United Nations country team had continued to support the new Government in establishing effective, transparent and accountable public institutions, providing access to basic services and restoring public infrastructure.
The Organization's presence and ability to operate effectively in Iraq remained severely constrained by the security environment. To provide United Nations staff with the best security possible, in order to continue to maintain a presence in Iraq, a number of mitigating and protective measures were in place. The development of an integrated long-term United Nations complex in Baghdad had continued and new premises in Erbil and Basra had now been completed. For the foreseeable future, the United Nations would continue to rely on the Multinational Force for static and movement protection. With respect to dedicated air assets, she welcomed the decision by Denmark to offer UNAMI a dedicated aircraft, and looked forward to discussions on the implementation arrangements of that offer. She was also grateful to all other Member States who supported the work of the United Nations in Iraq.
In conclusion, she said that, with the establishment of the first constitutionally-elected Government, Iraq's political transition set forth in the Transitional Administrative Law endorsed by resolution 1546 had been completed. Over the past three years, Iraq's transition had moved successfully from the Governing Council to the Interim Government and the Transitional Government. That had culminated in December 2005, with Iraq's first elections for a constitutionally-elected Government. During that process, the Iraqi people had shown great courage in participating in two elections and one constitutional referendum under very difficult circumstances. Those were important accomplishments that had laid the foundations for Iraq's democratic future, which needed to be sustained with the full support of the international community.
That successful political transition, however, had been accompanied by continued instability, violence and gross violations of fundamental human rights by all sides. While it might be understandable that, due to their transitory character, previous Governments had been unable to take some of the hard decisions required to address the urgent needs of the Iraqi people, the establishment of a constitutionally-elected Government for a full four-year term offered new hope. Throughout their long history, the people of Iraq had demonstrated that they had all the necessary human, financial and natural capital to succeed. The key to success remained finding lasting inclusive political solutions to Iraq's most pressing challenges, within an overall framework of national reconciliation. The United Nations remained committed to playing its full part in that endeavour.
Reporting to the Council on behalf of the 29 countries making up the Multinational Force in Iraq, JOHN BOLTON (United States) said that the latest reporting period had borne witness to a striking development: on 7 June, multinational and Iraqi forces had killed al-Qaida terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and one of his key associates, Sheikh abd Al-Rahman, in an air strike against an isolated safe house. Although the original leader of al-Qaida in Iraq was now dead, he had been replaced, and the terrorist organization still posed a threat, as its members would continue to attempt to intimidate the Iraqi people and threaten the country's Government as it moved toward greater stability and prosperity.
Iraq's leaders and people had reached "a critical milestone" on 22 April, when Iraqi political leaders had announced the selection of senior members of the new Government, including the Prime Minister-designate, President, two Deputy Presidents, and the Speaker of the Council of Representatives. On 20 May, the Council of Representatives had approved nearly all of Prime Minister Maliki's Cabinet. The final three ministers had been approved on 8 June. The new Government had brought into office with them the hopes of all Iraqis, as well as the good wishes of the international community. So significant was the combination of forming a fully democratic Government and the well-deserved end of Zarqawi, that President Bush had visited Baghdad this week to demonstrate his country's commitment to those who supported peace and democracy and opposed the terrorists.
However, extremists and terrorists remained capable of carrying out attacks against Iraqi civilians, officials and security forces, with a goal of destabilizing a legitimately elected Government and denying the Iraqi people the democracy that they had chosen through free and fair elections, he continued. During the reporting period, more than 81 per cent of attacks had been concentrated in four of Iraq's 18 provinces (Baghdad, Al Anbar, Salah ad Din and Diyala); 12 provinces, containing over 50 per cent of the population, had experienced only 6 per cent of the attacks; and 9 provinces had averaged one or no attacks per day since February. Attacks on Iraq's infrastructure continued to adversely affect oil revenues and the availability of electricity. However, the number of infrastructure attacks had declined since last August, suggesting that efforts to secure Iraq's infrastructure were meeting with some success.
Regarding the Iraqi security forces, he said that they continued to grow, improve and conduct more independent operations each day. Multinational forces continued to train, mentor and equip the Iraqi forces and to hand over battle responsibilities to them, as proficiency allowed and conditions permitted. As of 29 May, 111 Iraqi army, strategic infrastructure and special operations battalions had been conducting counter-insurgency operations, 71 of them operating in the lead with coalition support, and several operating independently. All 28 Iraqi national police battalions were operational, with two of those battalions also operating in the lead with coalition support. By the end of summer, 75 per cent of Iraqi brigades and battalions would be leading counter-insurgency operations with coalition support. A strong Iraqi security force presence continued in Baghdad. Iraqi forces now totalled over 265,000 personnel trained and equipped for counter-insurgency operations.
United Nations contributions in Iraq were vital, he continued, urging the Organization to continue to fulfil its mandate under Security Council resolution 1546. He looked forward to UNAMI's expansion of its presence in Iraq, especially to Basra and Erbil. The Multinational Force, notably the Georgian, Romanian and South Korean contingents, continued to provide security for the United Nations in Baghdad, Basra and Erbil, respectively. Also, Fijian troops provided static and close protection for United Nations personnel and facilities in Baghdad.
"The measure of success will be the dawn of the day when the Iraqi people are fully able to secure their own safety, freedom and prosperity," he said, recapping the main priorities in Iraq he had addressed in his statement. He hoped Prime Minister Maliki's Government would work to promote national dialogue and inclusion, as well as strive tirelessly to deliver improvements in security, stability and quality of life to the Iraqi people. The international community and Iraq's neighbours, especially Syria and Iran, must do more to stop foreign fighters from entering Iraq. Additionally, they should do more to answer the Council's call in resolution 1546 to end material and financial support for individuals and groups that opposed the new legitimate Iraqi Government. Moreover, he called upon the entire international community to support Iraq's sovereign Government and redouble its assistance efforts.
In conclusion, he said that the multinational and combined multinational and Iraqi forces' efforts continued to provide security necessary for Iraq's new democratically elected, constitutional Government to succeed. He was pleased to note Foreign Minister Zebari's 9 June letter to the Council, expressing his Government's support for the Multinational Force's continued role in providing for security and stability in Iraq. The Multinational Force remained committed to its responsibilities and to achieving ultimate success.
HOSHYAR ZEBARI, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, listed the country's new Constitution and the formation of the first constitutional Government among the developments that testified to Iraq's historical progress towards a pluralistic, federal and united democracy. Despite those achievements, however, a difficult and destructive security situation persisted. Among the challenges, he mentioned the insurgency, crime, incidents of sectarian violence and foreign terrorists trying to incite civil war and prevent consolidation of democratic gains. Continued cooperation between Iraqi forces and the Multinational Force remained necessary for the country's security, and critical to attaining the goal of self-sufficiency in defending Iraq and securing peace. Therefore, in its 9 June letter to the President of the Security Council, the Government of Iraq had requested the continued presence of the Multinational Force in the country.
"With the formation of the new full-term Government and recent elimination of the most notorious terrorist, al-Zarqawi, we sense great momentum among the Iraqi people, and a very real chance to turn our situation around," he said. With security representing an immediate priority, in cooperation with the Multinational Force, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Training Mission, UNAMI Protection Force and donor countries, Iraq was building up the capacity, training, professionalism and equipment of its forces. Volunteer recruits represented a cross-section of Iraqi society. The Government, as the sole legitimate administrator of armed forces, would activate its policy to demobilize militias and integrate them into society.
Iraqi forces were gradually assuming responsibility for significant areas of the country and leading independent offensive operations with visible success, he continued. As the process of handing over security responsibility from the Multinational Force continued, more provinces would come under Iraqi forces' control. As he spoke, a large security operation was under way in Baghdad, conducted by over 70,000 multinational and Iraqi forces, including police, commando and army units, to secure the political and economic heart of Iraq. That security plan would be extended to the rest of the country.
Security operations must go hand in hand with initiatives to promote national consensus, tolerance, justice and respect for human rights, he said. Already, hundreds of prisoners had been released in a goodwill gesture of amnesty. With the Government pursuing political dialogue, despite intimidation, Sunni leaders had joined it at the negotiating table. Last year, they had boycotted elections -- today, they were an essential part of the Government and held top Cabinet posts. Iraq and the Arab League had jointly agreed to hold a reconciliation conference in Baghdad in early August. Everybody who believed in the political process and were ready to abandon terrorism and violence would have an opportunity to participate, along with Arab countries, a number of friendly countries and the United Nations.
Despite increased incidents of sectarian violence, contrary to media portrayal, a civil war was not taking place in Iraq, he insisted. Iraqis had explicitly rejected the attempts to stoke sectarian strife, by exercising remarkable restraint and voting for a sovereign national unity Government. The country's next political challenge was the review of the Constitution, within agreed mechanisms stipulated in its charter.
Regarding the efforts to expedite development and reconstruction, he said that the Government was acting fast to restore public confidence, by prioritizing the provision of basic services and strengthening the Commission for Public Integrity to eradicate corruption and improve accountability. Among other measures, he mentioned the ministerial reform and modernization of institutions. Plans were being made to accelerate the pace of reconstruction and lay the foundations for a sustainable economy to generate employment, stimulate the private sector and capitalize on Iraq's wealth of natural resources. The country could now benefit from continuity in long-term planning in line with Iraq's National Development Strategy.
As the mandate of the Development Fund for Iraq and the International Advisory and Monitoring Board were due for review, the Government of Iraq proposed to continue the present arrangements under resolution 1637. Those bodies played a crucial role in promoting transparency in the disbursement of Iraq's resources for the benefit of the people. He also noted the support of UNAMI in the constitutional process, humanitarian assistance, donor coordination and electoral assistance, and asked that the United Nations continue to offer its unique expertise for the forthcoming provincial elections throughout Iraq. He commended the work of Special Representative Ashraf Qazi and welcomed UNAMI's proposal for the "Baghdad Peace Initiative" to help bridge communal differences.
Turning to the Secretary-General's concern regarding human rights in his quarterly report to the Council, he said that, while the primary perpetrators of human rights abuses in Iraq were the insurgents, terrorists and criminals, the Government acknowledged its ongoing obligations to uphold and protect human rights, as enshrined in the country's Constitution. The Government was committed to meeting violations with justice and reaffirmed its commitment to establishing an independent human rights commission in Iraq.
Citing continuing need for United Nations engagement in Iraq, he also called on Member States to step up the provision of funds and operational support, as his Government pledged to provide any assistance necessary to enhance the United Nations Mission. As security in Iraq improved, he requested that the United Nations reinforce its staff and increase its role throughout the country.
One should not underestimate the positive impact of a sovereign, united and stable Iraq at the strategic and geographical heart of the Middle East, he said. The country continued to pursue regional cooperation on economic exchange, political dialogue and border security, to promote peaceful coexistence with its neighbours. Furthermore, Iraq expected its neighbours to demonstrate genuine support for the new Government and goodwill in securing borders and preventing arms, foreign elements and terrorists from crossing into Iraq. The formation of an International Contact Group involving Iraq's neighbours, the permanent members of the Security Council and the Arab League, based in Baghdad, would be a further useful means to build international support for regional security and enhance reconstruction plans for the country. Time was now ripe for the Council to review the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) mandate, as the circumstances for its creation no longer existed.
"We ask that the international community takes this opportunity to revitalize its assistance and support to Iraq and fulfil existing donor pledges from Madrid and Amman to help my Government accomplish its responsibilities to our people," he said in conclusion. "This is the beginning of a new chapter in Iraq's transformation from dictatorship to a sovereign, peaceful and prosperous federal democracy as voted by the Iraqi people." The country had paid dearly, along with the sacrifices of its allies, and it would not let that loss be in vain. The more help it received now, the sooner it could succeed.
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