The Security Council discusses ending the mission of the UN mission in Iraq

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A number of members of the UN Security Council – including Russia and China – yesterday, Thursday, supported Baghdad’s request to end the mission of the United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) by next year, but Washington did not immediately provide its support for this step.

Abbas Kadhim Al-Fatlawi, Iraq’s Deputy Representative to the United Nations, Abbas Kadhim, repeated before the Council yesterday his country’s request for the international organization to end by the end of 2025 its political mission that it has been performing for more than 20 years, saying that “the mission has achieved its goals.”

Russian envoy Vasily Nebenzia supported this point of view, saying that “Iraqis are ready to bear responsibility for the political future of their country.”

He added, “The remaining problems must not become an excuse for the United Nations mission to remain in the country indefinitely.”

Geng Shuang, China’s Deputy Representative to the United Nations, pointed out that within the framework of the annual renewal of the mission – whose mandate expires at the end of this May – the Council must “propose a plan in order to ensure gradual withdrawal and a smooth transition towards final withdrawal.”

Given that UN missions can only operate with the approval of the host country, Britain and France also expressed their support for the transformation of the partnership between Iraq and the United Nations.

The position of the United States was more ambiguous, as Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that the United Nations mission still had “important work to perform,” and did not address Baghdad’s request.

Greenfield stressed the mission’s key role in many important political issues, such as supporting the organization of elections and promoting human rights, although Iraq clearly requested that the mission focus more directly on economic issues.

Multiple challenges

Without commenting on Baghdad’s request, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq, Hennis-Plasschaert, painted a picture of Iraq that “appears different from the country in which UNAMI was first deployed about 20 years ago.”

Plasschaert added, “Today – so to speak – we are witnessing an Iraq in development,” but at the same time she spoke about multiple challenges that have not yet been resolved, such as corruption and the issue of armed factions operating outside the control of the state.

She continued, “I think it is time to judge the country based on the progress achieved, and turn the page on the dark images of Iraq’s past.”

In an assessment requested by the Council, German diplomat Volker Peretz said last March that the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, which had more than 700 employees until late 2023, “appears in its current form to be very large.”

Peretz called on the mission to “begin transferring its tasks to the national institutions and the United Nations team in the country in a responsible, organized and gradual manner within an agreed upon time frame.”

The mission – which was established by the Security Council in 2003 at the request of the Iraqi government and was strengthened in 2007 and is renewed annually – has a mandate to provide support to the Government of Iraq in order to promote comprehensive political dialogue, national reconciliation, elections and security reform.