IRAQ STANDS ON BRINK OF CIVIL WAR, ‘VIOLENCE SEEMS OUT OF CONTROL’, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

11 December 2006
SC/8895

IRAQ STANDS ON BRINK OF CIVIL WAR, ‘VIOLENCE SEEMS OUT OF CONTROL’, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

11 December 2006
Security Council
SC/8895
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5583rd Meeting* (AM)

IRAQ STANDS ON BRINK OF CIVIL WAR, ‘VIOLENCE SEEMS OUT OF CONTROL’,

 

SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

 

United States Says Sectarian Violence Greatest Threat to Stability;

Iraq : ‘Saddamists’, Extremists Aim to Undermine Whole Political Process

In a sober and urgent warning, the Secretary-General said in his latest report on Iraq that the country stood on the brink of civil war and chaos, the Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, told the Security Council today in a joint briefing on the situation, with the United States representative speaking on behalf of the 25-country multinational force.

The Secretary-General’s 5 December report states that the prospects of an all-out civil war and even a regional conflict have become much more real in the past three months.  Across many parts of the country, increasing numbers of Iraqis have been affected by growing violence and insecurity, with a significant rise in sectarian violence, insurgent and terrorist attacks, and criminal activities.  Mounting militia activities have further destabilized the country, and high levels of civilian casualties and displacement on a daily basis are breeding an increasing sense of insecurity and deep pessimism.

Mr. Qazi said that efforts by the Government of Iraq and the multinational force had been unable to prevent the continuous deterioration of the security situation, which, if not reversed, would progressively undermine Iraq’s political prospects.  “The violence seems out of control,” he warned.  “This has provoked widespread concern for Iraq’s future.”  Given the current lack of political unity, the fragmentation of Iraqi society and the paralysing levels of violence, it was not realistic to expect the Government and Parliament to bring about progress without the active cooperation of the regional and international community.

If Iraq stood any chance of avoiding a national catastrophe, a collective sense of urgency, resolve and compromise was essential, he continued.  Zero sum solutions were not compatible with political stability and national security.  There was also no merit in arguments that assumed pessimistic outcomes in Iraq, because for the people of Iraq and the wider world, “failure was not an option”.  A collective international and regional initiative in support of the Government’s efforts to reduce the current levels of violence and resolve key issues was the only way forward.  “There is no alternative,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the multinational force, the United States representative agreed that security was a grave concern, with attacks at a high level -- a 20 per cent spike in the three-month reporting period -- marked by increased sectarian violence, often directed at civilians.  Insurgents, extremists and terrorists also continued their attacks, which were taking their toll on Iraqi civilians.  Approximately 80 per cent of the sectarian violence happened within a 35-mile radius of Baghdad.  There was no question that the rise in sectarian violence had become the greatest threat to security and stability in Iraq.

She said that the multinational force continued to train and develop the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.  Iraq was making progress in building security forces that were capable of independently combating insurgents and fighting terrorists, and the number of counter-insurgency operations they conducted independently as a percentage of total combat operations was increasing steadily.  The United Nations also played a crucial role in Iraq’s stability and development.  Due to security concerns, however, it had recently temporarily reduced staff positions in Baghdad.  A robust United Nations presence, however, remained essential to supporting Iraqi efforts.   Iraq’s neighbours also had an important role to play in the country’s stability and security, she said.

Iraq’s representative said that the recent spate of terrorist and sectarian attacks had indeed sparked concerns within and outside Iraq, causing many to issue dangerous warnings that the country was on the brink of civil war.  Iraq knew very well who was carrying out those violent acts, as well as their objective -- they were the “Sadamists”, the extremists and the criminal gangs, and they shared one immediate goal, namely the undermining of the whole political process.  The Government would face them forcefully and decisively.  The Iraqi people had succeeded in the past three years in completing the political and constitutional process and they would emerge victorious in national dialogue and conciliation, defeat of terrorism and the preservation of the people and their land, he said.

Council members expressed growing concern about the latest wave of violence and the increasing casualties being borne by Iraqi civilians and international forces.  Pressing for a new strategy, many members saw the Government’s key challenges as the need to develop a fully inclusive political process; establish a monopoly over the use of force; address the terrorist, insurgency, sectarian and criminal violence; remove the militia elements from all ministries and Iraqi security forces; and cultivate a supportive regional environment.  Some welcomed a possible international conference on Iraq, through which additional creative proposals might emerge as an important prelude to stabilization and ultimate recovery.

Statements in the debate were also made by the representatives of France, Greece, Argentina, Peru, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, United Republic of Tanzania, China, Japan, Ghana, Denmark, Slovakia, Congo and Qatar.

Called to order at 10:37 a.m., the meeting was adjourned at 12:40 p.m.

Background

The Security Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report pursuant to paragraph 30 of resolution 1546 (2004) (document S/2006/945), which provides an update on United Nations activities in Iraq since September 2006 and presents a summary of key political developments, particularly concerning the efforts of Iraq’s Government to promote national reconciliation and to improve the security situation, as well as regional and international developments pertaining to Iraq.

In his last report, the Secretary-General stated that Iraq was at an important crossroads and the Iraqi people and their leaders faced a fundamental choice between taking the high road to negotiation and compromise or descending further to fratricidal sectarian conflict, the report notes.  Three months onwards, the situation has further deteriorated in many parts of the country, with a significant rise in sectarian violence, insurgent and terrorist attacks, and criminal activities.  The growing militia activities have led to further destabilization.  Across many parts of the country, an increasing number of Iraqis have been affected by growing violence and insecurity.  High levels of civilian casualties and displacement on a daily basis are breeding an increasing sense of insecurity and deep pessimism among Iraqis.  The prospects of an all-out civil war and even a regional conflict have become much more real.  The challenge, therefore, is not only to contain and defuse the current violence, but also to prevent its escalation.

Although the figures on civilian casualties since March 2003 vary between 50,000 and 600,000, depending on the sources, the real issue is the predicament of the Iraqi people, the Secretary-General states.  The deteriorating security situation has continued to adversely impact on human rights, humanitarian situations and overall living standards.  The large number of casualties is having a much wider social impact than the immediate death or injury.  Fatal incidents invariably produce widows, orphans and female-headed households who must bear the burden of lost breadwinners and broken families.  This is becoming a permanent disabling factor for human development and greatly adds to the burden of reliable access to proper health care, social services, education, employment and economic opportunities, which remain largely absent in Iraq today.

While noting efforts to improve security and promote national reconciliation, the Government must undertake an urgent review of strategies, policies and measures, with the aim of implementing a consensus-based action plan to halt and reverse current political and security trends in the country, the Secretary-General states.   The Government faces three overarching challenges, including the need to develop a fully inclusive political process that is focused on bringing all disenfranchised and marginalized communities into the political mainstream.  While this will require hard political choices, the Government must ensure access to political power, State institutions and its natural resources by all Iraqi communities.  Only when all Iraqi constituencies have a real stake in the country’s future will Iraq be on a path towards greater stability and prosperity.

The Government must also establish a monopoly over the use of force through the instruments of security and law enforcement within the framework of the rule of law, the report says.  This will require addressing the terrorist, insurgency, sectarian and criminal violence, and will have to include dealing with the problem of militias inside Iraq’s communities, as well as the removal of militia elements from all ministries and the Iraqi security forces.  There is also a need to cultivate a regional environment that is supportive of Iraq’s transition.  The Government has a special responsibility to normalize its relations with its neighbours, which, in turn, requires the neighbours to work towards fostering greater stability and security in Iraq.

To meet these challenges, the Government must now be fully empowered to deliver concrete results on all fronts -– security and political, economic and human rights, the report continues.  The limited impact of existing policies has demonstrated that there is an urgent need for new approaches at the national, regional and international levels.  At the national level, the constitutional review process that has just begun and is supported by the United Nations offers a real opportunity for all Iraqi communities to reach a broad consensus on the fundamental issues that continue to divide them.  The Secretary-General once again urges Iraqi leaders and key international actors to demonstrate their commitment and make this review a priority.  There is a particular need to promote confidence-building measures between communities in potential flashpoint areas, such as Kirkuk, the Secretary-General states.  Increased efforts are also needed to review the de-Baathification process and to pass an amnesty law without prejudice to the victims’ rights to truth and reparation.

At the regional level, there is an increasing realization that a worsening conflict in Iraq would have implications not only for cross-border security, but for aggravating a range of underlying tensions in neighbouring countries, the report adds.  While the Secretary-General welcomes the ongoing dialogue between Iraq and its neighbours through periodic meetings of regional foreign and interior ministers; in light of the deteriorating situation in Iraq and its potentially grave regional implications, it may be necessary to consider more creative ways for fostering regional dialogue and understanding that could result in concrete confidence-building measures between Iraq and its neighbours.  This process could be broadened to include the permanent members of the Council.

At the international level, the report notes that the International Compact with Iraq -- supported by the United Nations and the international community -- provides an important framework for mobilizing national, regional and international actors in support of Iraq’s transition.  The Compact can only become a genuine partnership, however, if it is based on a consensus on the way forward shared by all the major stakeholders inside Iraq.  Its success will ultimately depend on the ability of the Government and the international community to deliver on their mutual commitments.  Achieving tangible progress during the first six months of its implementation will, therefore, be critical.

“There is an urgent need to promote convergence at the national, regional and international levels to stabilize the situation in Iraq,” the Secretary-General states.  In that regard, it may be worthwhile to consider a larger framework for fostering dialogue and understanding at all three levels.  Drawing on the positive experiences of the United Nations in other parts of the world, it may be worthwhile to consider an arrangement that could bring Iraqi political parties together, possibly outside Iraq, with the United Nations playing a facilitating role.  This would also require the active engagement of regional countries and the international community.

“During the 10 years of my tenure as Secretary-General, Iraq has been one of the biggest challenges for the Organization,” the Secretary-General writes, adding that one of the darkest moments in his career was the bombing of the United Nations compound on 19 August 2003, in which the United Nations lost 22 friends and colleagues, including the head of the Mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello.  The tragedy serves as a constant reminder of both the importance of remaining vigilant with respect to staff security and the need for the United Nations to continue its work in Iraq.  Despite the loss of United Nations staff and bearing in mind the limits of what the United Nations can do under the prevailing circumstances, the Organization has remained steadfast in its support for the Iraqi people who have suffered so much.

Based on its mandate under resolution 1546 (2004), the United Nations has been implementing its tasks “as circumstances permit”, while continuously assessing the extent to which the Organization is able to implement these tasks in the light of the very challenging security environment and its limited capacity, the report explains.  Due to the security situation, activities in the area of reconstruction, development, human rights and the rule of law have remained limited and have continued to be carried out mainly from outside Iraq.  Over the past six months, however, the United Nations has been able to play a leading role in the development of the International Compact, which provides a tangible long-term framework for the country’s reconstruction and development.

Despite efforts to increase its own security and logistical support, the United Nations will remain dependent on the multinational force’s support for the foreseeable future, owing to the complex security situation.  If the security situation further deteriorates, maintaining a United Nations presence in Iraq might be called into question, the report concludes.

Statements

ASHRAF JEHANGIR QAZI, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, said the Secretary-General’s report provided a sober and urgent warning that Iraq stood on the brink of civil war and chaos.  Efforts by the Government of Iraq and the multinational force had not prevented a continuous deterioration of the security situation, which, if not reversed, would progressively undermine Iraq’s political prospects.  Initiatives launched during the period, such as the 2 October “Ramadan” declaration, had had no impact on the violence and bloodshed.  The Baghdad Security Plan, aimed at isolating troubled neighbourhoods and improving living conditions for their residents, had not expanded beyond the initially selected areas.  “The violence seems of out of control.  This has provoked widespread concern for Iraq’s future,” he said.

While 8 governorates out of 18 accounted for 80 per cent of the attacks against the multinational force and the Iraq security forces, those governorates accounted for a significant proportion of Iraq’s population, he said.  The restoration of peace and stability in the capital and its surrounding areas was critical for the peace and stability of Iraq as a whole.  Given the current lack of political unity, the fragmentation of Iraqi society and the paralysing levels of violence, it was not realistic to expect the Government and Parliament to bring about progress without the active cooperation of the regional and international communities.  Nor could multilateral partnerships such as the International Compact for Iraq be expected to realize their potential, as they were predicated on the Government being able to implement the requisite political, security, economic and social reforms.  The International Compact would itself require a viable security and political environment.

He said vigorous efforts were under way to build up Iraq’s armed forces and put in place effective command and control, disciplinary and organizational structures.  Significant progress was being made in some respects.  Even under the most propitious of circumstances, the development of self-sufficient security forces of the requisite professional capability and political discipline were expected to take some years and might take much longer.  The key issues confronting Iraq, moreover, were not amendable to solutions based on force alone.  Excessive reliance on the use of force could indeed preclude negotiated compromise, the only sound basis for stability.

If Iraq was to stand any chance of avoiding a national catastrophe, a collective sense of urgency, resolve and compromise was essential, he said.  Zero-sum solutions were not compatible with political stability and national security.  Accordingly, the international community and regional States had a real stake in assisting the Government to overcome the challenges it currently faced.  There was no merit in arguments that assumed pessimistic outcomes in Iraq, because for the people of Iraq and the wider world, “failure was not an option”.  A collective international and regional initiative in support of the Government’s efforts to reduce the current levels of violence and resolve key issues was the only way forward.  “There is no alternative,” he said.

In his discussions with Iraqi leaders from across the spectrum, he had been struck by the unanimity with which they now recognized that Iraq’s problems could not be addressed by concentrating exclusively on the domestic political dynamics of Iraq alone.  A broader and more inclusive political approach was required that involved all of Iraq's main neighbours, as well as the permanent five members of the Security Council.  Similarly, it must involve all the main political forces inside Iraq that were prepared to foreswear violence as a political tool and come to the negotiating table.  An exclusionary approach, whether internal or external, would not result in progress towards peace and stability.  None of that altered the fact that the Iraqis, above all, must take responsibility for their future.  Yet, the structure of the situation in and around Iraq demanded that all regional countries understood that it was in their interest to contribute to Iraq’s peace and unity as a matter of priority.  In that respect, it was encouraging to note that the Government had decided to send envoys to its neighbours to prepare the ground for a regional conference.

To replace the current climate of fear and mistrust, a reconciliation process should address sensitive issues, rather than postpone consideration of them, he said.  In the report, the Secretary-General drew attention to the way in which a genuine constitutional review process could provide the framework for national reconciliation.  Technical revision needed to be backed by genuine political negotiation on key issues, aimed at making the Constitution a genuinely workable national framework document.

The issues on which Iraqis consensus was urgently needed were clear, he said.  They included a political vision for the new Iraq; a fair sharing of oil revenues; a realistic sharing of powers; the development of Iraq’s security forces into genuine national institutions; the progressive disbanding of militias and other illegal armed groups; ensuring effective human rights protection systems; encouraging Iraqi civil society to foster emergence of issue based, non-sectarian politics; and finding a mutually acceptable way to discuss the future of the multinational force’s role as a key component of a national reconciliation process.  In that regard, it was again encouraging to note that the Government was actively preparing for a national reconciliation conference, and that progress on draft text of a hydrocarbon law has been made.

In his report, the Secretary-General suggested that a regional contact group could serve as the catalyst to bring about a credible forum where such issues could be discussed, he said.  There was an urgent need to develop a momentum of peace and stability in Iraq through an intensive and sustained engagement with the regional and international community in support of the Iraqi Government’s national reconciliation efforts.   The Secretary-General had also called for a negotiated settlement to break the cycle of violence that currently threatened to abort any political process.  The human costs of the present situation made it mandatory for all to assist the Government in discharging its role successfully.  According to some estimates, the humanitarian and human rights crisis was arguably the most compelling in the world.  More than 5,000 Iraqis died violent deaths each month.

He said the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) had been repeatedly reminded of the high expectations that Iraqis had of the United Nations in enabling the protection of their rights and bringing an end to their suffering by facilitating processes that could put the promise of peace and security within their reach.  The United Nations Mission would remain actively engaged with national, regional and international actors to help Iraq arrest the further deterioration of an already critical situation.  “This is a moral and strategic imperative that none of us can afford to ignore,” he concluded. 

On behalf of the 25-country multinational force, JACKIE SANDERS ( United States) said there had been several important developments in the present period, including extension of the force’s mandate, as it continued to play a vital role in supporting the Iraqi security forces.

The Government of Iraq and the multinational force had three common goals: Iraqi assumption of recruitment, training and arming of Iraqi security forces; Iraqi assumption of command and control over Iraqi forces; and transfer of security authority to the Government of Iraq.  Iraq had made progress in its reform agenda, including the adoption of a new foreign investment law and federal regions law.  The latter would allow provinces to hold referendums to merge themselves into larger regions.  In addition, a constitutional review committee had been established to explore options for amending the Constitution.  Also, an Iraqi initiative – the International Compact for Iraq -- had been launched to create a new partnership with the international community to support the country’s economic transformation into the regional and global economy.  She hoped for its broad support.

She said, however, that security remained a grave concern.  Attacks remained at a high level; the forces continued to experience attacks and sectarian violence, much of it against civilians, had increased.  Insurgents, extremists and terrorists continued their attacks, taking their toll on civilians.  The number of attacks had increased 20 per cent in the reporting period, which had been attributed, in part, to the spike in violence during Ramadan.  The multinational force and the Iraqi security forces continued their joint efforts to address the security issues, and more Iraqi forces were taking the lead against the insurgency.  There was no question, however, that the rise in sectarian violence had become the greatest threat to security and stability in Iraq.  Approximately 80 per cent of the sectarian violence happened within a 35-mile radius of Baghdad.

In response to the deepening situation, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had announced a four-point plan on 2 October to unite Shia and Sunni parties behind the drive to stop sectarian killings that had plagued the country, she noted.  The Iraqi Government had also sponsored a series of four reconciliation conferences across Iraq, aimed at promoting national dialogue and soliciting recommendations for action.  Two meetings of tribal leaders and civil society had already taken place.  In October, the Organization of the Islamic Conference had hosted a gathering of Sunni and Shiite religious leaders in Mecca that had called for an end to sectarian bloodshed in Iraq.  While infrastructure attacks had decreased, they averaged one per week and hampered the provision of essential services, such as electrical power, water and fuel.  Those ongoing attacks and the difficult security environment were impediments to improving the supply of those essential services.  The Iraqi infrastructure continued to be a high-value target for disruptive elements.

She said that the multinational force continued to train, develop and contribute to the capabilities and readiness of Iraqi security forces.  Iraq was making process in building security forces that were capable of independently combating insurgents and fighting terrorists.  The number of counter-insurgency operations conducted independently by Iraqi forces as a percentage of total combat operations continued to increase steadily.  In addition, the Iraqi Government, alongside the multinational force, had identified a force structure to maintain a security environment, which would provide a basis for transitioning Iraq to security self-reliance.  The Iraq Ministry of Interior had begun a multi-phased national transformation plan to assess national police battalions’ current capabilities, reinforce police training and establish practices for continuing education of the police forces.  The force structure plan was designed to enable a stable civil security environment, leading to a democratic and representative Government and a prosperous economy.

The United Nations continued to play a crucial role in Iraq’s stability and development, she said.  UNAMI was providing important expertise.  Due to security concerns, however, the United Nations had recently decided to temporarily reduce staff positions in Baghdad.  A robust UNAMI presence remained essential to supporting Iraqi efforts, including national reconciliation, constitutional review and future provincial elections, as well as taking forward work on the International Compact, jointly with the Iraqi Government.  In addition to Baghdad, the United Nations had representatives in Irbil and Basra.  The multinational force continued to assist UNAMI and help it achieve its goal for a full, robust and secure presence.  Its troops, notably Georgian, Romanian and South Korean contingents, provided security for the United Nations in Baghdad, Basra and Irbil, respectively.  They provided static site security, reconnaissance, security patrols, convoy escorts, checkpoints and, when necessary, medical and emergency evacuations.  Under a separate agreement, Fijian troops provided protection for United Nations personnel and facilities in Baghdad.

She stressed that Iraq’s stability and security was a regional issue, as well as an international one, for which Iraq’s neighbours had an important role to play.  She called on the entire international community to support Iraq’s sovereign Government and assist efforts for a democratic, united and prosperous country.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) said he could only share the Secretary-General’s conclusions and repeat his concern over the suffering of the Iraq people.  The numbers put forward in the report were terrible.  Violence was becoming increasingly sectarian, threatening the country’s cohesion.  Given the situation, there was a need to explore new solutions that would focus on three pillars, including the relaunching of the Iraqi political process to bring about conciliation and acceptance of the new Constitution by all components of society.  He hoped the Prime Minister’s proposals for a conference on national understanding would be given favourable follow-up.  He also believed that constitutional review was a key element in national consensus.  He commended Mr. Qazi’s efforts and the in-depth dialogue he was maintaining with officials.

Regarding the issue of restoring Iraqi sovereignty, he said a timetable for troop withdrawal could contribute to stabilizing the situation.  He was pleased to see that prospects for a withdrawal had been integrated for the first time in resolution 1723.  The insurgents had been operating with almost complete impunity.  On regional and international support, he noted that France’s Foreign Minister had recently recalled the need to bring on board all countries of the region once they had shown a desire to contribute to Iraq’s stability.  He also looked to the idea of an international conference on the templates of the November 2005 Sharm el-Sheik meeting, which could help reach collective measures for maintaining Iraq’s sovereignty and unity.  France was aware of the difficulties in Iraq and the efforts by the people and officials to address the situation.  The international community would need to continue its role in helping Iraq.  France welcomed the Secretary-General’s contribution and paid tribute to his outstanding efforts over the last 10 years on the Iraq issue, which, in his own words, had been one of his greatest challenges.

ADAMANTIOS VASSILAKIS ( Greece) said the briefing and the report painted an alarming picture of the situation in Iraq.  It was not important, however, to find the most appropriate adjective to describe the current situation in Iraq.  What was important was the fact that hundreds of people were being killed on a daily basis.  No matter what the label, the current situation was unacceptable, he said.

The alarming deterioration of the security situation in the country, despite the successful completion of the transitional political process, begged the question, what should be done now?  That question needed to be answered, not only by the Iraq and United States Governments, but also by the United Nations and the Security Council.  Much attention had been focused on the political process in the hope that progress would impact the security situation.  During Greece’s tenure on the Council, it had hoped that an all-inclusive political process would pave the way for national reconciliation and the consolidation of national understanding based on the institutionalization of a consensus-building national dialogue.  Iraqis were to have taken their fate in their own hands by opting for democracy, peace and stability.  So far, that had not materialized.

While he shared many of the observations in the Secretary-General’s report, he said an in-depth, analytical understanding of the reasons behind the increase in sectarian violence and in terrorist and insurgent attacks was needed before the international community could build on what had been achieved so far.  An in-depth look into what was fuelling sectarian violence might help reveal the most appropriate instruments to address the challenges facing the country.  A national compact was needed to complement the International Compact and assess the posture of the Iraqi security forces to counter and prevent terrorist attacks and criminal activities.

MATEO ESTREMÉ ( Argentina) said that, as the political process advanced and Iraqi sovereignty was restored, it had been thought that the levels of violence would decrease, the democratic institutions would be consolidated, security would be transferred to Iraqi forces and extremist elements would be isolated.  The current situation in Iraq, however, showed that that approach had not been effective.  It was imperative, therefore, to think about a new strategy, both internally and internationally, to avoid a civil war, which would have devastating consequences for the whole region.  He was alarmed at the suffering of the civilian population in Iraq.  Estimates varied on the numbers of civilians who had died, but the evidence of Iraqi suffering had shown a crisis of great proportions.  The human rights situation was also grave.  The deteriorating security situation was not due exclusively to the actions of extremist groups.  That thinking ignored a much deeper reality, namely the presence of the sectarian conflict, complicated by death squads, in some cases with connections to Iraqi political parties.  That situation not only contributed to feelings of insecurity, but also generated displaced persons and fed into Iraqis’ pessimism about their future.

He said that the political process had not had the hoped for positive effect or led to a climate of reconciliation or harmony.  Despite the efforts of the past three years, it had also not been possible to consolidate the Iraqi security forces to make it possible for the Iraqis to face the current national challenges.  Thus, the presence of international forces remained essential.  In that regard, he reminded all troops of their obligations to respect human rights and the provisions of international humanitarian law.  The worsening of the development index recently had been another indication of the overall deteriorating situation.  If the situation was not reversed, Iraq would continue to descend into civil war.  In order to avoid that catastrophe, it was a matter of urgency to design a new blueprint for Iraq.

An inclusive political process should be evolved, which included all communities, if possible, and key decisions should be taken with regard to the distribution of natural resources and the development of the political institutions in a way that was genuinely representative, he said.  Calling for genuine reform of the Constitution, he said that additional efforts should also be made to promote reconciliation.  The initiatives of the Arab League should be explored in all their facets, and all national strategies should be complemented by additional measures at the regional level.  There were already some concrete initiatives, which deserved study by the Council.  The convening of an international conference on Iraq could also be useful.  The Iraq Compact could serve as the cooperation framework between Iraq and the international community.

JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said Iraq was still a long way from reconciliation.  Indeed, the situation of the Iraqi people was becoming desperate.  The Secretary-General’s report clearly indicated that the balance of external intervention and the internal situation was very gloomy.  The deterioration of the situation must prompt significant changes in the ways and means for bringing about stability in the country.  The Iraqi people were in despair and the country was characterized by a lack of social cohesion.  In that regard, it was necessary to give greater space for political dialogue.  The urgent support and involvement of the Iraqi people, the Government and neighbouring countries in the current situation was, therefore, essential.

He said Peru supported all initiatives that would contribute to restoring trust between the various parties, including measures promoted by the League of Arab States.  Peru also condemned sectarian violence and rejected all terrorist acts.  Those responsible for security in Iraq should fulfil their duty to protect civilians.  There would be no democracy if impunity continued.  The task of reconstruction was another crucial area, and a lack of investment was having a serious impact on the economy.  The Iraq Compact was a positive initiative in helping restore the country’s economy.  He also expressed support for UNAMI, which must consolidate the tasks that would help provide to political and legal stability.

EMYR JONES PARRY ( United Kingdom) agreed that the security situation was serious and that addressing it was the top priority, for both the Iraqi Government and the multinational force.  Military effort alone, however, was not sufficient to guarantee security; it must be underpinned by a political solution involving genuine reconciliation.  Even more could be done to ensure that the Prime Minister was supported in the work to bring the different parts of Iraq together, in order to give effect to the will of the Iraqi people, as expressed in their democratic elections.  A United Nations-facilitated meeting of Iraq’s political parties offered a useful opportunity for dialogue and might be held in concert with a meeting of Iraq’s neighbours to further the reconciliation process.

He said the United Nations played a significant role in Iraq’s reconstruction and helping the country find the necessary political solutions.  He appreciated the challenging environment of UNAMI, and he encouraged the United Nations to pursue further steps with partners to improve the Mission’s security, as necessary, including through discussion with the European Union.  The continued presence of UNAMI was vital to helping Iraq advance the political progress, and he urged the Organization to contribute further to funding the United Nations security trust fund to allow the continued presence of UNAMI.  Among other things, he welcomed the United Nations intention to provide strong support to the constitutional review process, as well as the role it had taken as co-chair of the International Compact.  The Compact provided an opportunity for the wider international community and the Iraqi Government to focus on political, security and economic reform.  Also welcome was the United Nations approach to provide targeted institutional and operational capacity-building support, including the work of the UNAMI Human Rights Office on the National Human Rights Commission.  The emphasis of the Secretary-General on regional dialogue was also welcome. 

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he anticipated that the United Nations Mission in Iraq would continue its efforts to assist the people and work in the political process, acting as mediators among the Iraqi factions and communities.  The situation was challenging and the country faced a difficult crisis in the face of ongoing terrorist and insurgent activities.  The recipes for addressing the issues facing the country had not proven that great so far, and every effort was needed to ensure that full-scale civil war was not unleashed.  The issue of human rights also needed to be addressed.

He said the massive killings, prison detentions, the exodus of Iraqis from the country and the growing number of internally displaced persons were contributing to the emergence of another situation of concern in the Middle East.  While the necessary prerequisite for addressing the range of problems facing the country continued to be based on the need for national reconciliation and consent, movement in that area had fallen short.  He hoped that arrangements for constitutional review would move into the phase of practical implementation.  He also hoped that an Iraqi national conference would be held as a way of promoting harmony.  The international community needed to do its utmost to make additional efforts to impartially assist in a peaceful settlement of the current situation.  His delegation took great interest in the idea of establishing a regional forum, such as the Sharm el-Sheik meeting.  The Council should keep such arrangements in its field of view.

BEGUM TAJ (United Republic of Tanzania) agreed with previous speakers that the unprecedented level of violence in Iraq was very worrying.  The spike in violence had resulted in many deaths, injuries, property damage, extreme hardship and suffering.  Particularly disturbing had been the number of civilians who had fallen victim.  It was urgent that order be restored, especially in Baghdad.  Regional and international efforts must be enhanced to prevent the sectarian violence from further escalating.  She commended the multinational force for its dedication in confronting the violence, but more needed to be done.  Determined efforts were essential to deal with the extremist violence and to replace it with democracy and the rule of law.  Hopefully, political negotiations on the Constitution would be successful in addressing that.

She also hoped that the Iraqi Prime Minister’s search for peace, including the meeting with international players to seek their support and guidance, would succeed.  She welcomed all other ideas that could reverse the current situation, including the result of efforts by the Iraq Study Group.  The recent pronouncements for peace by Iraq’s neighbours must also be capitalized on, and work on the International Compact for Iraq deserved support, as did the Prime Minister’s national reconciliation plan.  She looked forward to the 18 December conference on national reconciliation.  Iraq continued to require international assistance, and she urged generous and timely support for the war-torn country. 

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) noted that the Iraqi people had marched down an extraordinary road since the end of the Iraq war three years ago.  Despite important progress in the political process, the security, economic and human rights situation remained a source of deep concern.  Indeed, the Iraq question had aroused universal concern.  In his report, the Secretary-General had noted that the prospects for all out civil war had become much more real.  The Iraq Study Group had put forward new ideas and ways of thinking for solving the question.  All parties must try to find a proper solution to help Iraq step onto the road of stability.

Outlining three approaches for solving the question, he stressed the need for Iraq to promote national reconciliation, as well as a broad and inclusive political process.  Noting that sectarian conflict had become a major factor affecting security and stability, he welcomed a national reconciliation plan that would encourage all parties to take the country’s overall interests to heart.  The Iraqi Government should shoulder more responsibility for maintaining security, law and order, so as to restore popular confidence in the Government.  It was also important for the multinational force to signal that it would not be a permanent presence in Iraq.  The security situation could not be solved solely through military means, but must be approached from an economic and political view.

He added that the Government needed to make progress quickly in achieving economic reconstruction from which all Iraqis could benefit.  The International Compact provided an important platform for crystallizing reconciliation.  Regional countries should join hands in helping Iraq achieve stability.  Indeed, the support of neighbouring countries was inseparable from the settlement of the Iraq question.  In that regard, he welcomed the periodic meetings of regional ministers and encouraged all parties to increase mutual trust through dialogue.  An international conference under the auspices of the United Nations could also be considered, at the right time.  China hoped that the Iraqi people, with the international community’s support, would be able to achieve the objective of an Iraq governed by Iraqis and restored to its past glory.

TAKAHIRO SHINYO ( Japan) said that Iraq was at an important crossroads, as it confronted the mounting, complex internal challenges that must be overcome in order to achieve national reconciliation, ensure security and promote reconstruction and development.  Of particularly serious concern was the deteriorating security situation, characterized by increasing sectarian violence and insurgent and terrorist attacks in many parts of the country.  Japan condemned any acts that might destabilize the situation, as security was the necessary foundation for recovery.  At the same time, political stability led to improved security.  He reiterated the importance of ownership of the nation-building process.  It was imperative that the broader international community provide the necessary support to assist nation-building.  In that connection, the constructive role played by the neighbouring and regional countries must not be overlooked.  The recently announced normalization of diplomatic relations between Iraq and Syria, as well as the recent visit of the Iraqi President to Iran, had been welcome.  Improved relations with neighbouring and regional countries would help stabilize Iraq.

He commended UNAMI’S important role under challenging circumstances.  It promoted national dialogue, facilitated the coordination and delivery of reconstruction and development assistance, and assisted the constitutional and electoral processes.  The three elements –- political stability, improved security and economic reconstruction -– were interlinked.  For that reason, he welcomed the International Compact with Iraq, whose success depended on broader international support.  He looked forward to the Compact’s early adoption.  He also called for intensified international support for Iraq, in order to assist the country in overcoming the present difficulties and helping it make meaningful strides towards a democratic and stable State.  Japan would maintain its commitment to support Iraq in two main areas: airlifting air self-defence force assets for UNAMI and the multinational force; and support for Iraqi reconstruction.

NANA EFFAH-APENTENG ( Ghana) noted that the United Nations, as co-chair of the International Compact with Iraq, continued to provide support to the Government in the development of the compact process, which was an important framework for mobilizing national, regional and international actors in support of Iraq’s transition.  He commended the Secretary-General for convening a high-level meeting, which had provided an opportunity for broader international engagement with Iraq’s Government.  The Compact’s success would depend on the ability of the Government and the international community to deliver on their mutual commitments.  He was hopeful that the formal launching of the Compact would come sooner rather than later.

He said Ghana supported the Special Representative’s efforts to engage key political, civil society, tribal and religious leaders, with a view to promoting genuine dialogue and address the volatile security situation.  He also noted that UNAMI intended to provide strong support to the constitutional review process, drawing on best practices from around the world.  He urged the UNAMI Office of Electoral Assistance to continue to provide support for the process of the transition from the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq to the future Independent High Electoral Commission and for the planning and updating of the voter rolls in preparation for future electoral events.

Given the environment of insecurity and the consequent high level of human rights violations, Iraq’s Government had not been able to honour its promise to promote the protection of human rights and the rule of law, he said.  He was encouraged to note, however, that the UNAMI Human Rights Office continued to work closely with Iraqi institutions to strengthen the rule of law and create a strong and effective national human rights system.  He hoped that the draft law on the establishment of a national human rights commission would soon be enacted.  Deeply worried over the continued violence, he hoped that the appropriate authorities would leave no stone unturned in attempting to improve the general security situation.   He hoped an improvement in the security situation would lessen the risks that United Nations personnel were exposed to, so that the viability of maintaining a significant United Nations presence in Iraq would not be called into question.

ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark) said that, while the political process in Iraq since 2003 in many ways had been successful, the current situation presented a very significant challenge to the international community.  As described in the Secretary-General’s report, over the past three months, the situation had further deteriorated in many parts of the country, with a significant rise in sectarian violence, insurgent and terrorist attacks, as well as criminal activities, which were now at an all-time high.  Unfortunately, in that difficult environment, the Iraqi Government’s efforts to foster national reconciliation, stem the violence and accelerate Iraq’s economic development had not been sufficiently successful.

She said she remained deeply concerned about the insurgent violence.  Human rights violations were on the rise, despite the Government’s resolve to promote human rights protection and the rule of law.  As noted by the Secretary-General, in large areas of Baghdad and other parts of the country, insurgent and militia activities remained “uncontrolled”.  The number of internally displaced Iraqis was growing, and was now estimated at about 450,000.  Moreover, reports of mistreatment of detainees in the hands of the Iraqi police and security forces continued.  She urged the Iraqi Government to do more to ensure the protection of the rights of all Iraqis.  The new Iraq must do better than the old Iraq.

The Secretary-General had also pointed to the importance of ensuring a fully inclusive political process focused on reaching out to all communities, as well as ensuring the sharing of the country’s resources, she noted.  In addition, the Government must establish a monopoly over the use of force.  Further, the need for regional support for the country’s transition was growing.  The international community must, thus, continue its support of Iraq at the present critical time.  On the request of the Iraqi Government, resolution 1723 (2006) had been adopted, with the understanding that the mandate could be terminated at any time the Government so wished.  The continued presence of the multinational force was a clear expression of the commitment of the international community.  She was, meanwhile, pleased to see the increasing capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, and the Iraq Compact marked a welcome new departure for international support, a process to which Denmark stood ready to contribute.  The extension of the mandate of the multinational force for another year, as well as the support for the Iraq Compact, formed part of the vital support necessary to the development of a peaceful country.

DUŠAN MATULAY ( Slovakia) noted that the situation in Iraq continued to be extremely fragile and complex.  Reversing the current situation would require a huge effort, in which the Government needed to play a central role.  The Iraqi people had demonstrated their commitment, and their sacrifices should not be forgotten.  The promotion of national reconciliation and improved security were top priorities, and they needed to be implemented as part of a consensus-based action plan that addressed the concerns of all of Iraq’s communities.  A new approach was needed to achieve progress.  Developing an inclusive political process and helping to create a regional environment that supported Iraq’s transition were viable solutions for helping the country.

The United Nations involvement in the transition remained instrumental, he added, welcoming the International Compact, in which the United Nations played a leading role.  Such an arrangement could provide a long-term framework for the country’s reconstruction.  Promoting durable peace would not only benefit Iraq, but also its neighbours.  In that regard, Iraq’s immediate neighbours should play a more active role in promoting Iraq’s stability.  Firm measures were needed to reinforce the country’s justice system and to develop a robust human rights agenda.  In that regard, he urged the Government to take concrete measures to put an end to the environment of lawlessness and prevent a human rights catastrophe from occurring.

JUSTIN BIABOROH-IBORO ( Congo) said that the recurring violence in multiple forms was of continuous concern, and a solution must be found.  The international community and the United Nations, in particular, could not remain silent in the face of the events described in the Secretary-General’s report; the country deserved more than daily suffering from civil war.  Despite the efforts, the level of violence was increasing and daily life was becoming impossible.  Basic human rights were being “trodden underfoot”, and there were many, many casualties among civilians and international forces.  Clearly, a new strategy was needed, which must be taken up by the Iraqi Government.

He called for an all-inclusive democracy, which involved the participation of all Iraqi parties in State institutions, the sharing of natural resources and possible constitutional reform and national stabilization.  Also, the Government must have a monopoly on security forces throughout the country.  In addition, Iraq must improve its relations with its neighbours, particularly Iran.  He welcomed the announcement of a possible conference; peace depended on it.  He also welcomed proposals to stabilize the situation, which was a prelude to recovery, in a country that had been devastated by centuries of war.

Council President NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar), speaking in his national capacity, noted that the situation in Iraq in the past year had been marked by accentuated violence and an unprecedented deterioration.  The number of victims had recently reached the level of hundreds per day, making the crisis one of the worst in the world.  Whatever name was given to the conflict, there could be no doubt that the situation was extremely critical, not only because of the growing number of victims, but also because of the varying forms of violence, including terrorist, ethnic and criminal based violence.  Every effort must be made to restore stability and harmony.  Reaffirming the need to respect the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, he stressed the need to pool international and regional efforts to achieve that goal.

Underscoring the importance of the International Compact for Iraq, he said an immediate improvement in the living conditions of the Iraqi people was just as important as the national reconciliation process.  Beyond the need for a comprehensive inclusive political process was the need to control the security situation, so that the Iraqi security forces would be able to control security in their own country.  Iraq could not be left alone to deal with the current crisis.

HAMID AL BAYATI ( Iraq) said that strengthened national reconciliation and dialogue required a larger United Nations presence.  The recent increase in violence –- terrorist, sectarian, murders, kidnappings –- had sparked concerns within and outside Iraq, causing many to issue dangerous warnings that the country was on the brink of civil war.  Iraq knew very well who was carrying out those violent acts, as well as their objective.  They were the “Sadamists”, the extremists and the criminal gangs, and they shared one immediate goal, namely the undermining of the whole political process.  The Government would face them forcefully and decisively.

He noted that the political process had been the fruit of a democratic endeavour, within the time frame established by the Security Council under resolution 1546 (2004).  To defend the political process in Iraq, therefore, was to defend international legality and the will of the international community.  The Iraqi people, who had succeeded in the past three years in completing the political and constitutional process, would emerge victorious in national dialogue and conciliation, defeat of terrorism and the preservation of the people and their land.  A main factor in their success would be their ability to confront the cycle of violence, terrorism and criminality, which rested in enlarging participation in the current political process in a way that guaranteed the involvement of all parties and all communities.

Towards achievement of that objective, he said that the Government, on 25 June, had adopted a national programme based on national dialogue and reconciliation, he said.  It was based on a national vision that a political consensus was the only way to end the security deterioration.  In order to strengthen national reconciliation, there was an intention to hold a national conference of the political forces in the near future and to include the various Iraqi political organizations, parties and personalities.  The aim was to agree on a national charter that proscribed sectarian fighting and opened prospects for conciliation.  The call for an international or regional conference in the same direction would be welcomed by the Iraqi people and their Government; but, if the purpose of calling for such a meeting was to circumvent the democratic gains achieved by the Iraqis and take the political process “back to square one”, then it would be unacceptable, not only because it would hijack the wishes and hopes of Iraqis, but because it would counter international legality.

He said that the Government was working to improve the security situation, and with the multinational force to achieve a gradual transfer of the security “file” to the Iraqi forces, as soon as possible.  The Prime Minister had said that the human rights situation could not be viewed in isolation from the deteriorating security situation, as those rights were violated daily.  The Government was serious about addressing that situation.  The collateral human rights violations resulting from confrontations between Iraqi security forces and terrorists and criminal gangs could not be put at the same level as the deliberate violations of human rights perpetrated by terrorist elements and criminal gangs daily in schools, marketplaces and houses of worship.  The difference between the two was huge.

Clearly, he concluded, the challenges facing Iraq were enormous, not only in confronting the spiral of violence, terrorism and crime, but the other challenges in the field of rebuilding and reconstruction.  Without international assistance, Iraq would not be able to rebuild its infrastructure, through which it could launch its economy and use its human and natural resources to build a prosperous future.

Responding to the debate, Mr. QAZI said he had taken serious note of the Council’s wisdom and comments, which would be of enormous help to UNAMI in fulfilling its mandate in the next phase of the situation in Iraq.  The current levels of violence were making it difficult for the various initiatives to achieve success.  Among the first priorities was the need to reduce the debilitating level of violence, which had resulted in a human cost that was among the worst in the world.  He thanked the Government for its support to UNAMI and the multinational force.  Much was expected from the Mission in terms of promoting national dialogue and helping the International Compact to move forward.

Noting the call for a more active role by UNAMI, he stressed the need to take into account the prevailing security situation, which had deteriorated.  The Mission had to put the security of its personnel above all other considerations.  While the Mission would be there to assist the Government, because of the current security situation, the desired numbers were not yet possible.

* *** *

__________

*     The 5582nd Meeting was closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.