14 September 2004
"Blue Flag" Flying in Iraq, but Light Footprint Unavoidable in Current Security Situation, Security Council Told
Secretary-General's Special Representative Briefs Council, Says UN Mission Committed to Assisting Fair, Credible Electoral Process
NEW YORK, 15 September (UN Headquarters) -- With the deployment of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), the Blue Flag was flying once more in Iraq, but a light footprint was unavoidable in the current security situation, which was the paramount, if not exclusive, concern of the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, the Security Council was told today.
In his first formal briefing to the Security Council since that body endorsed, in resolution 1546 of 8 June, the formation of the Interim Government and the holding of democratic elections by January 2005, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, said that the people of Iraq desperately wanted peace and to be masters of their own country. And, they saw an effective United Nations role as critical to the realization of their hopes. Yet, the current security environment was far from conducive to the deployment of UNAMI international staff to Iraq, except in minimal numbers.
Nevertheless, he assured Council members, UNAMI was committed to actively assisting and supporting the Iraqi Election Commission in administering, conducting and monitoring a fair and credible Iraqi electoral process. The extent and scale of its activity, however, would be determined by prevailing circumstances, including the security environment. Several time lines had to be met between now and national elections under an approved constitution by the end of next year. The international community must do all that was possible to assist the Iraqis, and every effort had to be made to improve the security environment.
Speaking on behalf of the multinational force, the United States' representative, John Danforth, said that, with elections to be held no latter than January 2005, time was of the essence. The assumption of governing authority by the Iraqi Interim Government had marked the beginning of a new era. While the new Iraqi Government was widely supported by the public, the transfer had not meant an end to the challenges facing Iraq. Well armed insurgents and terrorist remained determined to assassinate leaders, take hostages, and attack the multinational force and Iraqi forces. Only the rule of law, backed by well trained Iraqi forces, supported by a thriving infrastructure and economy, and energized by a free and fair elections process, could defeat those who wished to destabilize the country.
Iraq's representative, Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, said that Iraqis were united in their determination to forge a federal, democratic, unified country, but they needed the help of every Member State and of the United Nations to achieve those goals. The consequences of failure were too great -- not only for Iraqis, but for the region and, indeed, the world. No one sitting around the Council table needed to be reminded of the strategic significance of Iraq and the dangers such failure would pose. With the help of the United Nations and that of those generous Member States who joined the process, he pledged to vindicate the goal of building a new Iraq, and he was confident of success
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and was adjourned at 11:04 a.m.
The Council had before it the Secretary-General's report on the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) (document S/2004/710), which provides an update on the United Nations activities in that country since its last report of 5 August. It focuses on the priority tasks set forth in resolution 1546 (2004) of 8 June, particularly with regard to the National Conference and preparations for the elections scheduled for January 2005, as well as security arrangements for the Organization's presence in the country.
According to the document, since its formation on 28 June, the Interim Government of Iraq has taken a number of steps to start rebuilding the country, and efforts are under way to foster development and economic recovery by improving education and training, creating employment opportunities, and promoting business and trade. These are important building blocks for the transitional political process, not least given the short time in which the Interim Government has been in place and the overall context in which it has to operate.
Although it "was held in difficult circumstances and had many shortcomings", the National Conference was another important step in Iraq's political transition towards a constitutionally elected government. It did proceed without major disruptions and managed to make advances on several critical aspects.
Notwithstanding the restoration of sovereignty and holding of the National Conference, however, the overall security environment has not seen any significant improvement. Coupled with a tragic pattern of hostage-takings and indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians, there has been renewed activity on the part of various insurgent groups throughout the country. In addition to severely disrupting everyday life of the Iraqis, ongoing violence could undermine confidence in the transitional political process, making it more difficult to hold elections in January 2005, as scheduled.
The Secretary-General stresses that the people of Iraq must be continually reassured and convinced that the process is unequivocally moving towards the goal of making them the masters of their own political future. "In the brief but highly significant period that lies ahead", the Interim Government, together with the Interim Council, has a special responsibility to make the political process as widely inclusive as possible in order to reflect the full range of the legitimate aspirations of the Iraqi people. A crucial challenge for the Iraqi authorities will be to create the necessary conditions to allow Iraq to become a society based on the rule of law. This implies a coordinated effort in the transformation of law and order institutions, encompassing police, judicial and penal reform.
While it is the Iraqis themselves who are responsible for the electoral process and its outcome, the assistance given to the Iraqi electoral process is a key component of the Organization's current work in the country. With the deployment to Baghdad of the Secretary-General's new Special Representative and a core UNAMI team, the United Nations has entered a new phase in implementing the mandate conferred upon it in resolution 1546 (2004). However, the Organization's mandate in Iraq has brought it yet again face to face with the possibility that United Nations staff may become main targets of violence.
"This poses a fundamental challenge for our work in Iraq", the Secretary-General writes. "How should we operate in a country where the people want and expect us to help, while certain groups and individuals are determined to prevent us from fulfilling our mandated tasks, including by resorting to violence?" Currently, the small United Nations staff presence in the "international zone" is operating "at the outer limit of acceptable and prudent risk".
Unless and until there is a significant improvement in the overall security situation, UNAMI will have to continue to work both inside and outside Iraq, as circumstances permit, with a restricted presence on the ground. The security of United Nations staff remains the overriding guiding principle for the Mission. This means that the Organization's role and presence in Iraq cannot be separated from the risks to which it is exposed. United Nations actions should be confined to what is logistically feasible and advisable against the backdrop of the evolving reality on the ground.
In paragraph 13 of resolution 1546, the Council expressed its intention to create a distinct entity under the unified command of the multinational force with a dedicated mission to provide security for the United Nations presence in Iraq. It would provide broad area security, escort United Nations personnel and control access and protect the outer perimeter of United Nations facilities. UNAMI's integrated security structure will consist of international security staff, protection coordination officers, personal security details and guard units. Noting that discussions are currently under way with a number of Member States in that regard, the Secretary-General stresses the importance of finalizing security arrangements for United Nations operations in Iraq as soon as possible. It is particularly important that the distinct entity of the multinational force mandated to provide security for the United Nations presence should be identified or deployed immediately prior to the deployment of the UNAMI guard units.
ASHRAF JEHANGIR QAZI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, said he was profoundly gratified and privileged to have been given the opportunity to implement the United Nations mandate, as circumstances permitted, in Iraq. Introducing the first report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolution 1546 (2004), he said that had been intended to provide the Council with an update of activity in Iraq since his last report in August. It focused on the priority tasks set forth in resolution 1546, particularly with regard to the National Conference and preparation of the January 2005 elections. The report also provided an update on security arrangements for the United Nations presence in Iraq.
Limiting himself to a few brief observations, he said that the tragic human dimension of the situation had been brought home today, with almost 50 people losing their lives in yet another bombing. He condemned the killing today of innocent civilians, which was yet another sign of the vicious cycle of violence that was halting progress in the country. Improving the security situation was a collective responsibility shared by all. He arrived on 13 August, on the eve of the National Conference. The return of the Secretary-General's Special Representative and of UNAMI international staff in Iraq had been warmly welcomed. The National Conference, held from 15 to 18 August, had provided him with a unique introduction to the diversity and complexity of the Iraqi political landscape. He was made aware of Iraqi society's extraordinary potential and of its serious challenges.
Despite the distractions of the Najaf crisis and the very adverse security environment in which it took place, the convening of the National Conference and the election of the Interim National Council must be judged a qualified success and as a first step towards a more participatory, pluralistic and inclusive polity than Iraq had previously experienced. Some significant political groups had chosen not to attend. Inducing their participation in the political and electoral process should become a matter of high priority for the Iraqi Government. That would not be easy, as the recent violence in Najaf and Kufa, and the current violence in Baghdad, Falluja, Ramadi, Samarra, Mosul, and others, had amply demonstrated.
He stressed that the transition process was fragile. Serious differences within Iraqi society had yet to be politically and effectively addressed. The transfer of sovereignty to the Interim Government had not been accompanied by an improved security situation. That was the central challenge facing Iraq today. The main victims of the violence were Iraqi civilians. The climate of fear remained entrenched. Ultimately, that situation could only be resolved politically. That fact placed a great burden of responsibility on all parties. Neither national reconciliation nor specific political programmes could be successfully pursued through an excessive reliance on the threat or use of force.
All parties and movements in Iraq must take care not to lose sight of their shared interest in a united, independent, prosperous, stable, secure and peaceful Iraq, he said. Only then would they appreciate their respective stake in politically addressing their differences in a spirit of compromise, however intractable they might appear today. The Interim Government and the Interim Council had a primary responsibility in that regard. They were working in that direction, but they would need all the assistance and encouragement they could get. In the brief period before the planned elections, the political process had to be broadened further to include those parties and movements, which had so far, for one reason or another, tended to stay away or have allowed themselves to be tempted by the path of violence instead of dialogue and accommodation. Only then could the political process begin to embrace the full range of aspirations that defined the politics of Iraq and delivered the peace and security dividend so dearly yearned for by the Iraqi people.
The transitional process would require all parties to share a transcending national vision, including agreement on benchmarks and the end objectives of the process, he said. The next benchmark in the Iraqi transition process would be the elections. The electoral process would be an Iraqi process conducted by Iraqis for Iraqis. It could not be anything else. The Iraqi people had the right to expect, and did expect, the Independent Election Commission of Iraq, the Interim Government and the National Council to fulfil their shared responsibility to enable them to fully and securely participate in a credible and fair elections as currently scheduled. In that regard, the Iraqi Government would have the responsibility to ensure the independence and financial autonomy of the Iraqi Election Commission. That was crucial to enabling the Commission to discharge its electoral responsibilities to the Iraqi people.
He said that UNAMI was committed to actively assisting and supporting the Iraqi Election Commission in administering, conducting and monitoring a fair and credible Iraqi electoral process. The extent and scale of UNAMI's activity in that regard would necessarily be determined by prevailing circumstances, including the security environment. The UNAMI would not run or administer the Iraqi elections. Iraq was a sovereign country with a sovereign government and an independent election commission, but UNAMI had a mandate from the Council and, accordingly, a responsibility to the Iraqi people to render a leading role for advice, technical support, training and the provision of funding to the Election Commission, which had exclusive authority to organize and conduct the elections. The electoral component of UNAMI was already assisting the Commission in preparations.
He said UNAMI continued to facilitate a sustained effort, from inside and outside of Iraq, to support coordination efforts of the Iraqi authorities in capacity-building, humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and development. The UNAMI was also liaising with Iraqi authorities, civil society and others to promote human rights and the rule of law. All those activities reflected the need for a comprehensive long-term approach to rebuilding Iraq. To succeed, Iraq would need the international community's continued support. Ongoing regional dialogue and cooperation between Iraq and its neighbours was also encouraging.
With the deployment of UNAMI to Baghdad, the blue flag was once more flying in Iraq, albeit in the "Green" or international zone, he continued. Iraqi expectations of UNAMI were high. For many Iraqis, UNAMI's involvement with the political and electoral processes was a sine qua non for their credibility and effectiveness. While much work remained to be done, the current security environment was far from conducive to the deployment of UNAMI international staff to Iraq, except in minimal numbers. It also confined UNAMI's movements to largely within the international zone, limiting the ability to interact with a sufficiently wide range of the Iraqi political spectrum.
A light footprint was, however, unavoidable, he said. At all times security had to be the overriding guiding principle for the number of international staff that could be deployed in Iraq, which was why it would be essential for the Iraqis to own their political process. As head of the Mission and designated official for the security of the Mission's personnel, security had to be his paramount, if not exclusive, concern and obligation. It had to be the key operating principle.
He added that it was crucial that the necessary logistical and security arrangements for operations be finalized as soon as possible. The United Nations was making every effort to support the efforts of the multinational force in that regard, as well as to generate UNAMI's own internal security capacity. It was important, however, that the multinational force's distinct entity mandated by the Council to provide security should be identified or deployed immediately prior to the deployment of UNAMI guard units.
Iraq's transitional process was compressed within a rather short period of time, he said. A number of time lines had to be met between now and national elections under an approved constitution by the end of next year. The international community must do all that was possible to assist the Iraqis. Every effort had to be made to improve the security environment and an acceptable security environment would be required for political progress. Equally, an inclusive, sustained and proactive political process involving dialogue, mutual accommodation, and a willingness to compromise would improve the chances for a significant reduction in violence and improvement in the security environment.
The people of Iraq desperately wanted peace and to be masters of their own country, he said, noting that they had the talent and will to peaceably persevere on the path towards those objectives. They saw an effective United Nations role as critical to the realization of their hopes. They appreciated that, despite an adverse security situation, the United Nations had returned to Baghdad. While constrained by the overriding consideration of security, it would be his effort as Special Representative not to disappoint Iraqi expectations. In the months ahead, the Council's continued support would be of vital importance to maintain Iraq's transition by building on the work done so far.
JOHN C. DANFORTH (United States), briefing the Council on the work of the multinational force (MNF), noted that the terrible events of the last 24 hours brought to the fore the theme of his remarks. The security situation was fragile, attacks were persistent and lives continued to be lost. The multinational force consisted of forces from over 30 countries. Countries other than the United States contributed some 23,000 personnel.
In the two weeks following the assumption of responsibility and authority by the fully sovereign and independent Iraqi Interim Government on 28 June 2004, there had been a large drop in acts of violence against MNF operations. In the weeks that followed, however, insurgents and terrorists had increased their attacks against government officials, civilian contractors, foreign nationals and the Iraqi people. In August, largely as a result of Muqtada al-Sadr's illegal Mahdi militia resuming its insurrection in Najaf and the Al Thawra neighbourhood in Baghdad, attacks on the MNF had increased, as well. To respond to those challenges, the MNF had employed new counter-insurgency tactics and continued to deploy Iraqi security forces. The key to defeating the insurgents and terrorist was to continue training and deploying Iraqi forces at an accelerated pace.
Turning to the status of the MNF's joint efforts with the Government to develop Iraqi security forces, he said the Iraqi security forces fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence or Ministry of the Interior. Forces under the Ministry of Defence were the Iraqi Army, including the Iraqi National Guard, the Intervention Force, the Special Operations Force, the Iraqi Air Force and the Coastal Defence Force. As of 10 September, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence had over 231,000 Iraqi security forces either on duty or in training. Iraqi security forces falling under the Ministry of the Interior's jurisdiction also had a crucial role in national security, and included the Iraqi Police Service, the Civil Intervention Force, and the Department of Border Enforcement.
The Iraqi Police now numbered over 86,000, he said. The goal was to have 135,000 well equipped, highly motivated police when training efforts were complete. The Department of Border Enforcement had hired over 14,000 border police, with a goal of 32,000. In addition to the forces from the Ministries of Defence and Interior, the other Ministries were guarded by the Facilities Protection Service, which had nearly 74,000 personnel on duty.
Much work remained to be done, however, and the insurgents had proven persistent in their attacks against the Iraqi Interim Government, their security forces and the Iraqi people, he said. Developing competent leadership for those forces was a top priority. The MNF was currently focused on assisting the Iraqi Government in its efforts to instil a sense of responsibility and professionalism in the Iraqi forces. The Iraqi National Guard, for example, had performed especially well in recent weeks, fighting bravely against insurgent activities, and the performance of the Iraqi Police had also markedly improved since April.
A stable, peaceful Iraq required not only a well trained and well equipped security and police forces, but also the development of a new infrastructure and the creation of economic opportunity for the Iraqi people, he added. To that end, forces assigned to the MNF had worked to restore essential services to the Iraqi people, including the repair of bridges and roads and the construction of schools, hospitals, post offices and other public buildings. Civil affairs personnel worked daily with the Iraqis to help them form the structures needed to build a democratic society. The MNF would also be available to provide security for the upcoming Iraqi elections.
While there had been real progress in the MNF's efforts to provide the means for a free, stable Iraq, great challenges remained, and the United Nations would be an important part of the efforts to meet those challenges, he said. Resolution 1546 decided that the United Nations should play a leading role in advising and assisting the Iraqis with their upcoming elections. It also endowed the United Nations with a leading role to assist the Iraqis in preparing and holding national elections. The Transitional Administrative Law required the elections to be no later than January 2005, and the United States was committed to that timetable. The resolution also noted the creation of a distinct entity under the unified command of the MNF dedicated to providing security to the United Nations in Iraq. While the United States and the MNF remain committed to working with the international community to meet the United Nations security needs, that effort merited international support in order to succeed. The United States strongly urged Member States to contribute to Iraq's future by providing the financial assistance and troops to provide security for the United Nations in Iraq.
With elections to be held no latter than January 2005, time was of the essence, he said. The assumption of governing authority by the Iraqi Interim Government had marked the beginning of a new era for the Iraqi people. While the new Government was widely supported by the public, the transfer had not meant an end to the challenges facing Iraq. Well armed insurgents and terrorists remained determined to assassinate leaders, take hostages, and attack MNF and Iraqi forces. Only the rule of law, backed by well trained Iraqi forces, supported by a thriving infrastructure and economy, and energized by a free and fair elections process, could defeat those who wished to destabilize the country.
FEISAL AMIN AL-ISTRABADI (Iraq) said that, since the last formal Security Council meeting on Iraq on 8 June, genuine progress had been made in reintegrating Iraq into the community of nations. Despite an unprecedented rise in terrorist violence, whose aim had been to impede the transfer of authority to a sovereign government, such a government took office ahead of schedule. A national conference was held in August and an Interim National Assembly had been formed. Today, the Iraqi Government was "truly the most representative in Iraq's history", not merely in terms of ethnic or confessional make-up, but, equally importantly, in terms of the broad range of political ideologies and beliefs held by its members. It was truly a government of national unity. While difficulties remained, "we are, brick by brick, rebuilding a cohesive Iraqi State based upon the consent of the governed", he stressed.
He noted that a principal function of the Interim Government was preparations for the elections. As in the past, terrorists were determined to frustrate that progress. As Iraqis meet each landmark date, particularly with the upcoming elections, those terrorists knew that their days were becoming increasingly numbered. They work now, therefore, in a frenzy to delay the elections. How else was it possible to explain the most recent violence, particularly the barbarous bombings of Christian churches on a Sunday evening, while men, women and children were in the very act of worship.
No doubt, the events contemplated by the Secretary-General in his report had, as their most consistent theme, the extant security situation, he said. Those events, recalled in the light of the heinous murder of Sergio Vieira de Mello, were, no doubt, factors in the apparent reticence of the United Nations and some countries to engage in Iraq. Yet, keeping the United Nations and the world out of Iraq was one of the tactical goals of the terrorists -- and they had unfortunately already met with some success, in that respect. Iraq needed the technical support of the United Nations to hold elections. The Organization knew that and the countries at the Council table and beyond also knew that. And, so did the terrorists. They were determined, at any cost, to prevent that vital assistance from going forward. They must not succeed.
He said that it was also a fact that the number of United Nations workers now in Iraq was inadequate. The total number of United Nations employees had been limited to 35. Yet for the United Nations to have adequate teams of elections experts in the country, that number must be increased. More was needed than the administrative expertise provided up to now, however invaluable that had been. The daunting job now began of doing the necessary field work to set up registration sites and to register voters. Iraq's sons and daughters, scattered in diaspora for too long, desperately and universally wished to participate in those elections. Countless other issues also needed solutions, and the United Nations' expertise in resolving them was indispensable. "There is simply ho other place for us to turn; no one does a better job of assisting in organizing credible, honest elections in emerging democracies than the United Nations", he said.
At the same time, he said he understood the concern over security. Appealing to the United Nations to fully engage in Iraq, he also appealed to the world community to do the same, for Iraq needed it as well. He had been heartened to learn that several countries had agreed either to provide security forces to protect United Nations workers, or to provide funding for such operations. He was grateful to those States, but more was needed. He urged other countries to pledge forces and funds to assist in providing security and safety for United Nations workers in Iraq. Security, of course, was the ultimate duty and responsibility of the Iraqi Government. Recognizing the exigencies, Iraq had turned to the Multinational Force to assist in those vital responsibilities, but the Force was now engaged in activities far different than the security force about which he spoke. The purpose and function of the Force, as he saw it, would be in the first instance to provide protection for United Nations workers as they engage in the essential preparations for the elections, which were to be true, fair and clean -- perhaps for the first time in Iraq's history.
He said that Iraqis were determined to rebuild their nation. They were determined to never again be subjected to government by coercion and oppression. They were also determined to never again be ruled against their will by men who came to power without their consent. It was towards that goal that the Government had announced a two-track approach to the current violence. On the one hand, it was determined that no one would achieve political ascendancy -- much less legitimacy -- through force of arms. Those determined to impose themselves in Iraq's polity through violence to return Iraqis to tyranny would find Iraqis ready to join the battle to prevent their doing so. On the other hand, he encouraged those individuals and movements willing to lay down their arms and willing to abide by the rule of law, to enter the political process, engage Iraq's electorate, and abide by the results of the forthcoming elections.
Peace had not yet been obtained throughout Iraq, he said. That was due mostly to the intervention of foreign "religio-militants" and extremists, as well as remnants of the previous regime. Euro-American pundits who had predicted inter-ethnic or inter-confessional strife in post-war Iraq had been proven wrong. Whatever other problems Iraqis might now be experiencing, a civil war "a la the former Yugoslavia" was not one of them. Unchastened by their prior error, many of those same pundits now called for the de facto dissolution of the country along ethnic and confessional lines. They had been wrong before and they were wrong now.
He said it was significant that no Iraqi today called for the dismemberment of the country. Iraqis were united in their determination to forge a federal, democratic, unified Iraq. They needed the help of every Member State and of the United Nations to achieve those goals. The consequences of failure were too great -- not only for Iraqis, but for the region and, indeed, the world. No one sitting around the Council table needed to be reminded of the strategic significance of Iraq, and the dangers such failure would pose. With the help of the United Nations and that of those generous Member States who joined the process, he pledged to strive to vindicate the goal of building the Iraq, that he had described. He was confident of success.
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