NATIONAL NEWS

UN votes to end Iraq political mission established after 2003 US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein

May 31, 2024, 9:43 AM | Updated: 7:04 pm

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Friday to end the U.N. political mission in Iraq established in 2003 following the United States-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein to coordinate post-conflict humanitarian and reconstruction efforts, and to help restore a representative government in the country.

The Iraqi government asked the council in a May 8 letter to wrap up the mission by the end of 2025 and that’s what the resolution does: It extends the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, known as UNAMI, for a final 19 months until Dec. 31, 2025 when all its work will cease.

The U.S.-sponsored resolution asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to prepare “a transition and liquidation plan” in consultation with the Iraqi government by Dec. 31, 2024, so UNAMI can start transferring its tasks and withdrawing staff and assets.

The council said it supports Iraq’s continuing stabilization efforts, including its ongoing fight against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida extremists and their affiliates.

In 2014, the Islamic State group declared a caliphate in large parts of Iraq and Syria and attracted tens of thousands of supporters from around the world. The extremists were defeated by a U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria in 2019, but its sleeper cells remain in both countries.

Iraq is also seeking to wind down the military coalition formed to fight the IS. The roughly 2,500 U.S. troops are scattered around the country, largely in military installations in Baghdad and in the north. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has contended that the Iraqi security forces are capable of dealing with the remaining IS cells in the country and the coalition’s presence is no longer needed.

Al-Sudani’s office expressed its “welcome and appreciation” for the Security Council vote and said in a statement that the council decision “came as a result of the tangible progress that Iraq is witnessing at various levels.”

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said secretary-general Guterres and UNAMI are “fully committed” to fulfilling the tasks in the resolution and “the United Nations remains strongly committed to supporting Iraq in its aspirations for a peaceful and secure future.”

Guterres notes “significant achievements” in Iraq since UNAMI was established in August 2003, Dujarric said, pointing to the mission’s assistance in advancing an inclusive political dialogue in the country, holding elections, promoting accountability, protecting human rights and coordinating the return and reintegration of people who are displaced within the country.

The resolution adopted Friday to close the UNAMI mission expresses support for Iraq’s reform efforts aimed at fighting corruption, respecting and protecting human rights, delivering essential services to its people, creating jobs and diversifying the economy.

It asks the secretary-general to streamline UNAMI’s tasks ahead of the mission’s closure to focus on providing advice, support and technical assistance to the government to strengthen preparations for free elections, including for the federal Parliament and for the Parliament in the Kurdistan region.

It also authorizes UNAMI to facilitate progress toward finally resolving outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait, stemming from Saddam Hussein’s invasion of its smaller neighbor in August 1990.

In addition, the resolution says UNAMI should help with the return of internally displaced Iraqis and those in Syria, with providing health care and other services and with economic development. And it also authorizes the mission to “promote accountability and the protection of human rights, and judicial and legal reform.”

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood welcomed the resolution’s unanimous adoption and plans for an orderly wind-down of UNAMI.

“We all recognize that Iraq has changed dramatically in recent years and UNAMI’s mission needed to be realigned as part of our commitment to fostering a secure, stable and sovereign Iraq,” he told the council.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Anna Evstigneeva stressed that what was important for Moscow in voting for the resolution was that the United States took into account the priorities Iraq wanted UNAMI to focus on in its final months.

“We are convinced that in the 20 years since its establishment UNAMI has fully realized its potential to assist in the restoration of Iraqi statehood and that the people of Iraq are now ready to assume full responsibility for the country’s political future,” she said. “We express our firm support for Iraq sovereignty and oppose any interference in the country’s internal affairs. That is an imperative.”

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Associated Press writer Abby Sewell contributed to this report from Baghdad.

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UN votes to end Iraq political mission established after 2003 US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein