UN votes to end Iraq political mission

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Friday to end the U.N. political mission in Iraq.

The mission was established in 2003 following the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Its task was 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 U.N. 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 December 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.

The council’s action came as Iraq is also seeking to wind down the military coalition formed to fight 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.

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’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.

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