U.N. Going Back to Iraq
The United Nations will step up its efforts in Iraq after a four year hiatus.
The Security Council voted Friday to expand the United Nations’ role in Iraq in a move aimed at promoting talks among ethnic and religious rivals and winning support from the country’s neighbors. The resolution, approved unanimously, authorizes the U.N., at the request of the Iraqi government, to promote political talks among Iraqis and a regional dialogue on issues including border security, energy and refugees.
The United Nations pulled out of Iraq in October 2003 after two bombings at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and a spate of attacks on humanitarian workers. The first bombing, on Aug. 19, 2003, killed the top U.N. envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 others. The U.N. allowed 35 staffers to return in August 2004, but the numbers remains small because of security concerns.
The United States and Britain, cosponsors of the resolution, believe the world body, which is viewed by many as a more neutral party, can facilitate talks among feuding parties.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the resolution “marks an important new phase in the U.N.’s role in Iraq,” and expressed hope it will be “a springboard to greater international support for Iraq’s government and people.” “This resolution underscores the widespread belief that what happens in Iraq has strategic implications not only for the region but for the entire world,” he said.
Given that all agree that the main obstacles in Iraq are political, this is indeed a positive sign. Presumably, it reflects some confidence by members of the Security Council that 1) there is at least some glimmer of hope for diplomacy to work at this juncture and that 2) the security environment is safe enough to give this a go.
I remain skeptical that we can achieve much in the near term and don’t think we have a long term without dramatic improvements. Still, I’ll take whatever good news that comes our way.