Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
February 6, 2024
Thank you, Madam President, and thank you Special Representative Hennis-Plasschaert for your briefing. I also want to welcome the representatives of Kuwait and Iraq to this meeting.
The United States welcomed Iraq’s progress toward stability last year, along with the SRSG’s assessment in last October’s briefing that Iraq was well positioned to seize opportunities in front of it. We welcome that progress again today. The United States remains committed to working with the Government of Iraq to strengthen and deepen our long-term, whole of government partnership in pursuit of a secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq.
Unfortunately, Iran-aligned militia groups threaten to undermine Iraq’s hard-fought gains since the territorial defeat of ISIS/Da’esh seven years ago. Since October 2023, these groups have attacked U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan over 165 times. Tragically, three U.S. soldiers were killed and dozens more injured on January 28 when Iran-aligned militia groups attacked U.S. forces stationed in Jordan to take part in the fight against ISIS. I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again: This loss is devastating. This is unacceptable. And attacks like it cannot continue.
Many similar attacks in Iraq on U.S. and Coalition forces hosted on Iraqi bases have resulted in casualties, including among our Iraqi partners who have the lead in our shared fight against ISIS/Da’esh. Armed groups operating outside of state control represent a significant challenge to the Iraqi government’s authority and for the Iraqi people, threatening to upend the stability that Iraqis have fought to hard to achieve.
We eagerly await recommendations in the forthcoming independent strategic review on how UNAMI can help further Iraq’s plans to build a sustainable future for its citizens and adapt to its political transition and ever-changing security risks.
Colleagues, UNAMI has shown itself to be a capable partner, and it is clear it still has important work to do. We strongly support the continuation of UNAMI’s mandate through streamlining programs and prioritizing activities that can be completed within a reasonable timeframe and make a difference on the ground.
UNAMI has already provided invaluable assistance across the spectrum of social and economic challenges, including on elections, promoting and safeguarding human rights, combatting climate change, and governance reform, just to name a few. A highlight: Iraq held provincial council elections on December 18 that were generally orderly and peaceful, thanks in part to UNAMI-trained election staff and equipment available at polling stations.
We encourage UNAMI’s further preparations with Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission to support the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary elections later this spring without further delay. We strongly support the continuation of such technical assistance to IHEC.
We also encourage UNAMI’s continued support to the Government of Iraq in its efforts to protect human rights and combat impunity for violations. To that end, we would encourage the Iraqi government to ensure that the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights is appropriately empowered and resourced.
The United States looks forward to an inclusive and consultative discussion on the future of UNAMI’s mandate, including indicators for what an orderly and responsible completion of UNAMI’s mandate might look like, after the release of the independent strategic review.
We also welcome the Iraqi government consulting with a broad cross-section of Iraqis across the political spectrum and with civil society to ensure consensus on the way forward on UNAMI’s future.
As penholder for the upcoming mandate renewal and a partner in the region, the United States will continue to engage with the Government of Iraq and looks forward to continuing the discussion with Member States during consultations.
Thank you, Madam President.