Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Iraq (via VTC)

Ambassador Richard Mills
Acting Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 16, 2021


Thank you, Madam President, and thank you, Special Representative, for your informative report. I also want to thank you and your staff for your ongoing diligent efforts, even as COVID-19 and the uncertainty of the security situation complicate your mission.

Since this is the first time the Biden Administration has addressed the issue of Iraq in the Security Council, let me begin with laying out our goals for Iraq.

The Biden Administration supports a strategic partnership with a stable, democratic Iraq. The Administration will be a steady, reliable partner that supports Iraq’s anti-corruption and economic reform efforts, strengthens regional relationships, holds accountable human rights violators and those who abuse human rights, provides humanitarian assistance, backs efforts to control militias and to control Iran’s destabilizing activities, and advises and assists Iraq’s counterterrorism forces.

Among its top priorities, the United States will seek to help Iraq assert its sovereignty in the face of enemies, at home and abroad, by preventing an ISIS resurgence and working toward Iraq’s stability.

For the United States, this means supporting Iraq’s efforts to hold credible, inclusive, and peaceful elections. The Iraqi government is taking firm steps toward this goal, we believe. In late 2019, when Iraqis took to the streets demanding political and economic reforms, the Iraqi government responded, in part, by planning early elections, now scheduled for October 2021. These scheduled elections will be critical in establishing a responsive and representative government.

The United States welcomes the recent letter submitted to the Council by the Government of Iraq requesting UNAMI to provide election observers for its October elections. We support international observation of Iraqi elections to ensure that the elections are free, fair, and credible, and look forward to working with Iraq, the Council, fellow members, and the UN to determine the most feasible form such an effort can take.

UNAMI has already been providing, we believe, excellent technical assistance to the Iraqi government, to ensure that the elections scheduled for October are free and fair, and working with the government to increase public trust in the elections process.

The United States recognizes and supports the critical role that UNAMI plays in assisting the government’s election preparations, which is why we are providing a $9.7 million grant to support UNAMI in its efforts. We thank the other countries who supported UNAMI as well, but we also want to encourage all international donors to contribute to UNAMI to help it and Iraq prepare for these important elections.

The report we’ve just heard on elections preparations, however, again highlights the complicated situation in Iraq. It is essential to create a conducive environment for elections so that they are credible, peaceful, and inclusive. One of the highest barriers to a conducive environment, however, is the presence of armed militias, violent extremists, and spoilers. Iraq’s electoral administration and key security personnel should work closely to plan for and coordinate around securing the elections, and this work must begin immediately alongside other preparations for the electoral process.

A conducive environment means that we must address Iran-backed militias and Iran’s destabilizing activities in Iraq, as well as the remaining ISIS elements. These groups undermine the public’s trust in the government and in the October 2021 elections. They are killing Iraqi citizens, and depriving Iraq of much-needed economic relief and foreign investment. No one is immune. They also have attacked UN convoys and targeted both diplomatic personnel and NGOs seeking to assist Iraq and Iraqis. Just yesterday, as we’ve heard, an attack claimed one civilian contractor and injured several members of the Coalition, including one American service member.

As Secretary Blinken said yesterday, the United States is outraged by the rocket attack in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. We express our condolences to the loved ones of the civilian contractor killed in this attack, to the others who were injured, and to the innocent Iraqi people and their families who are suffering from these acts of violence. The United States pledges our support for all efforts to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for these heinous actions.

We appreciate UNAMI’s ongoing documentation of humanitarian abuses and of human rights violations, and its accountability efforts, including supporting a strengthened judiciary and addressing enforced disappearances.

The United States remains committed to Iraq’s economic development. Low oil prices, COVID-19, and the security situation have each contributed to Iraq’s current, unsustainable economic position. The United States has provided Iraq more than $706 million since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2019, and more than $2.4 billion in both humanitarian and development assistance since 2014. This assistance helps provide critical shelter, essential healthcare, emergency food assistance, and water, sanitation, and hygiene services across Iraq, and has supported the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of displaced persons, including members of ethnic and religious minority groups.

Real recovery, however, means real reforms to end corruption.

Economic reform efforts will only be strengthened by concrete steps, including the establishment last year of a permanent committee to investigate corruption. Endemic corruption undermines economic progress – as well as trust in political bodies – and the permanent committee demonstrates, we believe, the government’s political will to fight endemic corruption in Iraq. We commend the Iraqi government for its efforts, and encourage committed action – in accord with Iraq’s constitutional protections for human rights and due process – to ensure the independence, the impartiality, and the adequate resourcing of the committee.

Let me end by saying, Madam President, the United States will remain a steady, reliable partner for Iraq, and for the Iraqi people – today and in the future.

Thank you, Madam President.