Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 3, 2019


It is noteworthy that the political mission we are here to discuss today enjoys widespread support. So, Special Representative, I want to thank you for your briefing, but even more so for your leadership. Our appreciation is with the entire UNAMI and the UN country team for its work supporting Iraq’s security, stability, and prosperity.

Permanent Representative Mardini, thank you as well for your briefing. The United States strongly supports the efforts of UNAMI, the Tripartite Commission, and the ICRC to address the unresolved issue of Kuwaiti and third-country missing persons, property, and archives from the First Gulf War. And Archbishop Warda, we are very glad you are with us today. Your presence is a poignant reminder of the strength Iraq draws from its diverse religious traditions – traditions that are central to Iraq’s identity as the “cradle of civilization.” The United States recognizes the continued need to defend religious freedom in Iraq, and we join you in voicing support for the right of all people to freely practice their faith.

It is clear that Iraq now stands at a crossroads. In recent weeks, the world has witnessed Iraqis from all walks of life chant “Sunni, Shia, Turkmen, Christian, Yezidi, we are all one Iraq!” These chants reveal a hope for a nation that is governed without sectarian tension, corruption, or foreign influence, and that delivers on its basic responsibilities to all of its people, including electricity, water, healthcare, and education.

The United States hears these cries of hope, and firmly supports the people of Iraq as they strive to build a country of prosperity for every citizen. This will mean embracing electoral reform, promoting good governance, addressing corruption, and expanding economic opportunity. But most importantly, it will require Iraq’s leaders to be responsive and accountable to all citizens. And as the Special Representative just said, it is the primary responsibility of the state to protect its people. In this critical moment, UNAMI has an indispensable role to play. It has been tasked by this Council with promoting inclusive political dialogue; assisting with constitutional and electoral reform efforts; protecting human rights; and promoting judicial accountability.

Special Representative Hennis-Plasschaert and her team have already coordinated dialogue among diverse political, religious, and community leaders. These conversations, held in response to legitimate public demands echoing across Iraq, demonstrate UNAMI’s potential to shepherd the [country] peacefully through these critical weeks and months. We encourage Iraq’s current and future leaders to carefully consider UNAMI’s suggested roadmap for addressing the legitimate grievances of citizens.

From the very start, the United States has made clear that Iraqis have the right to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, in accordance with Iraq’s own constitutional values. We are deeply alarmed by the use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators by Iraqi authorities and armed groups not under state control. We condemn this violence, and we urge others to do the same. We mourn those who have lost their lives. In this moment, all sides must use maximum restraint. Acts of violence, the destruction of property, and looting only exacerbate tensions, and should be avoided at all cost. Attempts to restrict free expression, the press, and internet access should be abandoned.

Outside of the country, Iraq’s neighbors must not meddle in its affairs. The Iraqi people have loudly rejected this behavior by Iran.
The United States remains a steadfast partner for Iraq to ensure the sovereignty and independence of Iraq’s institutions are protected from those who would undermine them.

In accordance with our theme for the month, I want to close today by looking at where UNAMI has been in the past year, and where it should go in the coming year. One important success of the past year came six months ago, when the Council embarked on a historic, first-ever visit to Iraq – co-sponsored by the United States and Kuwait, and facilitated by UNAMI. This visit demonstrated the widespread goodwill in Iraq earned by the Mission, and stands as a testament to the progress UNAMI has made in establishing itself as a trustworthy and honest broker in Iraq since it [was] created by the Council in 2003.

But in the coming year, progress means building on this goodwill. We hope that as current events in Iraq unfold, UNAMI will work with Iraq on further developing electoral and constitutional reform, mediating dialogue, and promoting accountability.

These would be successes that genuinely contribute to international peace and security.

And so, just as this Council continues to seek meaningful progress, so, we hope, will the Iraqi people and their leaders; indeed, they have come too far to reverse course now. The United States is confident that the Iraqi people will chart a course that ultimately leads Iraq to stability, sovereignty, independence, and prosperity. May we do all we can to assist them along the way.