Remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on the Situation in Iraq (UNAMI)

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
August 28, 2019


Thank you, Madame President and Special Representative Hennis-Plasschaert, thank you for another informative briefing on the gains of the Government of Iraq in increasing stability and prosperity for its people.

To achieve the enduring defeat of ISIS and successfully stabilize those areas formerly under its control, all communities in Iraq must feel secure. Security depends on removing destabilizing armed groups from liberated areas and replacing them with professional security forces that are responsive to Baghdad and enforce the rule of law.

We strongly support the full implementation of Executive Order 237 announced by Prime Minister al-Mahdi in July, which seeks to bring all Popular Mobilization Forces under the exclusive control of the Government of Iraq.

Madame President, as this Council knows well, the United States has long been concerned by Iran’s malign activities and their destabilizing impact on the region, including in Iraq. Recent events have demonstrated that our concerns are well-founded. Iran’s sponsorship of destabilizing armed groups in Iraq operating outside of government control undermines Iraq’s sovereignty and threatens the safety of civilians.

We call for these destabilizing armed groups to be removed from civilian centers and replaced with professional security forces that are responsive to Baghdad and responsible for enforcing the rule of law.

U.S. forces operate in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government. We support Iraqi sovereignty and have repeatedly spoken out against any potential actions by malign actors inciting violence in Iraq. The Government of Iraq has the right to control its own internal security and the responsibility to protect itself against the corrosive effects of armed groups whose actions jeopardize Iraq’s recovery and regional stability.

Madame President, we welcome progress on government formation, but note as the Special Representative has, that none of the cabinet positions, and only two positions on parliamentary committees, are filled by women. We urge the Government of Iraq to appoint qualified female candidates to senior decision-making positions.

Continued action on anti-corruption measures is essential for long-term stability and economic growth in Iraq. And we urge the Government of Iraq to strengthen its efforts going forward.

We welcome the continued cooperation between the Government of Iraq and UNAMI on provincial council election preparations scheduled for next April. The amendments to the electoral law passed in July by the Council of Representatives are a significant step forward in preparing for these elections. We urge the Government of Iraq to expand and expedite its efforts to biometrically register eligible Iraqi voters in order to prevent disenfranchisement.

Also important to the long-term stability of Iraq is a commitment by and the ability of the country’s leaders to deliver essential civil and social services to its people, including health care, education, and infrastructure. Such efforts will help restore public trust in government institutions and are crucial to paving the way for stability and prosperity for all Iraqis.

We continue to prioritize restoring key services and infrastructure in areas liberated from ISIS control. Additional donations are urgently needed for UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization and as we announced earlier this year, the United States will contribute $100 million to this effort.
We encourage other members of the international community to also step up and do their part and we welcome today’s announcement by the Government of Iraq of their $33 million pledge.

Madame President, regional integration is a prerequisite to securing a peaceful and prosperous future for Iraq; Kuwait and other Arab neighbors have paved the way in recent months. We welcome and support UNAMI’s role in this, including the signing earlier this month of a Memorandum of Understanding between UNAMI and the Government of Iraq to establish the Iraq Reconstruction and Recovery Trust Fund in support of Iraq’s own Recovery and Development Framework.

This is a positive step towards urgently addressing Iraq’s immediate humanitarian-stabilization responses and longer-term development needs by the international community, including improving the fulfillment of international pledges from the Kuwait International Conference for Iraq held in 2018.

We support continued efforts by the Government of Iraq, UNAMI, and the International Committee of the Red Cross to address the unresolved issue of Kuwaiti missing persons and property from the First Gulf War. The recent discovery of human remains in Samawa and efforts to positively identify them are a step towards reconciliation and healing between Kuwait and Iraq.

We commend ongoing efforts to improve relations between Baghdad and Erbil. We note with concern, however, the continued disagreements over oil authorities and revenue sharing, and urge the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.

Madame President, support for threatened religious and ethnic communities remains a top priority for the United States. Iraq’s diversity is critical to its richness and strength as a nation. We encourage UNAMI to continue engaging these communities across Iraq, and we urge the Government of Iraq to make urgent progress in support of them, including by preventing armed groups from blocking their return to their homes and villages.

Madame President, as Iraq continues to make progress, efforts to stabilize areas liberated from ISIS, urgently address the plight of internally displaced persons and ISIS family members, and further integrate Iraqis into the surrounding region must be all accelerated. With UNAMI’s continued engagement, these efforts can help set Iraq towards a bright, prosperous, and stable future.

I thank you, Madame President.