|The Work of Lakhdar Brahimi|
The Work of Lakhdar Brahimi
Lakhdar Brahimi traveled to Iraq for the first time in 1997 during the cyclical crises between Baghdad and UN inspectors. At the request of Kofi Annan, he led a delegation to open dialogue between the UN and Baghdad. By listening attentively and respecting the speaker’s ability to create an atmosphere of trust, the delegation managed to open dialogue between the UN and the Iraqi Presidency.
In 1998, the “presidential sites” crisis burst, forcing Kofi Annan to travel to Iraq, accompanied by Lakhdar Brahimi. The latter obtained from Tarek Aziz the possibility of a face to face discussion between Kofi Annan and Saddam Hussein. After the interview, Saddam Hussein announced that inspectors could even monitor the presidential palaces. However, at the end of 1998, the U.S. military bombed several Iraqi sites.
Lakhdar Brahimi returned to Iraq in 2004 as Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General. He helped train the transitional government (Coalition Provisional Authority) and presented a report to the Security Council stating the elements necessary for holding elections in Iraq.
This country of nearly 31 million inhabitants has evolved in a climate of instability for decades, especially since the arrival of Saddam Hussein as head of state in 1979.
From 1980 to 1988, taking advantage of a border conflict, the country went to war against Iran. July 18, 1988, the Iranian head of state Ruhollah Khomeini accepted the ceasefire demanded by the UN. The war provoked hundreds of thousands of casualties among military and civilians and yet still it ended in a stalemate. None of the belligerents won the conflict, but the Iraqi dictatorship hardened. The Kurds were among the most affected by the repression with the Al-Anfal genocide campaign that caused over 180,000 deaths between 1986 and 1988.
Two years later, in August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, claiming the territory. The first Gulf War broke out. The United States mobilized and led an international coalition of more than thirty countries and nearly a million troops against Iraq. The country was quickly placed under embargo. On January 17, 1991, the military intervention dubbed “Desert Storm” was conducted by an international coalition. Massive bombing destroyed Iraq’s military potential and economic infrastructures. The war ended quickly and in February 1991 Iraq accepted the cease-fire.
The UN Security Council endorsed several resolutions against Iraq, including severe economic sanctions that were maintained until May 2003. The consequences of the war however were devastating for the population. Between 1991 and 1998, there were over one million estimated victims due to lack of food and water, especially among children.
For 6 years, Iraq rejected any proposal of exchanging oil for food, despite the adoption of resolution 706 by the Security Council in August 1991. This resolution allowed member states to develop these types of exchange programs. The official start of “oil for food” was October 1997 with the first shipment arriving in March 1998.
Non-compliance with Security Council demands for disarmament under Resolution 687 prolonged the embargo until the beginning of the 2003 war. The resolution called for the destruction of chemical and biological weapons, ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 km, a complete list of weapons in Iraq, as well as access to their storage sites. In 1998, Kofi Annan received Saddam Hussein’s approval to begin inspections, but a series of bombings conducted by the U.S. destroyed many important inspection sites.
The unilateral attack by the United States and its allies in 2003 again destabilized the country’s population, already weakened after 12 years of embargo. UNAM (the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq) was created in 2003 at the request of the Iraqi government. The initial mandate was to help establish a new government, elections, and the creation of a new constitution. This mandate, expanded since its inception, is renewed annually and is currently valid until June 2011.
In June 2004, a provisional government was established by the United States and coalition allies, with UN assistance. The first elections to the National Assembly were held in January 2005 for the transitional Iraqi government.
In October 2005, a national referendum implemented a new constitution, which established a federal parliamentary system, with the Prime Minister as the real tributary of executive power and the President having a representational role. In 2005, Jalal Talabani (Kurd) was elected President by the Transitional National Assembly and was reelected in 2006 after the first Iraqi legislative elections of December 2005. Nouri Al-Maliki, Shiite of the Dawa Party, has been Prime Minister since May 2006.
The second general election of the new regime, on March 7, 2010, did not allow any one party to assume alone the creation of a government. Nearly eight months after the election, negotiations have still to bring forth a coalition that is able on the one hand to attain a Parliamentary majority, and on the other, to satisfy the claims of the three main Iraqi communities: Shiite, Sunnis, and Kurds.
During the political deadlock of the past months, violence has increased, with nearly 500 deaths in July 2010. It has reached its highest level since May 2008 (580 dead), compared to the average since the beginning of 2010 of 300 victims per month. This violence remains linked to Al Qaida networks and the Ba’athist movement and extends to the hitherto relatively unscathed south. Starting in September 2010, the number of victims has dropped back down to 300 victims a month.
Diplomats in the country believe that this violence is still contained and does not yet represent a threat to the stability of the state. A long political deadlock could have serious consequences though.
In 2008, Barack Obama promised to establish a calendar of US troup withdrawal from Iraq if he were to be elected. On September 1, 2010, he announced the end of the U.S. military mission in Iraq and its transformation into a civilian phase.