Daesh revival in Iraq must be prevented, says UN envoy

The UN fears Daesh militancy, which was wiped out in 2017, may take a foot hold again in Iraq. (Reuters)
Updated 22 May 2019

Daesh revival in Iraq must be prevented, says UN envoy

  • ‘Armed actors’ operating outside the government are engaged in illegal or criminal activities which undermine state authority
  • Daesh’s sleeper cells continue to launch attacks in different parts of Iraq

NEW YORK: The UN envoy for Iraq called on Tuesday for “wide-based international support” to prevent Daesh militants from regaining a foothold in the country.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert also told the Security Council that if the issue of thousands of returning Daesh militants and their families from Syria to Iraq is not managed properly “we risk creating a new breeding ground for the next generation of terrorists.”

She stressed that this “is not just an Iraqi problem” because there are non-Iraqi fighters as well, and she implicitly criticized some unnamed countries that are maintaining a “strategic distance” from their own nationals.

Daesh, which seized Iraqi cities and declared a proto-state in a large swathe of territory it took control of in Syria and Iraq in 2014, was formally declared defeated in Iraq in 2017 following a three-year bloody battle that left tens of thousands dead and Iraqi cities in ruins. But the group’s sleeper cells continue to launch attacks in different parts of Iraq.

Hennis-Plasschaert said that on an encouraging note the capital Baghdad “is opening up” and “very soon” the high-security Green Zone where many government offices and embassies are located “will no longer exist.” But she said the security situation in the capital and throughout the country will require close monitoring because the threat from Daesh “is still out there.”

The UN envoy quoted an unnamed representative of the US-led coalition in the country as saying recently that Daesh “is resurging. They rested, moved and are active.”

Hennis-Plasschaert said “another dominant security concern” is “armed actors” operating outside the government who are engaged in illegal or criminal activities which undermine state authority, weaken the economy and prevent the return of thousands of displaced people.

She briefed the Security Council after it unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN political mission in Iraq that she leads until May 31, 2020.

More broadly, Hennis-Plasschaert also criticized political infighting in Iraq that has blocked key ministerial appointments a year after national elections, and corruption which is “pervasive at all levels in Iraq.”

She alluded to escalating tensions between the US and Iran which have raised concerns that Iraq could once again get caught in the middle, just as it is on the path to recovery. 

The country hosts more than 5,000 US troops, and is home to powerful Iranian-backed militias, some of whom want those US forces to leave.

Hennis-Plasschaert said she was pleased to report that Iraq’s leaders continue to reach out to their regional and international counterparts, positioning the country “as a reliable partner.”

“Iraq could well be a stabilizing factor in a turbulent region and instead of an arena for conflict, Iraq could well offer a space for regional reconciliation, preparing the ground for a regional security dialogue,” she said.

“At the same time, we cannot ignore that Iraq faces serious challenges in preventing its territory from becoming the theater for different competitions,” Hennis-Plasschaert said. “So, to all those feeling challenged: Placing a further burden on Iraq is truly, the last thing it needs.”

Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

Updated 57 min 26 sec ago

Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation could be forced into skipping next week’s UN General Assembly because the United States has yet to issue them visas, state media said Wednesday.
Rouhani and his delegation had been scheduled to travel to New York for the annual UN gathering on Monday, but that was now looking unlikely given the lack of visas, state news agency IRNA said.
“If the visas aren’t issued in a few hours, this trip will probably be canceled,” IRNA reported.
The delegation includes Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, who the United States imposed sanctions against on July 31.
The foreign minister had been due to travel to New York on Friday morning, according to IRNA.
The absence of Rouhani would ruin France’s bid to arrange a meeting between him and US President Donald Trump as part of European efforts to de-escalate tensions between the arch-foes.
“Iran’s absence will show that in contrast with its commitments to the United Nations and international organizations within the framework of agreements, diplomacy has no value for the United States,” IRNA said.
“Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has not left the scene and it continues its active diplomacy, the US government must answer for its behavior,” it added.
The UN General Assembly debate is due to begin on Tuesday.
As the host government, the United States generally is obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.
But Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of “maximum pressure.”
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear program.