Prospects of all-out civil war in Iraq much more real than three months ago, Annan warns
The prospects of all-out civil war in Iraq and even a regional conflict have become much more real over the past three months as sectarian violence, insurgent and terrorist attacks, and criminal activities have risen significantly, according to the latest United Nations report on the war-torn country released today.
“The sectarian carnage has resulted in a vicious cycle of violence fuelled by revenge killings,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan tells the Security Council in the report, proposing a possible international conference to foster national reconciliation and offering UN good offices in helping to arrange such a meeting.
“The challenge is not only to contain and defuse the current violence, but also to prevent its escalation,” he writes, stressing that the situation has deteriorated since he warned in his last report in September that that Iraq was at an important crossroads between taking the high road to negotiation and compromise or descending further into fratricidal sectarian conflict.
He notes that although the figures on civilian casualties since the United States-led invasion in March 2003 vary between 50,000 and more than 600,000, depending on the sources, the predicament of the Iraqi people is a constant, with violence permanently hampering human development and greatly adding to the burden of access to proper health care, social services, education, employment and economic opportunities.
“While I note the efforts of the Government of Iraq to improve security and promote national reconciliation, it must undertake an urgent review of strategies, policies and measures, with the aim of implementing a consensus-based action plan to halt and reverse current political and security trends in the country, which needs to be supported by a much broader and inclusive regional and international effort,” Mr. Annan notes.
He lays out a three-point roadmap for the Government to meet the challenges:Developing a fully inclusive process to bring all disenfranchised and marginalized communities into the mainstream with equitable access to political power, State institutions and natural resources;
Establishing a Government monopoly on the use of force, not only by addressing the terrorist, insurgency, sectarian and criminal violence but also dealing with the problem of militias, including their removal from all ministries and security forces;
Cultivating a regional environment supporting Iraq’s transition, with the Government normalizing relations with its neighbours and the neighbours working towards fostering greater stability and security in Iraq.
“However, in the light of the deteriorating situation in Iraq and its potentially grave regional implications, it may be necessary to consider more creative ways for fostering regional dialogue and understanding, which could result in concrete confidence-building measures between Iraq and its neighbours,” Mr. Annan writes. “This process could be broadened to include the permanent members of the Security Council. The United Nations is prepared to explore the possibilities of such a process in consultation with all concerned.”
Citing positive UN experiences in other parts of the world, such peace accords for Afghanistan reach in an international meeting in Bonn, Germany, in 2001, he raises the prospect of bringing Iraqi political parties together, possibly outside Iraq, with the UN playing a facilitating role.
Mr. Annan reaffirms the UN commitment to Iraq in the political and humanitarian fields, including strong support for the constitutional review process and immediate and long-term relief needs. But he also stresses the severe constraints that deteriorating security has clamped on the Organization’s ability to carry out its activities.
He recalls as “one of the darkest moments in my career” the bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad in August 2003 when the world body lost 22 friends and colleagues, including the head of the mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
“Although there appears to be greater Iraqi and international support for a more active United Nations role, should there be a further deterioration of the security situation, the viability of maintaining a significant United Nations presence in Iraq might be called into question,” he warns. “There can be no tolerance for exposing United Nations personnel to unacceptable risk.”