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UN mission in Iraq to end after two decades at Baghdad's request

UN mission in Iraq to end after two decades at Baghdad's request
3 min read
A Security Council resolution adopted on Friday extended the mandate of the UN political mission in Iraq for 'a final 19-month period until 31 December 2025'.
The UN Security Council has decided the United Nations political mission in Iraq will leave the country at the end of 2025 [ANDREA RENAULT/AFP/Getty-file photo]

At the request of Baghdad, the UN Security Council unanimously decided on Friday that the United Nations political mission in Iraq will leave the country at the end of 2025 after more than 20 years.

Earlier this month, in a letter to the council, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani called for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to be closed.

Al-Sudani said UNAMI had overcome "great and varied challenges" and that "the grounds for having a political mission in Iraq" no longer exist.

The UNSC resolution adopted on Friday extended the mission's mandate for "a final 19-month period until 31 December 2025 after which UNAMI will cease all work and operations".

Farhad Alaaldin, the Iraq prime minister's adviser for foreign affairs, welcomed the move, expressing on social media platform X his "thanks to UNAMI for all their work during the past two decades".

The mission was established by a UN Security Council resolution in 2003 at the request of the Iraqi government after the US-led invasion and fall of Saddam Hussein.

It has about 700 staff, with key tasks including advising the government on political dialogue and reconciliation, as well as helping with elections and security sector reform.

During the mission's previous renewal in May 2023, the Council asked the secretary-general to launch a strategic review, which was overseen by German diplomat Volker Perthes.

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In a report issued in March, Perthes signaled that the closing schedule would reassure reluctant Iraqis that the transition "will not lead to a reversal of democratic gains or threaten peace and security".

Given that UN missions can only operate with the host nation's consent, Russia, China, Britain, and France this month all voiced support for a transition in the United Nations role in Iraq.

"The people of Iraq are now ready to assume full responsibility for the country's political future," said Russia's deputy UN ambassador Anna Evstigneeva.

"We express our firm support for Iraq sovereignty and oppose any interference in the country's internal affairs."

The United States drafted the resolution, after initially being more wary.

"We all recognise that Iraq has changed dramatically in recent years, and UNAMI's mission needed to be realigned as part of our commitment to fostering a secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq," deputy US ambassador to the UN Robert Wood said on Friday.

Analysts say that the prime minister was seeking a political win, and that the UN was not pulling out of Iraq.

"This does not mean they want to end UN programmes," said Renad Mansour, senior research fellow at Chatham House.

"This is all part of Prime Minister Sudani's attempts to show Iraq as a country entering a new phase, one he hopes can be defined by sovereignty."

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He added UNAMI had some limited successes but had struggled "to ensure accountability and create the space for a thriving and independent civil society".

The UN has been facing hostility in recent years, in Africa in particular.

Several countries have forced UN missions to depart – in Mali, for example, where MINUSMA pulled out last year. December also saw the Security Council end the political mission to Sudan at the request of authorities.

"Council members now seem resigned to the fact that many states which have hosted UN missions for a long time want them gone," Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group told AFP.

"For a long time, the Council's default position was to keep UN missions in place indefinitely. Now the new default is to let them go quietly."