Iraq requests end of UN assistance mission by end-2025

By Thomson Reuters May 10, 2024 | 6:41 AM

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq has requested that a United Nations assistance mission set up after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the country end its work by the end of 2025, saying it was no longer needed because Iraq had made significant progress towards stability.

The mission, headquartered in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, was set up with a wide mandate to help develop Iraqi institutions, support political dialogue and elections, and promote human rights.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said Iraq wanted to deepen cooperation with other U.N. organisations but there was no longer a need for the political work of the U.N. assistance mission, known as UNAMI.

The mission’s head in Iraq often shuttles between top political, judicial and security officials in work that supporters see as important to preventing and resolving conflicts but critics have often described as interference.

“Iraq has managed to take important steps in many fields, especially those that fall under UNAMI’s mandate,” Sudani said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Iraq’s government has since 2023 moved to end several international missions, including the U.S.-led coalition created in 2014 to fight Islamic State and the U.N.’s mission established to help promote accountability for the jihadist group’s crimes.

Iraqi officials say the country has come a long way from the sectarian bloodletting after the U.S.-led invasion and Islamic State’s attempt to establish a caliphate, and that it no longer needs so much international help.

Some critics worry about the stability of the young democracy, given recurring conflict and the presence of many heavily armed military-political groups that have often battled on the streets, the last time in 2022.

Some diplomats and U.N. officials also worry about human rights and accountability in a country that frequently ranks among the world’s most corrupt and where activists say freedom of expression has been curtailed in recent years.

Iraq’s government says it is working to fight corruption and denies there is less room for free expression.

Somalia’s government also requested the termination of a U.N. political mission this week. In a letter to the Security Council, the country’s foreign minister called for the departure of the Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which has advised the government on peace-building, security reforms and democracy for over a decade. He provided no reason.

(Reporting by Timour Azhari, Editing by Timothy Heritage)