Saturday, May 21, 2016

In Iraq After Takeover of PM's Headquarters, UNAMI Speaks on Facebook

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 21 -- After the takeover of the Iraqi Prime Minister's headquarters triggered a curfew in Baghdad, the UN's envoy in Iraq Jan Kubis issued a statement on the UNAMI's Mission's Facebook page, not distributed by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

"The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) expresses deep concern about the escalation of confrontation during yesterday’s demonstrations that once again targeted Baghdad’s International Zone.

'What happened on Friday shows how events could take a different turn and escalate, causing casualties”, said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Mr. Ján Kubiš. “Restoring calm is key for Iraq to be able to move forward in finding a political solution based on inclusive consultations to resume the work of the united parliament to confirm without delay a reformed government that is able and willing to proceed with the reforms that will address the priorities and challenges the country and the people face, first of all fighting Daesh in unity”.

The SRSG urged Iraqi political forces to immediately engage in dialogue to de-escalate the situation and search for political solutions. “Only the enemies of Iraq, Daesh at the forefront, benefit from chaos. We are certain the patriotic Iraqis will not allow this to happen”, Mr. Kubiš said."

It's noteworthy that the UN's response is on the Facebook page of its mission in the country.

Back on May 6, a week after the previous physical takeover of Iraq's parliament, Inner City Press at the UN asked the country's Ambassador M A Alhakim about it. He told Inner City Press, Demonstrations are fine, but break-ins are not."

 This came after the UN had first raided Inner CIty Press' office then on April 16, 2016 evicted Inner City Press' office from the UN, putting five boxes of files out onto First Avenue, video here.

 It was by video that UN enovy to Iraq Jan Kubis briefed the Security Council on May 6. About the breach, Kubis said:

   “The promise of a solution to the political deadlock came with some new ministerial appointments at the parliamentary session on April 26. Yet, this hope suffered a significant setback on April 30. Once it was clear that voting would not take place on another set of ministerial candidates, Sadrist and civil society demonstrators breached the entry checkpoints of the Green Zone and stormed Parliament building. Acts of vandalism and attacks on some MPs sadly broke with the practice of many months of peaceful protests.

   “The protesters withdrew from the Green Zone the following day, yet they pledged further action in series of escalating steps - dismissal of three constitutional leaders of the country, early elections culminating, if necessary with attack on the seats of power, civil disobedience or a general strike unless the Government and Parliament makes rapid progress on reforms. At this stage, the sitution remains unpredictable and could unfold in many different directions. I am concerned that solutions currently discussed among the Three Presidencies or political blocs would not meet the demands of the people. Therefore demonstrations are set to continue."

Back on February 16, before Inner City Press' ouster and eviction by the UN, when Iraq's Ambassador to the UN M A Alhakim took questions at the Security Council, Inner City Press asked him what Iraq wants the Council to do about the 650 Turkish troops in the country without permission.

 We want a resolution, Ambassador Alhakim replied, saying that a draft is with Security Council member Egypt, and citing the Arab League.

 Inner City Press also asked Alhakim about the UN Liaison Officer confirmed as killed the day before in Diayala. Alhakim expressed condolences and said Iraq will try to find and bring the perpetrators to justice. One thought of the unresolved killing of UN staffer Louis Maxwell in Afghanistan, where UN envoy Jan Kubis also served. We'll have more on this.

Back on December 18, 2015 fter the Iraq - Turkey meeting of the Security Council held after the higher profile Syria meeting, Inner City Press asked Iraqi Foreign Minister Jaafari and Turkish Ambassador Cevic about their dispute.

 Inner City Press asked Jaafari if his statement in the Council met Iraq might use force, and also to answer if the stated agreement of the Permanent Five members of the Council's ambassadors in Baghdad to act for Iraq had translated or traveled to the Security Council in New York.

  Jaafari said that while Iraq seeks peace, all possibilities are on the table. Video here and embedded below.

 When Turkey's Permanent Representative Cevic came to the stakeout, Inner City Press asked him about Jaafari's request for a resolution condeming Turkey's invasion and demanding the withdrawal of Turkish troops.

Cevic gamely insisted that Turkey means well and will resolve this.Video  here.

 Reuters translated this as, "At U.N., Turkey accuses Iraq of undermining Islamic State fight." and so it goes at the UN. There were no Elements to the Press.

Inside the Council, Jaafair had said that "on the third of December 2015, Turkish forces estimated at hundreds of soldiers with a number of armored vehicles, tanks, and artillery penetrated into Iraqi territory in depth of 110 kilometers into northern Iraqi territory; in particular, the province of Nineveh without asking for an official permission from the Iraqi federal authorities.. Iraq is requesting the Security Council to assume its international legal responsibilities under the UN Charter, and to adopt a clear and explicit resolution includes the following, first, condemnation of the Turkish occupation and illegal incursion against the will of a founding member state of the UN, in breaching the rules and provisions of the UN Charter and the norms of international law. Second, demanding Turkey to withdraw its troops immediately, and to ensure, with all available measures, immediate and unconditional withdrawal to the recognized international border between the two countries, and to ensure the non-recurrence of such unilateral actions which jeopardize international relations and exacerbate sectarian and nationalist tensions in the region and expose regional and international security to significant risks.”

  Jaafari last paragraph in the Security Council on Friday concluded, “As we hand over the duty to protect Iraq and its security, unity and territorial integrity to your esteemed council, which is stressed in its resolutions, the Republic of Iraq retains its inherent right of individual or collective self-defense according to the provisions of Article 51 of the UN Charter, if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, and to take all necessary measures to end this hostile act which is an affront to good-neighborly relations, and threatens international peace and security.”

Back on December 8 after the UN Security Council met behind closed doors about Turkey's activities in Iraq, afterward in front of the Council Iraqi Ambassador Alhakim explained his country's position. Inner City Press Periscope video here. In pertinent part:

“A couple of days ago, troops from Turkey moved into Iraqi territory. That is illegal against international law, and against the Charter of the United Nations. We are working on this bilaterally between Baghdad and Ankara, and when we need, we have letters available to the Security Council, but they are no being issued by Baghdad yet."

Q: Are you confident Turkey will remove its troops soon?

Amb Alhakim: "We believe that Ankara understood the Iraqi position, strongly. We have made it very clear that what came through the border has to go back... There is a meeting between the Russian ambassador in Baghdad, and that’s normal, because we summoned as well by the prime minister, as well as the foreign minister, and also the ambassador of US, Britain, as well as, there will be a brief tomorrow at the foreign ministry to the P5...".

 Now on December 11, Alhakim handed US Ambassador Samantha Power and her team his government's letter, in Arabic as Power told Reuters, but also a translation, which Inner CIty Press has obtained and puts online here:

"Letter to the Security Council on the violation of the Turkish troops against Iraq sovereignty.

       At a time when Iraq is engaged in the struggle against global terrorism on the behalf of the international community, and Iraq's army alongside various security forces are fighting the integral battle against the abhorrent Da’esh entity which controls some Iraqi cities, we were hoping that a neighbor would aid Iraq and protect its security, sovereignty and help embolden Iraq in this conflict.

       On the evening of the 3rd of December, 2015, Turkish military forces comprised of over hundreds soldiers, their tanks and armored cars had crossed Iraq's internationally recognized borders, penetrating into Iraqi territory in depth of 110 kilometers inside Iraqi territory, stationing themselves in Bashiqa town, near the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, without any semblance of prior consent, coordination or consultation with the Iraqi federal government; ultimately constituting a flagrant violation of the provisions and the principles of the UN Charter, as well as a breach of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Iraqi state - fully protected under the provisions of the UN Charter and the principles of international law and the relevant Security Council resolutions, which emphasized the independence and sovereignty of Iraq and the unity and integrity its territory.

The intrusion of Turkish troops deep into Iraqi territory with a significant number of Turkish soldiers and their military hardware is an act of provocation and a violation of the provisions of international law and this unilateral military movement is a hostile act in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and the relevant provisions of international law.

       Iraq has stressed in the letter to the Security Council dated the 25th of June, 2014, along with the  letter dated on the 20th of September, 2014, that the assistance for Iraq in regards to military training and advanced technology with the necessary weapons to fight Da’esh terrorist entity, must be conducted in accordance with the "bilateral and multilateral agreements, with full respect for national sovereignty and in line with the Iraqi Constitution, and in coordination with the Iraqi armed forces". On this legitimate and incontestable basis, Iraq rejects and strongly opposes any military movements in the fight against terrorism in Iraq that have been made without prior consultation with the Iraqi federal government and without its consent to such military movements and condemns it in the strongest possible terms.

      Iraq has worked, out of the respect for good faith in dialogue as a means to resolve international disputes and our commitment to constructive, neighborly relations and mutual respect with Turkey, to contain the situation through diplomatic channels and bilateral mechanisms with Turkey, but its efforts did not succeed in persuading Turkey to withdraw its troops from the occupied Iraqi territories in question.

         In this regard, Iraq calls on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities in the maintenance of  international peace and security in accordance with the UN Charter, in order to protect Iraq and its sovereignty, safety and territorial integrity which has been unlawfully violated by Turkish troops that have penetrated into Iraqi territory without advanced notice, nor the knowledge or approval of the Iraqi federal government, and calls on the Security Council to compel Turkey to withdraw its military troops and hardware immediately, and to ensure with all available measures, the immediate and unconditional withdrawal to the  recognized international border between the two countries, and to ensure the non-recurrence of such violations against Iraqi sovereignty which jeopardize international relations and exposure of regional and international security apparatus to such a callous and significant risk.

        Iraq would like to inform member states that Iraq retains its inherent right of self-defense in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Charter and the norms of international law, and to take all necessary measures to end this hostile act and to stop the questionable Turkish ambitions in sovereign Iraqi territory. Such acts are offensive to good-neighborly relations, and threaten international peace and security.
       I should be grateful that this letter be circulated to the members of the Security Council, and distributed as an official document to the United Nations.

                       Yours Sincerely.

                                                  Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaafari
                                        Foreign Minister of the Republic of Iraq
                                                  11 / December / 2015"

On the Vienna process, after the Syria talks moving to New York on December 18 was called into question by Russia on December 8, along with a statement that the group that killed Russia's pilot in northern Syria should be on the terrorism list compiled by Jordan, Inner City Press put thee questions to  Turkey's Ambassador Cevic. Video here.   Here's fast transcript by

Inner City Press: On Syria, do you think the Vienna process meeting should take place in New York on the 18th? Are you satisfied with the Saudi process for choosing the opposition?

Amb Cevik: The plans, I don’t know how fixed, I mean how clear it is, but we are making our preparations for the meeting.

Inner City Press: Are there any groups invited to Saudi Arabia that you think shouldn’t be part of the opposition delegation?

Amb Cevik: I think so far, in our view, they are working on the right concept. Let’s see if they succeed. Having a coalition group that would be able to take part in the process is one of the most important things.
Inner City Press: [Russia] said the group that killed their pilot should be put on the terror list. Do you have any view on that?

Amb Cevik: If they know the specifics, I don’t know. But to our knowledge, there was no terrorist organization, no extreme Daesh, Nusra, in that area. They are the Turkomens, and we know them, they are moderate people.

  This may be an issue. Watch this site.

On Syria after coy comments by the UN's Ban Ki-moon if the next meeting would be in New York, John Kerry in Washington at the Saban Forum in Washington on December 5 said:

"the governments involved are going to meet later in this month in New York in order to continue to move this process forward.  Our goal is to facilitate a transition that all parties have stated that they support: a unified Syria...The purpose of this transition will be to establish a credible, inclusive governance within six months.  The process would include the drafting of a new constitution and arrangements for internationally supervised elections within 18 months...Meanwhile, a nationwide ceasefire will go into effect between the government and the responsible opposition, assuming they come to the table and they begin this initial process."

  But who is this "responsible opposition"? Does it include Al Qaeda affiliates? Can last-minute mergers cleanse these groups? Watch this site.

 Back on November 14 in the shadow of the November 13 Paris attacks, the International Syria Support Group met and issued a statement in Vienna, follow by statements by US John Kerry, Russia's Sergey Lavrov and the UN's Staffan de Mistura, flashing his pince-nez and the highlighted document below.

  But what will happen when a group said to be linked to Al Nusra is hit by an airstrike, and the Free Syrian Army says it's them, not Nusra?

Meeting in Vienna on November 14, 2015 as the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), the Arab League, China, Egypt, the EU, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the United States to discuss how to accelerate an end to the Syrian conflict.  The participants began with a moment of silence for the victims of the heinous terrorist attacks of November 13 in Paris and the recent attacks in Beirut, Iraq, Ankara, and Egypt.  The members unanimously condemned in the strongest terms these brutal attacks against innocent civilians and stood with the people of France.

Subsequently, the participants engaged in a constructive dialogue to build upon the progress made in the October 30 gathering. The members of the ISSG expressed a unanimous sense of urgency to end the suffering of the Syrian people, the physical destruction of Syria, the destabilization of the region, and the resulting increase in terrorists drawn to the fighting in Syria.

The ISSG acknowledged the close linkage between a ceasefire and a parallel political process pursuant to the 2012 Geneva Communique, and that both initiatives should move ahead expeditiously.  They stated their commitment to ensure a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition based on the Geneva Communique in its entirety.  The group reached a common understanding on several key issues.
The group agreed to support and work to implement a nationwide ceasefire in Syria to come into effect as soon as the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition have begun initial steps towards the transition under UN auspices on the basis of the Geneva Communique.  The five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council pledged to support a UNSC resolution to empower a UN-endorsed ceasefire monitoring mission in those parts of the country where monitors would not come under threat of attacks from terrorists, and to support a political transition process in accordance with the Geneva Communique.   
All members of the ISSG also pledged as individual countries and supporters of various belligerents to take all possible steps to require adherence to the ceasefire by these groups or individuals they support, supply or influence.  The ceasefire would not apply to offensive or defensive actions against Da’esh or Nusra or any other group the ISSG agrees to deem terrorist.
The participants welcomed UN Secretary General Ban’s statement that he has ordered the UN to accelerate planning for supporting the implementation of a nationwide ceasefire.  The group agreed that the UN should lead the effort, in consultation with interested parties, to determine the requirements and modalities of a ceasefire.  
The ISSG expressed willingness to take immediate steps to encourage confidence-building measures that would contribute to the viability of the political process and to pave the way for the nationwide ceasefire.  In this context, and pursuant to clause 5 of the Vienna Communique, the ISSG discussed the need to take steps to ensure expeditious humanitarian access throughout the territory of Syria pursuant to UNSCR 2165 and called for the granting of the UN’s pending requests for humanitarian deliveries.   The ISSG expressed concern for the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons and the imperative of building conditions for their safe return in accordance with the norms of international humanitarian law and taking into account the interests of host countries.  The resolution of the refugee issue is important to the final settlement of the Syrian conflict.  The ISSG also reaffirmed the devastating effects of the use of indiscriminate weapons on the civilian population and humanitarian access, as stated in UNSCR 2139.  The ISSG agreed to press the parties to end immediately any use of such indiscriminate weapons.
The ISSG reaffirmed the importance of abiding by all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, including UNSCR 2199 on stopping the illegal trade in oil, antiquities and hostages, from which terrorists benefit.
Pursuant to the 2012 Geneva Communique, incorporated by reference in the Vienna statement of October 30, and in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118, the ISSG agreed on the need to convene Syrian government and opposition representatives in formal negotiations under UN auspices, as soon as possible, with a target date of January 1.  The group welcomed efforts, working with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and others, to bring together the broadest possible spectrum of the opposition, chosen by Syrians, who will decide their negotiating representatives and define their negotiating positions, so as to enable the political process to begin.  All the parties to the political process should adhere to the guiding principles identified at the October 30 meeting, including a commitment to Syria’s unity, independence, territorial integrity, and non-sectarian character; to ensuring that State institutions remain intact; and to protecting the rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity or religious denomination.   ISSG members agreed that these principles are fundamental.
The ISSG members reaffirmed their support for the transition process contained in the 2012 Geneva Communique.  In this respect they affirmed their support for a ceasefire as described above and for a Syrian-led process that will, within a target of six months, establish credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance, and set a schedule and process for drafting a new constitution.  Free and fair elections would be held pursuant to the new constitution within 18 months. These elections must be administered under UN supervision to the satisfaction of the governance and to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians, including the diaspora, eligible to participate.   
Regarding the fight against terrorism, and pursuant to clause 6 of the Vienna Communique, the ISSG reiterated that Da’esh, Nusra, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the UN Security Council, and further, as agreed by the participants and endorsed by the UN Security Council, must be defeated.  The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan agreed to help develop among intelligence and military community representatives a common understanding of groups and individuals for possible determination as terrorists, with a target of completion by the beginning of the political process under UN auspices.
The participants expect to meet in approximately one month in order to review progress towards implementation of a ceasefire and the beginning of the political process.

When the Chair of the UN's Syria Commission of Inquiry Paulo Sergio Pinheiro took questions after a closed door meeting with the Security Council, Inner City Press asked him about airstrikes in Syria, particularly by members of the Council. Periscope video here.

   Pinheiro replied that, not having been to Syria (except once as an individual, he told Inner City Press afterward, second Periscope here), he could not determine the facts of the airstrikes. But he said he had urged the Council members involved to comply with international humanitarian and human rights law.

Here fast transcription by

Inner City Press: For the 2 commissioners: with the increasing airstrikes by many parties now inside Syria, how is the commission able to collect, are you able to collect information about the airstrikes that occur and to figure out who’s doing what? And did you have any guidance to, there’s some members of the Security Council who are involved in these strikes, in terms of how to conduct them or how to coordinate more? I’d just like to know how you’re dealing with this new change.

Pinheiro: As you know, we investigate violations of human rights law and breaches of international and humanitarian law from – by all warring parties, by government, by the armed groups, by the terrorist groups... Yes, we had said this to the Security Council in the formal meeting, that we have received delegations about casualties, about results of those airstrikes that you have mentioned. But at this point, we are not in a position to attribute what was the responsible, the member state responsible for this airstrikes. We hope by March when, or in February when we release our report, to be in a better position to elaborate on that. What we have done, it was what we said at the human rights council, that our roles is to remind member states involved in these airstrikes the necessity of respecting the protection of the civilian population in terms of human rights and humanitarian law.

   It was said the Commission would share information with countries -- or rather, prosecutors or courts -- looking into their own nationals, as victims or perpetrators. Afterward, only on Periscope, Inner City Press asked Pinheiro if this every implicated the type of privacy concerns the UN and its Herve Ladsous cite as a basis to go after OHCHR's Anders Kompass, who blew the whistle on French troops' rapes in the Central African Republic, alleged violating victims' privacy.

  Pinheiro said disclosure would require the consent of the victims, but said that is most often given. He summoned over the Commission's Coordinator James Rodehaver, who previously did similar work on Afghanistan. It was Rodehaver who clarified that it is not countries but prosecutors and courts which can request information. He noted that a court in Sweden has cited the Commission's work, to show the conditions in a particular place and time in Syria.

  Pinheiro added that the Commission's work should make the type of “Mapping” exercises as was done in Eastern Congo unnecessary. The information has been collected. Now what? Watch this site.