1. In paragraph 6 of its resolution 1830 (2008), adopted on 7 August 2008, the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to report to the Council on a quarterly basis on the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The present report is the first submitted pursuant to that resolution.
2. The report provides an update on United Nations activities in Iraq since the previous one (S/2008/495), dated 28 July 2008, with a focus on initial steps taken to implement resolution 1830 (2008). It presents a summary of key political developments during the period under review, as well as regional and international events concerning Iraq. The report provides an update on the activities of my Special Representative for Iraq and on operational and security matters.
II. Summary of key political and security developments in Iraq
3. The decrease in security incidents and relative stability continued during the reporting period. United States troops deployed for the military surge have been withdrawn without serious impact on the security environment. The Iraqi security forces appear to be strengthening their capability, the Government of Iraq recently took control of the Sons of Iraq forces, and Moqtada al-Sadr's ceasefire instruction to the Jaysh al-Mahdi militia remains in force. Moreover, the multinational force in Iraq formally transferred security responsibilities to the Iraqi army in Al-Anbar Governorate in September, Babil Governorate on 23 October and Wassit Governorate on 27 October, bringing the number of provinces under Iraqi security control to 13.
4. However, armed opposition groups still have the capacity to launch attacks and, in particular, continue to target the Iraqi security forces and prominent individuals. The security environment remains particularly challenging in Mosul (Ninawa) and Khanaqin (Diyala). The frequency of attacks in Mosul continued to mount in recent weeks and the Prime Minister sent further reinforcements to Mosul. On 29 July, the Government of Iraq launched "Operation Heralds of Prosperity" against insurgent elements in Diyala Governorate. The operation turned into a standoff between Iraqi security forces and Kurdish forces in the north-eastern district of Khanaqin. On 20 August, Prime Minister Nuri Kamel al-Maliki formed a committee led by the Minister of the Interior, Jawad al-Bolani, to investigate events in Diyala. A new agreement on a separation of forces in and around Khanaqin town was subsequently achieved on 5 September and the situation remains tense but stable.
5. Following intense negotiations, the Council of Representatives adopted the provincial election law on 24 September and the Presidency Council ratified the measure on 7 October. The law was amended on 3 November to include provisions for minority representation in Baghdad, Basra and Ninawa. Provincial council elections are now scheduled to take place in early 2009 in 14 of the 18 governorates in Iraq.
6. Starting in August, attempts at intimidation against Christians in Mosul were reported with a dramatic increase in violence in the first two weeks of October. Over 2,200 families, more than 10,000 individuals, have reportedly fled their homes and most have sought temporary shelter in the Ninawa plains, leading my Special Representative to publicly express concern and strongly condemn the killing of civilians on 12 October. The development comes at a very sensitive time, and against a backdrop of heightened political tensions regarding the unresolved issues of minority representation in the provincial elections and disputed internal boundaries.
7. The process of integrating the approximately 100,000 members of the Sons of Iraq into government structures commenced on 1 October when 54,000 fighters in the Baghdad area came under Iraqi supervision. The Government assumed responsibility for the salaries of group members on 1 November. Over time, the Government plans to find jobs for members in the army, police or elsewhere in the public sector. Their satisfactory incorporation into government organs and civilian life will be a key determinant in consolidating security and stability gains in Iraq as State security forces take on increasing responsibility and improve their capacities across the country.
Regional developments pertaining to Iraq
8. Diplomatic engagement between Iraq and countries of the region increased significantly during the reporting period. Several Arab ambassadors arrived in Baghdad to resume the functioning of their Governments' embassies, including representatives of Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, the Syrian Arab Republic and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt has indicated that it will reopen its embassy in the near future. The Arab League appointed a new representative in Baghdad, Egyptian diplomat Hani Khallaf, who took up his post on 6 October. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has also reopened its offices in Iraq. On 11 August, King Abdullah of Jordan became the first Arab Head of State to travel to Baghdad since 2003. The Prime Minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, visited shortly thereafter on 20 August. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, visited Baghdad on 7 October following a visit by Prime Minister Al-Maliki to the United Arab Emirates in July. The Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdo=F0an, also visited Baghdad on 8 July to promote cooperation between Iraq and Turkey and create a higher strategic cooperation council between the two countries.
9. On 26 October, United States forces from Iraq launched an attack on a house in the village of Sukkariyah in the Syrian Arab Republic. I expressed my deep regret over the loss of civilian lives and I called for regional cooperation to solve issues of common concern, including border security. The situation in the region is fragile and we therefore must stay focused on initial positive steps towards regional dialogue.