1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Secretary Council resolution 2299 (2016), in which the Secretary-General was requested to report every three months on progress made towards fulfilling the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The report covers key developments related to Iraq and provides an update on the activities of the United Nations in Iraq since my last report (S/2017/75) and the briefing of my Special Representative to the Security Council on 2 February 2017.
II. Summary of key political developments pertaining to Iraq
A. Political situation
2. The Iraqi security forces, including the popular mobilization forces, the Peshmerga, and local fighters, with support from the international counter-Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition, continued to make progress in the fight to liberate Mosul and Ninawa from ISIL following the liberation of eastern Mosul on 24 January. On 19 February, Prime Minister Al Abadi ordered the start of military operations to liberate western Mosul. With the support of the international counter-ISIL coalition, Iraqi security forces made advances, reaching old Mosul and liberating, by the end of March, about half of western Mosul.
3. In a statement on 22 March in Washington, D.C., the 68 members of the international counter-ISIL coalition commended their Iraqi partners, who have liberated more than 60 per cent of territory previously held by ISIL. Coalition members committed to continued military support to defeat ISIL. They underscored the need to protect civilians and to provide full and immediate humanitarian access to United Nations agencies and their partners. They emphasized stabilization support for the return of internally displaced persons and public safety in liberated areas. They stressed that long-term recovery would stem from good governance, the provision of services, and sound security arrangements for all communities. Coalition members expressed support for the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq and for the efforts of the Government to enhance public services, reinforce inclusive governance, reduce corruption, decentralize designated federal authorities, ensure the rights of all Iraqi citizens and promote national and local reconciliation and accountability for crimes by ISIL.
4. At the meeting, Prime Minister Al Abadi argued against containing ISIL, stressing the need to completely eliminate it. He affirmed his Government’s commitment to decentralization, economic reform, combating corruption and working with all Iraqis, including young people. He noted that the popular mobilization forces are now a part of Iraq’s armed forces, and that the Popular Mobilization Commission Law brings fighters who have defended Iraq under the command and control of the State. He reiterated that the popular mobilization forces must not enter into elections and that no weapons must be outside the control of the Government.
5. During the visit of Prime Minister Al Abadi to the United States of America from 19 to 23 March, President Trump and the Prime Minister affirmed the commitment of their countries to a partnership aimed at rooting out terrorism and promoting security, political, economic, cultural and educational cooperation. In the joint readout from the meeting, it was stated that the security partnership was a vital component of the national security of both the United States and Iraq.
6. National reconciliation remained high on the political agenda of Iraq. Ammar al-Hakim, Chair of the National Alliance, visited the Kurdistan region of Iraq between 4 and 6 February. While there, he discussed the National Settlement Initiative of the National Alliance, as well as relations between the federal Government and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. He held meetings with the Kurdistan Regional President, Massoud Barzani, and the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, the Secretary-General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and former President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, the politburo of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and representatives of the Movement for Change (Gorran).
7. On 20 February, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr issued a statement detailing 29 recommendations for Iraq. The recommendations include language on national and community reconciliation, reconstruction, the return of displaced persons, fair treatment of detainees and the integration of the popular mobilization forces into the Iraqi security forces. The proposal also recommends the establishment of a body to investigate human rights violations and consider the issues of minorities, in coordination with specialized governmental and parliamentary institutions, in addition to forming an Iraqi relief committee that would have access to affected areas.
8. On 30 and 31 March, I visited Iraq. While there, I met with Prime Minister Al Abadi, the President of Iraq, Fuad Masum, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, President Barzani and Council of Representatives Speaker Salim al-Jubouri, among others. During my meetings, I discussed the ongoing operation in Mosul and the protection of civilians, national dialogue and reconciliation, relations between the Kurdistan region of Iraq and Baghdad and the rights of minorities, among other issues.