U.S. troops will begin their drawdown in Iraq at the end of this month, but there still is no government in place and violence is on the rise. On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council urged Iraq's recently-elected legislature to form a government quickly.
Iraq has been mired in a political stalemate since legislative elections in March left Shi'ite political factions vying for dominance, and the right to form a government and to choose a prime minister.
With the impasse unlikely to be resolved before the end of this month, when U.S. troops will drop to their lowest levels in Iraq since the war began in 2003, the U.N. Security Council pressed the legislators to work through their differences in "the national interest" and form "as quickly as possible, a government that is inclusive and represents the will of the Iraqi people."
The U.N.'s top diplomat in Iraq, Ad Melkert, echoed the council's call, saying the delays are contributing to uncertainty and creating conditions that could be exploited by elements opposed to the country's democratic transition.
In a briefing to the Security Council, he noted that the delays are also affecting the rebuilding of the country's basic infrastructure and services. "Recent protests in a number of cities denouncing the lack of electricity is a sign of potentially growing disillusionment and anger over what has become a situation of daily life for the average Iraqi citizen," said Melkert.
Melkert said blackouts continue to persist nationally on average about nine hours a day. He also noted that national reconciliation needs to be a priority of the new government.
"This includes Arab-Kurdish relations, particularly as they relate to disputed internal boundaries, revenue-sharing, legislation related to hydrocarbons, the federal framework and the constitutional review process," he said.
On the implications of the U.S. military drawdown for United Nation's operations, Melkert said his staff work and live under challenging conditions. He said the U.N.'s own security will need to be increased during this transition period, which will require adequate funding from member states.
The United States will end its combat mission in Iraq on August 31. Some 50,000 American troops will remain in the country to focus on training Iraqi soldiers and performing counterterrorism operations under a new mission called "Operation New Dawn."