The U.N Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution expanding the U.N. role in Iraq. The United Nations will now play a larger role in brokering Iraq’s internal political dialogue and in winning support from its neighbors on security. The security situation deteriorated further this Tuesday as more than 400 people were killed in a series of suicide truck bombings against the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq – the deadliest coordinated attack since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
In recent weeks, the United States has been pressing for an expanded role for the United Nations. British journalist Ian Williams, who reports from the United Nations in New York, says the new Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is also eager to get the United Nations more involved. Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Mr. Williams says the world body has more credibility and leverage among Iraqis than Washington does, which is all the more critical right now given the shaky Shi’a-led coalition government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He recently convened a “crisis summit” of senior political leaders in an attempt to halt the disintegration of his cabinet. This Thursday he and Kurdish President Jalal Talabani announced a new political alliance of mainstream Shi’a and Kurdish parties that does not include any Sunni groups. Last month the main Sunni political bloc in Parliament, the Iraqi Accordance Front, announced the withdrawal of its six ministers from the cabinet. And a week ago, five more ministers from the secular Iraqi National List, led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, suspended their participation in cabinet meetings.
Iranian journalist Ali-Reza Nourizadeh, who directs the Center for Arab-Iranian Studies in London, says that most Iraqi politicians will support the idea of expanding the U.N. mission in Iraq. Nadia Bilbassy, senior diplomatic correspondent with Al-Arabiya television, says she thinks the United Nations might enable the Iraqi political factions to reach some sort of compromise. For example, the leading Shi’a spiritual leader and cleric, Ayatollah Sistani, does not talk directly to the United States but he will talk with the United Nations. Ian Williams and Ali-Reza Nourizadeh add that countries like Iran take the United Nations “very seriously” and that the world body is also more acceptable to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria because it is perceived as “unbiased.”
Nadia Bilbassy notes that U.N. credibility is “key” to being able to influence Iraqi political leaders, particularly because the United States is increasingly viewed as an occupation force. In addition, she says, the United Nations needs to be more involved in providing humanitarian aid and help to Iraqi refugees in neighboring states. The U.N. Mission in Iraq currently has 55 international employees in country, but officials say that number could be increased to 95. However, whether the size of the U.N. mission in Baghdad can be enlarged “will depend on the situation on the ground.” Four years ago the United Nations pulled its staff out of Iraq after terrorists blew up U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people including the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
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