Statement on the Situation Concerning IraqAmb. Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN
Remarks in the Security Council Chamber
New York City
October 19, 2007
USUN PRESS RELEASE #246
Mr. President, the United States shares with the people of Iraq the goal of achieving a secure, stable, democratic Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbors. To reach that goal, Iraq must overcome profound political, economic and security challenges. Progress in these areas is inherently linked, for example when MNF-I and Iraqi Security Forces made security gains in the province of Anbar, and Diyala, we enabled the provincial councils to hold regular meetings, which in turn led to progress in restoring services, developing the economy, and executing a provincial budget. As a result, by September, the provincial government in Anbar had committed 80 percent of its 2006 capital budget and 49 percent of its 2007 budget.
Last year, recognizing that MNF-I could help them eject Al-Qa'ida, Al-Anbar tribes began to fight with us against extremists, as a result the landscape of Al-Anbar is dramatically different. The security progress has been extraordinary. Seven months ago, violence was still rampant, Anbari residents lived in fear of Al-Qa'ida, and MNF-I forces were under daily attack. Now the situation is largely stable and quiet, permitting reconstruction to take place. Similar scenes are unfolding in parts of Diyala and Ninewa. More and more Iraqis are mobilizing with the help of the MNF-I and Iraqi Security Forces to evict al-Qa'ida and extremist forces from their communities.
Shi'a extremists are also facing rejection. Recent attacks by extremist elements of the Iranian-backed Jaysh al-Mahdi on worshippers in Karbala provoked a backlash and triggered calls for Jaysh al-Mahdi to cease attacks against Iraqi and MNF-I forces.
A key challenge for Iraqis now is to link these positive developments in the provinces to the central government in Baghdad. The growing ability of the provinces to design and execute budgets and the readiness of the central government to provide resources for them represent some of the nuts and bolts of good governance and are success stories. The support of the central government is also needed to maintain hard-won security in areas like Al-Anbar by supporting increases in locally-generated police. The Iraqi Government has placed some 21,000 Anbaris on police rolls.
Improved security also creates the conditions for progress in the national economy. Infrastructure is being repaired and markets are reviving. The Iraqi government reports that growth is at least six percent and inflation is slowing down. The budget execution rate in the provinces is at least twice that of last year. In addition, the government's 2007 budget allocates $10 billion to capital investment. Further improvement, especially in the countryside, could bring down transport costs for agricultural and manufactured goods. One sign of confidence in the future of Iraqi economy is the recent issuance of three licenses for mobile telephones at a record of U.S.$ 3.75 billion.
International and regional engagement are also improving. In addition to the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1770 in August, we are seeing the International Compact with Iraq moving forward. The UN is reporting progress in 75 percent of the 400 areas Iraq has identified for action. We are also looking forward to the next meeting of the "Expanded Neighbors" group, which will convene in Istanbul in less than two weeks. Special Representative de Mistura will be in attendance, and we look forward to hearing his ideas on how UNAMI can support the "Neighbors" group in its constructive engagement with Iraq.
Unfortunately some of Iraq's neighbors appear to believe they can benefit from instability in Iraq. While claiming to support Iraq, Iran has provided lethal aid to both radical Shia and Sunni militants inside Iraq who attack Iraqi officials, innocent civilians, and Coalition forces. Syria is also playing a destabilizing role in Iraq. Although Syria hosted a meeting of the Neighbors border security working group, it continues to provide safe haven for elements of the former regime who now serve as key financiers and leaders of the insurgency. While Syria has arrested some foreign terrorists bound for Iraq, it remains the principal transit hub for Iraq-bound terrorists. To make credible its claims to support the Iraqi people, Syria should do more, such as implement a screening process to make it more difficult for foreign extremists to enter and transit for Iraq.
On the security front, the 2007 "surge" has given besieged communities the confidence to work with MNF-I to defeat Al-Qa'ida and violent extremists. The military objectives of the "surge" are in large measure being met. Population security measures have made it more difficult for terrorists to conduct attacks. The overall number of security incidents in Iraq continues to decline because we have dealt significant blows to Al-Qa'ida in Iraq and we have disrupted Shi'a militia extremists. The overall number of civilian deaths has also declined in 2007, although the numbers are still at unacceptable levels. The number of arms caches found and cleared in 2007 has increased by approximately twenty percent over the previous year. From June to September improvised explosive device attacks decreased by about twenty percent as compared to the previous year.
Iraqi Security Forces continue to grow and to shoulder more of the load, albeit slowly and amid continuing concerns about sectarian tendencies of some elements in their ranks, inadequate logistics and supporting institutions, and an insufficient number of qualified commissioned and non-commissioned officers. There are now 152 Iraqi Army, National Police and Special Operations Forces Battalions operating alongside of the MNF-I, about two thirds of which are capable of leading operations, albeit with some MNF-I support. The Iraqi Defense and Interior Ministries are employing 445,000 people, a number that could reach 519,000 by the end of the year.
MNF-I has employed counterinsurgency practices that underscore the importance of units living among the people they are securing, and, accordingly our forces have established dozens of joint security stations and patrol bases manned by MNF-I and Iraqi forces in Baghdad and in other areas across Iraq.
In mid-June when all the surge brigades in place, MNF-I launched a series of offensive operations focused on: expanding the gains achieved in the preceding months in Anbar Province, clearing Baqubah, several key Baghdad neighborhoods, and important areas in the so-called belt around Baghdad and pursuing al-Qa'ida in the Diyala River Valley and other areas. Meanwhile MNF-I engaged in dialogue with former insurgent groups and tribes, in conjunction with the Iraqi officials, to broker local ceasefires and gain their support in rooting out Al-Qa'ida in their communities.
We also continue to emphasize the development of the Iraqi Security Forces. Four provinces have already been handed over to Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC) and we anticipate several more will be transferred to Iraqi control in the coming months.
The security situation in Iraq is transforming: some of the players are changing sides, and despite ongoing violence we see this qualitative shift against extremism as an improvement. Iraqis are taking on more responsibility for protecting themselves, but in the coming months we must redouble our efforts to improve security within Iraq and prevent human suffering, while preserving regional security and stability. The Iraqi leadership also has a responsibility to take concrete steps to pursue reconciliation so that the political track can catch up with the improvements in security.
On August 26, Iraq's five most prominent leaders from three major communities expressed gratitude for the sacrifices these forces have made for Iraq and agreed on the need for the continued presence of the Multi-National Force in Iraq. Toward that end, the Iraqis stressed the importance of renewing the authorities in Security Council Resolution 1723 for another year. We expect to put forth such a resolution before the end of the year.
Thank you, Mr. President
Released on October 19, 2007