The UN special envoy for Iraq warned its political leaders on Tuesday that “the streets are going to boil” because of their impasse and failure to resolve several issues, including the suffering of civilians and armed groups, including rocket fire.
After briefing the UN Security Council, Jeanine Hennis-Plaschart told several reporters that Iraq and the region cannot afford to go back until October 2019.
That is why when young men and women fed up with an Iraqi political elite, blamed for many of the grievances, launched mass demonstrations that were met with gunfire, water cannons and tear gas, which plunged the country into renewed instability, just as war had begun to erupt from the Islamic State extremist group.
In his briefing to the council, Henis-Plaschart warned that “infamous aspects of Iraqi political life are repeating themselves in a constant loop of zero-sum politics.”
He said that more than seven months after the parliamentary elections, “many deadlines for government formation have been missed.”
In late March, influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political faction won the most seats, announced that he was stepping back for 40 days to give his Iran-backed rivals a chance to form the next government. But still, no agreement has been reached with the government.
Henis-Plaschart warned Iraq’s political leaders not to hide behind the argument that a government had not been formed, which he said: “distracts from what is at stake.”
It pretends to be a political standoff, while armed groups “fire rockets with apparent freedom and impunity” and ordinary people suffer, but “it excuses a political stalemate, while public anger is.” Time can boil over.”
Hennis-Plasschaert said political leaders support dialogue or another round of negotiations. “But the willingness to compromise? It is painfully absent,” she said.
“Visit any market, and Iraqis will tell you: the national interest is, yet again, taking a back seat to short-sighted considerations of control over resources and power play,” she said.
Hennis-Plasschaert said it is time to return the spotlight to the Iraqi people demanding adequate services for all people.
They also want, she said, “an end to pervasive corruption, factionalism and the pillaging of state institutions,” diversification of the economy, an end to impunity, the reining in of armed groups and “predictable governance instead of constant crisis management.”
She was sharply critical of “the sorry pattern of ad-hoc negotiations” between the central government and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, saying an institutionalised “mechanism” is critically needed to solve all outstanding issues, including the recent Iraqi Federal Supreme Court ruling that the Kurdistan region’s 2007 oil and gas law on production, revenues and exports is unconstitutional.
“Having engaged with both sides on this matter, I am convinced there is a way out,” she said.