Iraq and wider region on 'knife edge', warns UN envoy

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert tells Security Council an 'enabling environment' is essential for Iraq to progress, and this 'requires restraint from all sides'

Members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces carry images of comrades who were killed in recent retaliatory US air strikes in western Iraq. EPA
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The UN’s top envoy in Iraq warned on Tuesday that the country is on a “knife edge”, where even the tiniest miscalculation could lead to a major conflagration.

“The Middle East is at a critical juncture and the same is true with Iraq,” Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, told the Security Council.

“For Iraq to further continue on its path of stability and progress, an enabling environment will prove essential. And such an environment requires restraint from all sides – from Iraq’s armed actors and … Iraq’s neighbours and other countries.”

US deputy ambassador to the UN Robert Wood said Washington remained committed to working with Baghdad but noted that Iran-allied militia groups threatened to undermine Iraq's hard-fought gains since the territorial defeat of ISIS seven years ago.

“Armed groups operating outside of state control represent a significant challenge to the Iraqi government's authority and for the Iraqi people, threatening to upend the stability that Iraqis have fought hard to achieve,” he said.

Ms Hennis-Plasschaert, a former Dutch defence minister, also announced to the 15 members of the Security Council that she expects to step down at the end of May after more than five years in the role.

“It is time to say goodbye,” she said.

“This is not easy, I have to say. Through the many highs and lows, Iraq simply has become part of me. That said, today’s briefing could very well be my last address to the Security Council on Iraq.”

The UN mission in Iraq aims to advance inclusive political dialogue and helps to co-ordinate humanitarian and development aid.

Updated: February 06, 2024, 7:09 PM