“High Commissioner” Leaves Iraq

Draw Media

2024-05-19 12:08:12

Draw Media
The "High Commissioner" or "al-Khatun," as the Shiites call her, will leave Iraq at the end of this month. She is a Dutch woman who lacked any background about the Iraqi society but fell deep into the country’s deep challenges and complicated relations between the United Nations and Iraq. She is now spending the last days of her life in Iraq and plans to visit Tehran a second time. She does not want to repeat Iraq's mistakes and wants to normalize relations with Iran before taking up her new post in Lebanon, understanding that she will achieve nothing in Lebanon without Iran. The al-Khatun is called Jeanine Plasschaert who once said to the Kurdish leaders "Do not take today's autonomy for granted. In order to sustain it, unity will prove essential.”

Plasschaert is Finished
Jeanine Plasschaert read out her latest report to the Security Council this evening and will leave Iraq later this month. Ms. Plasschaert is the seventh UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. She took office in August 2018, following the end of the war against ISIS and the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum, two events that complicated the security and political situation.
Since her inauguration, Iraq has seen another major political event. In October 2019, a wave of demonstrations against poor services began in Iraq’s southern provinces; these demonstrations later grew wider and demanded the removal of the ruling class after the fall of Saddam Hussein. This led to the resignation of the then-premier Adil Abdulmahdi, and this was the first time a prime minister had been forced to resign under street pressure since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Plasschaert was one of those who quickly joined the protests against the ruling class in Baghdad, went to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and rode a Tuk Tuk, a symbol of protests, visited Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf wearing a veil and announced her support for the protesters and reforms in Iraq. It was a Shiite popular demonstration, later called Tishreen.
Since then, Plasschaert’s role in Iraq has increased, and she started presenting roadmaps to the government and parliament to overcome the situation. Her maneuvers made some political parties worrisome. And they claimed that her movements were beyond the authority assigned to her by the UNAMI mandate in Iraq.
Some Iraqis went further and compared Plasschaert’s power to Gertrude Bell (Oriental Secretary for High Commissioner of Iraq Sir Percy Cox in 1920s), a woman who had great powers in Iraq and whose reports and opinions were valued by the British and Iraqi political leaders, ministers, and officers. She was called al-Khatun" (a Lady of the Court) and all [Iraqi leaders] wished to meet her once because she had ‘absolute power’ and was able to do anything for them.
Plasschaert is the second Dutch to be appointed as the UN SRSG to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. From 2009-2011, Ad Melkert, who was also Dutch, served as the UN SRSG in Iraq.

Eruption of Concern Against Plasschaert  
The Tishreen protests forced Iraqi political parties to hold early parliamentary elections in October 2021. From the beginning of electoral preparations, Plasschaert began to interfere. The Shiite parties close to Iran soon accused her of playing a role in amending the electoral law in a way that was to their detriment.
On October 10, 2021, early elections were held. For the first time, independent candidates were eligible to run outside the traditional parties. The electoral outcome created a huge rift in the Shiite house in Iraq; Moqtada al-Sadr was the biggest winner, and Iran-affiliated parties close (Noursi al-Maliki, Hadi Amiri, Qais al-Khazaali, Falih al-Fayyad, and other Hashd al-Shaabi groups) suffered a historic defeat, and they were disgruntled with the results and took to the streets to protest.
In late November 2021, the Fatah Alliance and the most prominent loser of the election, Hadi al-Amiri, poured his cup of anger on Plasschaert, saying that “Iraq has not and will not accept any High Commissioner and she must abide by her specific duties."
The defeated Shiite parties said they had submitted hundreds of fraud evidence to Plasschaert, who promised to report the it to the UN Security Council, she said the election was clean when she spoke to the Council.

From Enmity to Friendship with Iran
According to information obtained by Draw from sources in Baghdad, Plasschaert plans to visit Tehran next week. This is her second visit to Tehran after her last visit on 30 July of last year. Plasschaert’s visit comes as her tenure as Iraq SRSG is in the very final days before 31 May.
According to Draw investigations, Plasschaert is looking to take over the post of UN Secretary-General's special envoy to Lebanon after completing her mission in Iraq. To fully achiever her goal, she first needs to normalize relations with Iran considering that Iran has a strong hegemony in the Lebanon through Hezbollah. The SRSG’s upcoming visit to Tehran is believed to be an entirely private matter rather than a visit in her current capacity as an SRSG for Iraq.

Kurds and Plasschaert
After the resignation of Adil Abdulmahdi and the inauguration of Mustafa al-Kadhimi as prime minister, Plaschardt was back in motion, this time preparing a bigger project for Iraq, which was the “confederation” project.
In July 2020, Plasschaert stepped up her political moves. Informed sources indicated at that time that said that the United Nations, in coordination with the Iraqi presidency and government, had prepared a "comprehensive" roadmap to resolve the outstanding issues between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region.
Plasschaert was trying to turn Iraq from a federal country into a confederal one. Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) leader Massoud Barzani was one of those who supported the project, but the idea of confederation was soon rejected by the Iraqi parties and the attempt ended in failure. Some reports announced that SRSG Plasschaert had said in meetings that her project was being supported the world powers, especially the United States.
This and other political moves led Iraqi Shiites to become more suspicious of Plasschaert, accusing her of not acting "impartially," especially when it came to relations between Baghdad and Erbil.
Now that she is spending her last days in Iraq, Plasschaert has not yet given up the Kurdistan Region. These days, she is portrayed as a close friend of President Nechirvan Barzani. Draw has learned that al-Khatun advocates postponing the Kurdistan Region’s long-overdue elections as a solution to reconcile the two ruling parties of PUK and KDP. The PUK is concerned about her intentions and the party sees it as a direct support of KDP’s policies towards postponing the election. In addition, Plasschaert has reportedly sent letter to the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to allocate five seats to the minority components in the Kurdistan Region’s parliament.  
 In 2021, she said in a speech to the leaders of the Kurdistan Region’s political parties that “a friend is the one who makes you cry…do not take today’s autonomy for granted. In order to sustain it, unity will prove essential.”
It turned out that a year after Plasschaert’s speech, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court overturned the KRG's oil and gas law and obliged Erbil to hand over its oil and gas to Baghdad. The same Court later issued a series of decisions against the Kurdistan Region, including ruling that the extension to the term of the Kurdistan Parliament was “unconstitutional,” dissolving Kurdistan Region’s provincial Councils, and lastly hitting the region’s electoral law. The FSC’s wave of decisions culminated in the suspension of oil exports to Turkey on March 25, 2023, which cost the region nearly 80 percent of its revenues, redirecting Kurdistan Region’s dream of independence to standing in front of Baghdad door.

 Plasschaert Kills UNAMI
UNAMI is a special political mission established in 2003 by UN Security Council as per Resolution 1500 at the request of the then Iraqi government after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, and its mission expanded since 2007, according to the Security Council’s resolution 1770.
UNAMI's mission in Iraq is to provide advice, support and assistance to the Iraqi government and people to strengthen comprehensive political dialogue, assist in the electoral process and facilitate dialogue between Iraq and its neighbors, as well as strengthen the human rights situation and reform in Iraqi courts and the judicial system.
The mission was also tasked with working with government partners and civil society in Iraq.
UNAMI currently has about 648 staff in Iraq, of whom 251 are international staff and 397 are local staff The meetings are held for political affairs and peacebuilding. It administratively functions under the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA).
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Sudani sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General last month calling for the mandate of UNAMI to end by December 31, 2025.
Furthermore, the Iraqi prime minister has determined in the letter how UNAMI will work until the end of next year and cuts the mission off from any political work, saying it should only complete its work in the areas of “economic reform, service delivery, sustainable development, climate change and other development sectors). UNAMI's work in Iraq is fundamentally a political task and it provides reports UN the Security Council.
Shiites appear to be very upset at Plasschaert seeing that premier Sudani has not even listened to the substance of the report prepared by the Independent Strategic Review Team led by Volker Persis last year, in which the majority of Iraqi parties supported staying of UNAMI; Kurds and Sunnis, including some Shiite parties, clearly supported UNAMI’s continuance. Nevertheless, it seems that premier Sudani did not listen to the views of these parties when he wrote to the UN Secretary-General. Now that the issue is at a critical juncture given Security Council’s fast-approaching talks on UNAMI’s future, the Kurds and Sunnis have chosen silence, fearing deterioration of their relations with the Shiite ruling parties and existence of other domestic issues that need to be addressed.   
Some familiar with UNAMI affairs in Baghdad told Draw that Plasschaert wishes to end UNAMI’s existence after her departure from Iraq and may not care what happens to the mission following her leave.
But the UN Secretary-General António Guterres thinks otherwise. He met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein in Manama, Bahrain, yesterday and urged the continuity of UNAMI. Minister Hussein thanked Guterres for his “candid request” and promised to convey his request to the Iraqi government.  
At any event, Plasschaert’s policies during his tenure in Iraq appear to have increased protests against UNAMI by political parties.
Those familiar with the SRSG’s work say that Plasschaert had no UN experience when she took office in Iraq, and that she had only military, but not a diplomatic background with no knowledge about the Iraqi society. She often exceeded the limits of her duty, which sparked a wave of discontent against herself and the UNAMI. She also allegedly acted authoritarianly and did not consult UNAMI team; even her deputy, Claudio Cordon, who was left little role to play.
In case UNAMI stays in Iraq, the United Nations may need to send someone to Iraq who can normalize the post-Plasschaert crises.
For civil society organizations and those who support the upholding of human rights, UNAMI's withdrawal from Iraq will have a hugely adverse impact given that UNAMI regularly submits its reports on the human rights situation in Iraq to the Security Council.







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