Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi addressed the UN General Assembly — his first address to the world body — and highlighted Iraq's role in regional security, stability and energy supply to the world, presenting his view on Iraq's internal political crisis and solutions and Iraq's environmental challenges.
“Iraqis fight terrorism and defeat it on behalf of the whole world,” said Kadhimi. “The task was arduous, and our people made enormous sacrifices not only to liberate their land from the terrorist gangs of ISIS but also prevent them from threatening people everywhere and uprooting its destructive ideology.”
He emphasized Iraq's security improvement in fighting terrorism and its readiness to continue the task effectively; however, he emphasized the importance of international cooperation in combating global terrorism.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Kadhimi met with Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg to seek enhanced security and military cooperation between Iraq and NATO countries by providing training, advice and the exchange of information.
In his speech to the assembly, Kadhimi also highlighted Iraq's efforts at repatriating Iraqi families in Syria’s al-Hol camp and reintegrating them into their home towns, asking the international community for cooperation in solving the issues with the camp, which includes citizens of several countries, including many European and other Western countries.
In regard to Turkey and Iran bombing areas in Iraqi territory, Kadhimi said, “Iraq territories are not to be used under the pretext of combating terrorism or protecting the national security of other countries in a manner that endangers our security and stability.”
Last June, Turkey bombed a tourist site in northern Iraq, leading to the death of at least nine people and injuring dozens.
In regard to Iraq's political crisis, Kadhimi blamed the political parties for not using the opportunity of last year's elections to form a government.
“Despite the success of the elections — whose integrity and professionalism was praised by the Security Council and the UN in addition to other international organizations that participated in monitoring it — the political forces failed to form the government, leading to a political impasse,” he said.
Following last October's election, which resulted in Muqtada al-Sadr winning the largest block, his Shiite rival, the Coordination Framework, stopped him from forming a government in alliance with his Kurdish and Sunni allies by forming a blocking third in parliament.
Sadr withdrew from parliament last June, giving the opportunity to the Coordination Framework to fill his seats and become the largest block.
The Coordination Framework tried to form a government last July with the nomination of Muhammad Shia al-Sudani, a figure close to Nouri al-Maliki (who has a historically hostile relationship with Sadr). But Sadr’s supporters stormed the parliament and halted the process.
The dispute led to a bloody clash late last month in Baghdad's Green Zone, which finally led to the Sadrists' full withdrawal from the Green Zone to avoid additional bloodshed.
In his interview with Al-Monitor in New York this week, Kadhimi said Iraq’s political class faces a "crisis of trust" with the public and excluding Sadr, for example, could lead to a repeat of October 2019 or worse.
“Everyone now understands that any government that does not involve Sadr will face huge challenges,” Kadhimi said in his interview.
Kadhimi called for national dialogue a month ago and two sessions have already been held. The dialogue led to an agreement to organize early elections and include Sadrists in parliament again.
“My government has called for a serious and transparent dialogue for all the different political forces and parties to discuss ways out of the current political crisis,” Kadhimi said to the assembly.
In an interview with Iraqi state-owned television Al-Iraqia from New York yesterday, Kadhimi called for a third session of the national dialogue.
In the assembly speech, Kadhimi highlighted Iraq's role in mediating between rival countries in the region.
“Baghdad has hosted many meetings with neighboring countries that serve the interest of all parties and serve interests of the people of the region, building on historical relations as well as encouraging regional cooperation and defusing crises,” Kadhimi said.
In his interview with Al-Monitor, Kadhimi revealed that Iraq had been involved in five discreet mediation efforts in the region, including the talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia. He also revealed that the next round of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia will be held soon in Baghdad, which he said will lead to a higher-level meeting.
Baghdad also held a regional summit last year called the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership, with the attendance of all of Iraq’s neighbors in addition to France, Qatar and Egypt.
In the meeting between Kadhimi and French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, both leaders stressed the necessity to organize a second conference similar to that in Baghdad and discussed preparations for it. It will be held in Jordan next time and moved to other participating countries each year thereafter.
Kadhimi also warned of Iraq's environmental crisis and stressed that due to several environmental issues, “Iraq has become the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change.” He blamed Iraq’s riparian countries for cutting water from Iraq and causing serious damages to Iraq’s famous natural reserves — its marshlands — which are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
He highlighted Iraq's significant role in supplying oil to the world and his government's efforts to ensure Iraq's energy industry and energy sector comply with environmental standards by working on clean energy projects.
Iraq signed five main contracts with leading companies like the United Arab Emirates’ Masdar and Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power to build solar plants for the country, which suffers from a lack of electricity; the country currently relies heavily on fossil fuel.
Iraq also signed a $27 billion contract with TotalEnergies last year to extract all Iraq-associated gas that is burning now and another energy project to develop Iraq's oil, gas and electricity sectors.