Amidst the solemn situation in Iraq, some are beginning to speak of the possibility of an international conference. It would also seem that the US-UK led UN Security Council resolution, adopted on August 7th 2007, to expand the UN mandate in Iraq is not convincing and has no means to achieve any substantial change in this war-torn state.

The new UN Security Council resolution only enumerates counseling tasks and assistance to the Iraqi government for matters pertaining to the constitution, politics, elections, the judiciary, humanitarian issues, human rights, and refugees. These are tasks that the UN has been contributing to since 2004 without any concrete effect or tangible results, which has altered its credibility and that of multilateral action in an already fragile region.

This resolution also comes in a pre-electoral climate in the US that is increasingly tense and relentless. Unfortunately, the crisis in Iraq is merely seen as an internal issue that is only advantageous for electoral purposes. Perhaps the only new element is that the UN can now lead the debate on how to best tackle strategies on national reconciliation and peace building initiatives. However, these efforts must be coordinated with the Maliki government. Given the various factional differences and conflict of interests within the Maliki administration, it would be highly improbable to coordinate with it.

For over a year now the Maliki government, which wanted to become a government of national unity and reconciliation, has unfortunately not seen its agenda, nor its activities, convince Iraqis, who unanimously rejected all political participation while their country found itself increasingly fragile and fragmented under foreign occupancy. Worse yet, in the process, Maliki has lost many of his allies and has proven himself incompetent, indeed unfit to accomplish any meaningful achievements.

Thus, this new UN mandate will evoke questions relating to its relevancy, its efficacy, and undeniably, its feasibility. The prominent question thus remains: Should the UN see helping the Iraqi people to reestablish and rebuilt their shattered lives after this long and painful agony as an ultimate objective to its mandate of the enforcement of international peace & security, which is defined in the charter? Or should the mission help the current American administration manage the consequences of its errors of a war that, since its inception, went against one of the foundations of international order, multilateralism?

What aggravates the situation even more are the new international and regional realities in Iraq. On a humanitarian level, a third of Iraqis are now refugees, whereby half are internally displaced persons as a consequence of sectarian violence or ethnic and religious cleansing. The most reliable statistics are reporting that up to half a million civilians have perished thus far. On the political, economic and international administration level, political or religious extremism is stronger than ever in Iraq and the region. The Al-Qaeda ideology has become similar to a franchise, whereby groups continue to account for demands without having organizational ties between them. Meanwhile, the most realistic studies approximate that close to 20 billion dollars of public funds has been misappropriated, since 2003. Many of those responsible are now accustomed to spending more time abroad than in Iraq.

On the regional and international levels, the American administration is beginning to show signs that it has finally understood that it is impossible to have an exclusively American solution to the Iraq dilemma. What is needed is much more than the last Security Council resolution is an acknowledgement by the Bush administration that its actions only put greater stress on the fractures in a region that was already so fragile and complex.

Perhaps the ray of hope would be this old idea of an international conference where all the Iraqi parties involved in the conflict would be invited, as would neighboring countries, and the international parties concerned. The Iraqi people could never reconcile without the full support of regional and international actors.

For this, everyone must be convinced, particularly all the stakeholders in the country. Foremost the Iraqi people; they must understand that their reconciliation is in the best interest of their people who have deeply suffered and have the right to aspire for a better future. Next, the region: adjacent countries must equally understand that it is in their best interests to have a stable and secure Iraq. Lastly, the international community must put out the Iraqi fire before it sets the entire region ablaze: a region that is important not only for its history, but equally for its stability and utility to the international economy.

To this end, on the assumption that local, regional and international goodwill would unite, nobody would know how much this will require in time and sacrifice. The wounds will remain deep and the agenda of the countries that were implicated in the conflict will be contradictory. However, at least one would know that in Iraq, we have potentially come to an end by finally attaining the bottom of the well. The collision course of the different actors will have ceased and these actors will have understood that they must learn again how to live with one another. Otherwise, the term "Iraq" will no longer exist, with the exception of its mention in history books, similar to the significance of Mesopotamia.

Republished in Embassy

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