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Kobler Explains Iraq Cuts, Denies Using PMCs, Visits Kurds, To His Credit

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 19, updated July 29, below -- When the head of the UN Mission in Iraq Martin Kobler emerged from the Security Council late Thursday, he graciously took four questions from Inner City Press.

  While Kobler only answered two and a half, and one answer is contradicted by a recent report, Kobler stands out in the current Department of Peacekeeping Operations for at least TAKING questions. And reviews of his process for deciding and implementing budget cuts in UNAMI are generally favorable.

  That was Inner City Press' first set of question: how is UNAMI cutting $30 million from its budget, and what about UNAMI's contract with the private military contractor Hart Security?

  Kobler said yes, all Special Political Missions have to make cuts (as Inner City Press has written, the UN Mission in Afghanistan is cutting $45 million, with less transparency than Kobler's UNAMI). But, he said, all staff will be kept safe. Iraq is safer that it was in 2003, he said.

  He then denied using private security, other than dogs he said would remain in 2013. But the Hart Security contrast, for $1.1 million, appears to have been signed in August 2011, for "Provision of Security Awareness Induction Training," for a cost of $3,500 per staff member. We hope to hear more on this. Here are some budget lines:

HART SECURITY LIMITED    CYP    Training, other    $437,444    11AMI-20387    UNAMI

HART SECURITY LIMITED    CYP    AMI/CON/2011/041    Provision of Security Awareness Induction Training Training (SAIT) for UNAMI    1-Aug-11    31-Jul-12    $1,143,682    UNAMI

  This last runs (at least) through July 31, 2012 - still in force.

  Given a second round of questions by Kobler, Inner City Press posed two about Syria: whether he could confirm the takeover some border posts by the Free Syrian Army, and for his response to Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin earlier statement on Syria that "It's all about Iran" -- that after the US invasion of Iraq worked out differently than the US expected (with an expanded Shi'a and Iranian role, that is) now they had to try to contain Iran, by way of Syria.

  Kobler answered that UNAMI is concerned with the humanitarian and political situation, and that there are 7000 refugees, mostly Syrian Kurds, in the north, whom he has visited. He did not answer about the border crossings nor (perhaps understandably) comment on Churkin's analysis.

  And so the scorecard read, four questions, two and a half answers, one seemingly contradicted by the UN procurement database.

  Still we again note, review of Kobler's performance -- other than by some about Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty -- remain mostly positive, and contrary to DPKO to its highest level he took questions and said things in response.

   That Kobler and UNAMI are really under the Department of Political Affairs may explain the latter -- but not the former. Watch this site.

Update of July 29: To his credit, ten days after the above, Martin Kobler wrote in with this, which we publish in full:

Subject: message from SRSG Martin Kobler, UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)
Date: Sun, Jul 29, 2012 at 12:44 PM
From: Anne Czichos [at]
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

Dear Mr. Lee,

Thank you very much for your interest in the work of the United Nations in Iraq.

As a follow-up to the media stakeout after the Security Council session on Thursday, 19 July, I would like to apologize for not fully answering your question regarding UNAMI's use of private security companies.

I would like to add that UNAMI is spending approximately USD 1.73 million in 2012 on static security provided by private security companies in Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait. The contract for the SAIT training, which is conducted by a private security company, is for up to USD 1,182,771.50 in 2012.


Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq

  We'll have more on this - but we appreciate the update.

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