U.N. envoy says war goals in Iraq obscuring humanitarian crisis

GENEVA (Reuters) - A U.N. human rights envoy said on Monday Iraq was being run by a failed government and warned foreign powers not to be “complicit” in its neglect of the plight of normal Iraqis.

Iraqi children who fled their homes due to the clashes between Iraqi security forces and Islamic state militants move through the town of Hit in Anbar province, April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

The United Nations’ deputy high commissioner for human rights said both Baghdad and its international supporters were too focused on defeating Islamic State and had no strategy for mending the country after that.

“It is beholden on the international community, that rightly focuses on the military action, to have ... comparable investment in non-military relief,” Kate Gilmore said after a week-long trip to Iraq.

“The international community must not allow itself to be made complicit with the failed leadership of Iraq,” she said, and urged Iraqi politicians to fight corruption, reform the judiciary and foster reconciliation.

“The first thing the politicians of Iraq have (to do is) to set aside their differences and form urgently a coherent, competent government of national unity,” Gilmore said.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced an overhaul of the government in February, but disputes and protests have slowed progress.

“There is political paralysis in Iraq. There is no government in Iraq,” Gilmore said.

The rise of Islamic State, which is fighting government forces for control of northern and western Iraq, has exacerbated a sectarian conflict, mostly between Shi’ites and Sunnis, that emerged after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

A car bomb in a predominantly Shi’ite Muslim district of eastern Baghdad on Monday killed at least 11 people and wounded 39, the third such blast in four days in the capital.

Meanwhile, the war with Islamic State has created more than 3.4 million internally displaced people (IDPs), many living in camps without access to medical care, water and clothes, as foreign money disappears into the pockets of local officials, Gilmore said.

“Corruption (is) something that the international community can take braver, bolder and stronger steps to address ... the negotiations that are taking place with the government can’t just be about a military strategy,” Gilmore said.

“In terms of people caught in IDP camps, the international community is failing. The humanitarian budget ... in Iraq is grossly underfunded and people with nothing are paying the cost of that.”

The United Nations estimates the cost of dealing with Iraq’s humanitarian crisis at $4.5 billion. It appealed in January for $861 million to help the government cover its $1.56 billion plan to assist 10 million people in need in 2016.

Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in Baghdad; Editing by Robin Pomeroy