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The EUAM Iraq mission is discreet and goes into 'stand by' mode. Order of Brussels (v3)

(B2 - exclusive) EU Internal Security Advisory Mission (EUAM Iraq) present in Baghdad was instructed to be discreet, according to our information. It does not suspend its activities, but goes in slow motion

Officially no change

Questioned on Monday (January 6) during the daily briefing with the press, the spokesperson for the High Representative, Peter Stano, said little about this slow motion: “ We have taken no decision regarding ongoing EU activities, whatever area we are engaged in in Iraq, to ​​suspend, reduce or modify them. ". But he acknowledged that measures were being studied and that priority would go to the safety of staff. " We are closely monitoring and monitoring the situation and evaluating it because ultimately it is about the safety of our people ».

Instructions given: do not return to Iraq immediately

In reality, the situation is quite different. The management of the European External Action Service (EEAS) has instructed the staff on site to make only strictly necessary trips. Any departure or arrival to the airport is thus suspended. Instruction has also been given to staff who have left for the Christmas-New Year holidays, and have not yet returned, to postpone their return. Instructions apparently followed, and even anticipated, by certain countries.

The Brits leaving

The British were thus instructed to leave the mission on tiptoe (or not to return after the Christmas-New Year holidays). Too risky after US raid targeting Iranian General Q. Soleimani and militia leader. Same, sAccording to our information, for the only Dutchman present in the mission, who postponed his planned return to Baghdad. The same is true of the Canadian and several other nationalities. In fact, out of the normal staff of around fifty people, only around thirty are in post, around twenty are 'above ground'.

Rough start for Christopher Buik

For the new head of mission, the German police officer Christopher Buik, who officially took office at the beginning of January (read: German relay at the head of the EUAM Iraq mission. Berlin intends to keep positions of influence), but is not yet there, the start is rough. He could have to quickly manage a mission, condemned to remain confined in secure places and to suffer frayed withdrawals.

The future of the PSC mission meeting on Iraq

EU ambassadors meeting in the Political and Security Committee (PSC) discussed the situation in Iraq (1) this Tuesday (7 January) in a restricted format (ambassador + 1 adviser). The question of the continuation of the mission, but above all of its exact format, was among the topics discussed. Discussion (short on EUAM according to our first elements), which will have to be continued later. A strategic review of the mission is, in fact, in progress and should hatch in the spring, the current mandate ending on April 17. (read : article to follow)

Comments : For the European Union, suspending or withdrawing this mission today would be a mistake. Through this mission, they can influence and be closer to one of the main executives of the Iraqi state: its internal security forces. It will take all the diplomatic know-how of the representatives present on the spot to explain that the political position of the European Union is not quite that of the Americans. A very delicate task, especially when statements by senior European officials, such as the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, suggest the opposite (read: The European Commission met Wednesday on Iraq. Europe must speak to everyone (Von der Leyen)).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. This is the only subject that has been placed on the agenda. The Libyan question which was also to be raised (see Booklet 06.01.2020) has been postponed.

Updated on 7.1 - § instruction on the instruction given to personnel Netherlands, Canada, - on 9.1 clarification on the instructions given and restructuring of the § of the article for better understanding

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).