THE NEW ‘GERTRUDE BELL’: It’s been years since a diplomat attracted so many headlines in Iraq

The current head of the United Nations mission to Iraq is causing debate among ordinary Iraqis, partially because she is one of the only foreigners in years to have been able to meet with spiritual leader Ali al-Sistan.

By Mustafa Habib

Dutch diplomat, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert – who is the Special Representative for Iraq and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, or UNAMI – recently met with the commander of Iraq’s so-called Popular Mobilization Units, or PMU, former volunteer militias called up to fight the extremist group known as the Islamic State. Abdulaziz al-Muhammadawi, who’s often called Abu Fadak, is also the leader of Hezbollah in Iraq, a group that is known for its ties to Iran. Plasschaert’s meeting with the military leader saw her widely criticised in Iraq, with some locals accusing her of treason for working with the often-controversial PMU groups.

Plasschaert responded that the United Nations’ work must be based on neutrality and that this requires she deal with all stake holders to resolve problems. Dialogue is the only way forward, she argued.

Plasschaert had met al-Muhammadawi because of ongoing missile attacks that have targeted Baghdad’s high security Green Zone, where various international embassies and Iraqi ministries are based. US and coalition forces had been specifically targeted, in Baghdad, at Baghdad airport and also in northern Iraq in Erbil. This had prompted US authorities to threaten to withdraw from Iraq altogether.

Most Iraqis understand that if the US, a major Iraqi ally, closed its embassy and completely withdrew from the country this could be devastating. The US still offers Iraq military and financial support. There were also murmurs that if the US left, then other European nations and potentially also other Arab countries, would also leave Iraq. Iraq would be isolated.

Days before her meeting with Hezbollah’s al-Muhammadawi, the UN representative had already held meetings with senior staffers and politicians all over Iraq, including the Iraqi President and the country’s beleaguered Prime Minister, as well as heads of security and military. After these meetings, Plasschaert said that she also intended to visit Iran to discuss the same issues.

But this far from the first time that the Dutch diplomat has sparked debate in Iraq. When popular anti-government demonstrations began last October, she appeared at the protests in a three-wheeled “tuk-tuk”. This modest form of transport became a symbol of valour at the protests after the young tuk-tuk drivers took on the task of ferrying wounded away from the sites. Obviously, the younger generation of anti-government protesters, who were there calling for an end to political corruption, admired Plasschaert for this. But other parties, such as the Shiite Muslim-majority political parties criticised her for her joyriding.

Possibly the meetings that have caused the most attention for Plasschaert though, have been those with senior Shiite Muslim spiritual leader, Ali al-Sistani. The ancient cleric is respected by Iraqis and by Shiite Muslims around the world but he is concertedly anti-political. Yet within one year Plasschaert has been able to meet the cleric twice at his home in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. The most recent meeting was on September 13 and it even generated a rare video clip of al-Sistani, putting paid to rumours about the 90-year-old’s ill health. Following the meeting Plasschaert made a strong statement about Iraqi politics, quoting the elderly cleric. Al-Sistani’s office also released a statement after the meeting.

Yet Iraqis remain divided about Plasschaert’s headline-making activities and her brutally honest statements about the state Iraqi is in – she is able to say what many Iraqis cannot.

Some older Iraqis have described her as the new version of the famous British administrator, Gertrude Bell, who travelled all around Iraq representing the British government during the 1920s. Bell, who was eventually buried in Baghdad, met all kind of Iraqis, from clerics to politicians and illiterate tribesmen and worked for Iraq, becoming a link between the country and the British government.

“Iraq hasn’t seen a female diplomat like that since we had Miss Bell,” says 59-year-old Baghdad local, Muayad Abdul. “That’s why we call Jeanine Plasschaert ‘the Dutch Miss Bell’,” he explains.

Meanwhile younger Iraqis’ opinions of the UNAMI head vary according to her latest actions and meetings. When she speaks on behalf of the protesters about Iraq’s problems, they love her. When she meets with controversial politicians and military leaders, they criticize her.

“The UN shouldn’t be meeting with the people who caused the crisis in Iraq,” insists Mazen Mohammed, one of the young men who regularly demonstrated in central Baghdad. “Her meeting with Abu Fadak was only provocative and she needs to think twice.”

Plasschaert is the seventh special envoy to Iraq from the United Nations – UNAMI was first established in 2003 – but the first woman to take on the job. It is probably fair to say that none of the other envoys attracted as much attention as Plasschaert is.

But the deep divisions between the Iraqi people and their political class makes Plasschaert’s job particularly difficult. Ordinary Iraqis would prefer that she listen to them and not their leaders, whom they see as corrupt, while Plasschaert’s mission clearly entails her meeting with officials and politicians, even some of those who are considered extremists.

Related Articles

96 Comments

  1. hi!,I like your writing so so much! share we keep in touch
    more approximately your post on AOL? I need an expert on this house to unravel my problem.
    May be that is you! Taking a look forward to peer you.

  2. It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.

    I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or tips.
    Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this
    article. I want to read more things about it!

  3. Hello There. I found your weblog the usage of msn. This
    is a very neatly written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read extra of
    your helpful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

    Here is my blog – Biodermeux Cream

  4. Excellent blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast!

    What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to
    your host? I wish my site loaded up as quickly as yours
    lol

  5. Wonderful beat ! I would like to apprentice even as you amend your site, how could i subscribe for a weblog site?

    The account helped me a applicable deal. I were tiny bit familiar
    of this your broadcast offered brilliant transparent idea.

    my web-site; Aretha

  6. I’ve been exploring for a bit for any high-quality articles or weblog posts in this sort of
    space . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this website.
    Reading this information So i am glad to show that I’ve a very just right uncanny
    feeling I came upon exactly what I needed. I most certainly will make sure
    to do not fail to remember this website and give it a glance on a relentless basis.

  7. I don’t even know how I finished up right here, however I believed this post used to be great.
    I do not know who you might be but certainly you’re going to a well-known blogger should you aren’t already.
    Cheers!

    Stop by my webpage … Niva CBD Gummies

  8. Hi to every , for the reason that I am in fact eager of reading this website’s post to be updated
    daily. It consists of pleasant material.

    My site; Ketorol

  9. Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and all. But imagine if you added some great pictures or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and videos, this site could certainly be one of the best in its niche. Good blog!

  10. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment but
    after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say
    excellent blog!

  11. You’re so cool! I do not believe I’ve read a single thing like that before.
    So good to discover somebody with some unique thoughts on this issue.
    Really.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something that
    is needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

    Feel free to surf to my web-site Dermal Pearle

  12. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this
    for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some
    experience with something like this. Please let me know if
    you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog
    and I look forward to your new updates.

  13. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of
    the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and
    I’ll be bookmarking and checking back often!

  14. If you wish for to obtain a good deal from this post
    then you have to apply these methods to your won blog.

  15. After I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are
    added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment.
    Perhaps there is a way you are able to remove me
    from that service? Thank you!

  16. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an really long comment
    but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.

    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say
    superb blog!

  17. hi!,I like your writing very a lot! proportion we keep in touch
    extra about your post on AOL? I need an expert in this area to solve my problem.
    Maybe that’s you! Looking ahead to look you.

  18. I am not sure where you’re getting your information, but good topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.

    Thanks for excellent info I was looking for this information for my mission.

  19. I don’t even know the way I stopped up right here, but I
    assumed this submit was great. I do not realize who you might be however definitely you’re going
    to a well-known blogger should you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

    my web site; GrownMD Review

  20. I am really impressed together with your writing
    talents as neatly as with the layout for your weblog. Is that
    this a paid subject or did you modify it your self?

    Anyway keep up the nice high quality writing, it’s uncommon to see a great weblog like
    this one nowadays..

  21. Simply wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your post is just nice and i could assume you are an expert on this subject.
    Well with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please continue the enjoyable work.

    My blog: NeoBio Keto

  22. It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of info.

    I’m happy that you just shared this useful info with us.
    Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you’re a great author.
    I will always bookmark your blog and will often come back from
    now on. I want to encourage that you continue your great
    work, have a nice afternoon!

    Feel free to visit my homepage … NeoBio Keto Review

  24. hello there and thank you for your info ? I’ve certainly picked up something new from right here.
    I did however expertise a few technical issues using this web site, since
    I experienced to reload the site many times previous to I could get it to load properly.

    I had been wondering if your hosting is OK? Not that I am
    complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will sometimes affect your placement in google and can damage your high-quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords.
    Well I am adding this RSS to my email and can look
    out for a lot more of your respective intriguing content.
    Make sure you update this again soon.

  25. Hello, Neat post. There’s an issue with your site in web explorer, might test this?

    IE still is the market chief and a good portion of people will
    leave out your great writing because of this problem.

    My site: polywebhost.com

  26. I like the helpful info you supply in your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and test once more here regularly.
    I am slightly certain I will learn plenty of new stuff proper right here!

    Good luck for the next!

  27. hello there and thank you for your information – I have definitely picked
    up anything new from right here. I did however expertise several technical issues using this web site, as I experienced to reload the site lots of times previous to I could get
    it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK?

    Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will often affect your placement
    in google and could damage your high quality score if advertising and
    marketing with Adwords. Anyway I’m adding this RSS to my
    email and could look out for much more of your respective intriguing content.
    Ensure that you update this again soon. quest bars http://j.mp/3C2tkMR quest bars

  28. Thank you for sharing excellent informations.
    Your web-site is very cool. I am impressed by the details that
    you’ve on this blog. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject.

    Bookmarked this website page, will come back for more articles.

    You, my pal, ROCK! I found simply the info I already searched all over the
    place and simply couldn’t come across. What a perfect site.

    Here is my webpage – BioReady Keto Ingredients

  29. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post used to be good.
    I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a
    well-known blogger in case you are not already. Cheers!

    Here is my web page: Chau

  30. I?m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that?s both educative and engaging,
    and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is something that not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about.

    I am very happy that I came across this in my search for something relating to this.

  31. Hi i am kavin, its my first time to commenting
    anyplace, when i read this piece of writing i thought
    i could also make comment due to this sensible paragraph.

  32. Thanks so much pertaining to giving us an update on this theme on your site.
    Please realise that if a fresh post becomes available or in the event that any adjustments occur to the current write-up,
    I would be interested in reading a lot more and knowing how to make good using of those tactics you share.
    Thanks for your time and consideration of people by making this website available.

    Check out my web blog: window air conditioner

  33. Howdy excellent blog! Does running a blog like this
    require a massive amount work? I’ve no understanding of programming
    however I had been hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyhow, if
    you have any suggestions or techniques for new
    blog owners please share. I know this is off topic but I simply needed to ask.
    Appreciate it!

    Stop by my website: stop weed smoking

  34. What’s Going down i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It absolutely useful and it has aided me out loads.
    I am hoping to contribute & aid different customers like its aided me.

    Good job.

    Look at my web page – weight loss foods

  35. Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.

    It’s always interesting to read content from other authors
    and practice something from other sites.

    Stop by my web page; http://www.a913.vip

  36. I’m honored to get a call coming from a friend immediately he found the important suggestions shared in your site.
    Going through your blog post is a real wonderful experience.
    Thank you for thinking of readers like me, and I hope for you the best of achievements as a professional in this field.

    Here is my homepage top ten skin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button