UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes the security situation in Iraq has improved "a lot", and as a result, the UN will broaden its efforts throughout the country. After getting chased out of Iraq in 2003 when it chose its security personnel poorly and had its facility bombed, the UN has not done much to support Iraq or its elected government, but Nouri al-Maliki says he can guarantee their security:
Mr Ban described the talks, which he co-chaired with Mr Maliki, as "positive and supportive".
Mr Ban said: "There was a clear agreement that the international community cannot turn away from, or ignore Iraq. Its stability is our common concern."
BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says Mr Ban's tone was emphatic - the time for collective action had come.
The secretary general said there would be a new "regional support office" in Baghdad to foster dialogue between involved countries and an office in the southern city of Basra was also being considered.
Ban's action comes about four years late. The UN bailed out of Iraq after its envoy, Sergio Viero de Mello, and 21 of his staff got killed by a bomber after Kofi Annan and de Mello refused American security. Instead, they hired locals to provide security -- a group which had been infiltrated by insurgents. After the one attack, the UN abandoned Iraq, and refused to return.
Ban now believes that security has improved enough for the UN to return, and he's correct. However, the UN should have been in Iraq the entire time, helping to improve security by engaging as they plan to do now with the various sects, tribes, and ethnic groups. If the UN really thinks that it can provide peacekeeping roles, it has to work to bring peace as well. If it's not willing to do that, then it has no credibility in which to operate.
What happens if someone attacks the UN again? Will they run away? That would be tantamount to saying that they will help build peace only as long as it's peaceful, a rather circular and useless philosophy. The only hotspots that the UN will enter under those circumstances would be Tulsa, Oklahoma and Manchster, England. One wonders why they remain in Turtle Bay, so close to the fractious Bronx.
To Ban's credit, he just arrived at the UN. He seems to understand the damage done to the UN's credibility in its retreat from Iraq as well as the debacles of its peacekeeping missions around the world, which have mostly accomplished the prostitution of refugees. Ban wants to make the UN relevant again, and perhaps he can do it. We'll see what happens when the going gets tough.