On August 10, the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) will officially expire. Before then, the United States and Great Britain want the Security Council to approve a new and expanded mandate that would carve out a greater political role for the UN in Iraq. Says Zalmay Khalilzad: “In order to reduce the sources of violence, we believe that the United Nations can help Iraqis come to a national compact, come to an agreement on these big issues on which there are differences,” Khalilzad told reporters on Thursday. He said that included provincial boundaries such as those around the disputed oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk. Kurds want Kirkuk included in their autonomous region as its capital, but other ethnic groups object. Back in the fall of 2006, the Iraq Study Group foresaw a possible political and diplomatic role for the United Nations along these lines. But since organizing the so-called “purple finger elections in 2005,” UNAMI’s political work has been limited. Now, the UN is being asked to do what no other nation or group has yet to be able to accomplish: bring Iraq’s factions and Iraq’s neighbors together in an attempt to forge some sort of political compromise. Obviously, given the sorry state of things in Iraq, the UN may not even be able to do this. But at least, finally, member states are recognizing that UN-sponsored mediation could be the last best hope for finding a political solution to Iraq’s sectarian war.