On March 29, 2011 Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki offered up his nominees for the Interior, Defense, and Planning ministries. This was one year after national elections, and three months since the ruling coalition was put together in December 2010. No names were offered for the National Security Minister. It’s still probably weeks if not months before Iraq’s feuding political lists agree upon which candidates will be accepted for these posts.
Maliki submitted several names for the ministries. For Defense, there was Khalid Mutab Obeidi. Deputy Interior Minister Adnan Asadi, General Abdul Mohsen Kabi, the commander of the border forces, and General Ibrahim Mohammad al-Lami, who is part of Maliki’s military staff, were named for Interior. Finally, Ali Yousef Abdul Nabi of the Sadr bloc was the nominee for Planning Minister. No one was named for the National Security Ministry because it is being disputed between the parties. The Kurds have demanded the spot so that they have one of the security ministries. That would disrupt the power sharing agreement made in Kurdistan at the end of 2010, which gave the Maliki-Supreme Council-Sadrist led Iraqi National Coalition Interior and National Security, and Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement Defense. It took three months for Maliki to come up with this list of people. They were supposed to be consensus candidates from both the National Coalition and the National Movement, but they weren’t. Rather it was another example of Maliki using his heavy hand to bully and cajole the other parties.
The main example of Maliki manipulating his opponents, was the nomination of Obeidi for Defense. The National Movement originally submitted Obeidi for the position, but then withdrew his name. Allegedly Obeidi said he would not resign from the Defense Ministry if Allawi’s list withdrew from the government. The National Movement sent a letter to the prime minister’s office about their decision on Obeidi, but Maliki claimed he never saw it. The National Movement is supposed to hold a meeting on whether it will reverse course on Obeidi. A parliamentarian from the list told the press on April 2 that 95% of the party opposed him, and the National Movement went ahead and put forward three alternatives, Salim Dalli, Hisham Darraji, and Ahmad Jabouri. Obeidi reportedly has the support of the other major parties, so the National Movement may be outmaneuvered on the matter.
The prime minister doesn’t only have to worry about Allawi, because his own coalition has been fighting him for months as well over the ministers. Asadi is Maliki’s top nominee for Interior for example, because he is from the Dawa Party, and part of his staff. The Sadrists however, oppose him, and have mentioned Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress as an alternative. A member of the National Coalition also said that they were favoring Lami for the spot. Just because the other Shiite parties have agreed to join with Maliki’s State of Law, doesn’t mean they have given him a blank check, especially with the powerful security ministries. Instead, they have tried to block the premier’s nominees, and attempted to put their own people into the positions.
Maliki’s erstwhile Shiite allies have another tool at their disposal to complicate the process. The day before the prime minister publicized his choices, the Accountability and Justice Commission, which replaced the DeBaathification Commission, warned that some of the candidates could be banned for their Baathist pasts. Afterward, it announced that Obeidi, General Lami, and General Kabi were all disqualified. The fact that the Accountability and Justice Commission is once again involving itself in the process points to another move to hinder the government formation process. Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman noted that all of the candidates could be cleared if a consensus emerged over them, once again showing that the parties are really the ones that matter in this situation, not any laws or commissions.
Despite all of these complications, the simple act of naming nominees for Defense, Interior, and Planning was a step forward. Previously, Maliki rejected five candidates from Allawi’s list. The premier claimed it was because they were not qualified, but the National Movement took it as another example of Maliki attempting to undermine the power sharing agreement that led to his second term. In return, the National Movement rejected Maliki’s candidates for Interior. Not only that, but as noted above, the National Coalition has been just as split over making recommendations for filling the ministries. Nabi for Planning may be the only shoo in, as no one has made any derogatory remarks about him. Defense and Interior, not to mention National Security, which has no official candidates, are still a ways off to being resolved. More importantly, the seemingly never-ending arguments over these ministries, shows where Iraq’s politicians true interest lays. That’s gaining power for themselves rather than actually governing the country.
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