Wednesday, April 6, 2011

One More Minister Confirmed In Iraq

Planning Minister Nabi (Aswat al-Iraq)
On April 4, 2011, Iraq’s parliament confirmed Sadrist Ali Yousef Abdul Nabi as the Minister of Planning. Nabi’s name was submitted by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on March 29, along with nominees for the Defense and Interior ministries. A partial Iraqi cabinet was seated on December 21, 2010. At the time, the Planning Ministry was vacant, and was temporarily given to Minister of Labor Nassar Rubaie from the Sadr bloc. Nabi is part of the new face of the Sadr movement, which could open up new avenues of support for the movement, as well as tie them to the dysfunctional government.

Nabi was one of many Iraqi exiles that returned to the country after the overthrow of Saddam. He was born in Najaf in 1969, and went to law school. In 1998 he earned a doctorate from Baghdad University. He later fled the country, and went to Libya in 2002. In 2006, he came back to Iraq and became the dean at the Kufa University in his home province of Najaf

Nabi’s appointment is full of both promise and peril for the Sadr Movement. In the 2010 election, it tried to remake its image once more as a legitimate political party rather than a militia group. As part of that process it ran many professionals as candidates such as Nabi. The Sadrists did surprisingly well in the voting, and became the kingmakers to assure Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a second term. As a reward, and as part of their plans, they were able to gain control of one of the deputy speakers of parliament, along with the ministries of Housing, Planning, Public Works, State, and Tourism. The service related positions were especially important because it gave them the opportunity to build projects that could win them grassroots support. Then in February 2011, protests began in Iraq with some of their main demands being the improvement in electricity, water, health, etc. Moqtada al-Sadr immediately tried to co-opt these demonstrations by supporting the people’s rights to go into the streets, while telling his followers not to join, and holding a referendum on people’s demands. He also threatened even larger protests if the government didn’t improve their performance in six months. The dilemma for the Sadrists is that they are now directly responsible for three of the most important ministries, Planning, Public Works, and Housing, that deliver those services. They, like all the other political parties, have announced grand plans for what they want to do with their pubic offices in the coming months and years. The problem as ever is whether they can effectively implement these schemes. The Sadrists have been trying to position themselves as a critic of the state’s performance, but now that they are part of it, they can be lumped together with all the other lists, and be blamed for the dysfunctional government.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Parliament approves appointing new planning minister,” 4/4/11

Atwan, Kazem, “Iraqi parliament votes on candidate of Ahrar bloc for planning ministry,” AK News, 4/4/11

Al Jazeera, “Egypt Inspires Iraq Protests,” 2/9/11

Ottaway, Marina, Kaysi, Danial Anas, “Iraq: Protest, Democracy, and Autocracy,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 3/28/11

Al Rafidayn, Alsumaria TV, “Al-Maliki Submits Names Of Candidates For Key Ministries To Parliament,” MEMRI Blog, 3/29/11

Visser, Reidar, “A Sadrist Minister of Planning,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 4/5/11


Steve the Planner said...

The ministry of planning in iraq is uniquely different from any comparable US institution, functioning as census bureau, bureau of labor statistics, and bureau of economic/budget matters.

Among other things, MOPDC has sign-off for capital project funding and draws (payments), so, without sign-off, funds to provincial and national projects cannot proceed.

Now, as you point out, Sadrists are responsible, and will prove or disprove their ability to transform into a legitimate political party with critical national administrative duties.

Joel Wing said...

Itll be interesting to see how the Sadrists do this time around trying to be politicians. When they tried it before in 2005 it blew up in their faces. The militia was fracturing, Sadr made some dumb moves (boycotting), etc. This time they don't have that kind of pressure on them, but I still don't think they've figured out how to balance being a street movement and an actual political party. Their moves before and after the election seemed very astute, but now they're trying to appropriate the demonstrations while being in the government. We'll see what happens.