Thursday, October 23, 2014

Iraq’s Remaining Cabinet Members Sworn In

On October 18, 2014 Iraq’s parliament confirmed the remaining positions in Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s government. This included the much anticipated Interior and Defense Ministers, along with all of the Kurdish officials who had been boycotting the government since it was formed in September. The Americans were pushing hard for an inclusive government that included all of Iraq’s different ethnosectarian groups, and that was achieved. That is no panacea however as Abadi’s government is made up of the same percentage of Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish parties as Nouri al-Maliki’s former administration, which was considered a major cause of the current crisis in Iraq. The bigger question is now that Abadi’s government is complete can it break the deadlock in Baghdad and push any type of reforms that might clean up the country and help counter the insurgency.

Abadi achieved two of his and the international communities’ goals when his government was completed in October. First, he promised a smaller administration than previous ones. Iraq’s cabinet had ballooned in recent years as the winning parties pushed for more and more positions to gain access to the state’s coffers and dish out more patronage for their followers. When Nouri al-Maliki’s government was finished in April 2011 it had 40 ministers, up from the 30 that were offered up in its first manifestation in December 2010. When Abadi’s cabinet was finished it had only 29 ministers. All the winning parties also agreed to join in after much wrangling. The two main Shiite blocks State of Law and the National Alliance received 15 ministers. Sunni parties made up of Mutahidun, Arabiya, Loyalty to Anbar and the Iraq Coalition got 7 positions. The Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Change, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group got one ministry each for a total of 5. Finally, Iyad Allawi’s secular National Coalition and Science Minister Faris Youssef Jajou, a Christian politician finished off the cabinet. The Kurds were the last ones to agree to Abadi’s government. They had been making demands about the budget, oil policy, the disputed territories and other topics before and after the formation of the government, but the prime minister refused to make any concessions as he had the votes to put together his cabinet without them. The Kurds finally relented as they realized they were gaining nothing from staying away from Baghdad when decisions were being made. In the end, the breakdown of Abadi’s government was exactly like Maliki’s. The Shiite lists have 51% of the ministries compared to 52% under Maliki. The Sunnis 24%, and if you include Allawi in their camp that increases to 27% compared to 30% with the former premier. Finally, the Kurdish Coalition has 17% of the cabinet today slightly up from 15% under Maliki. The previous government was considered a disaster because the parties were deadlocked on almost every issue including not passing the 2014 budget. That showed that an inclusive government is not an answer to Iraq’s problems, but rather a cause as there are too many lists with opposing agendas all in the same house. That makes deal making and compromise nearly impossible on anything substantial.

Abadi Government
29 Ministers
Shiite Parties: 15, 51%
State of Law: 8
National Alliance: 7
Sunni Parties: 7, 24%
Arabiya: 1
Loyalty to Anbar: 1
Iraq Coalition: 1
Mutahidun: 4
Kurdish Parties: 5, 17%
Kurdistan Democratic Party: 1
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan: 1
Change: 1
Kurdistan Islamic Union: 1
Kurdistan Islamic Group: 1
Secular Parties: 1, 3%
Nationalist Coalition 1
Minorities: 1, 3%

Maliki Government
40 Ministers
Shiite Parties: 21, 52%
State of Law: 8
National Alliance: 13
Sunni Parties: 12, 30%
White Iraqiya: 1
Centralist Alliance: 2
Iraqi National Movement: 9
Kurdish Parties: 6, 15%
Kurdish Coalition: 6
Minorities: 1, 2%

Iraq’s ruling coalition was also able to agree upon Interior and Defense Ministers after much internal wrangling. Khalid Obeidi of Mutahidun was the early frontrunner for Defense Ministry that has traditionally gone to the Sunni parties. He’s from Mosul, and was a general in the Air Force under Saddam Hussein. He was the nominee by the Iraqi National Movement in 2011, but was eventually turned down when he broke with Allawi. The Accountability and Justice Commission also said Obeidi was disqualified for his Baathist past, while the Kurds accused him of taking part in anti-Kurdish operations while he served under Saddam. (1) The new Defense Minister is supposed to appeal to Sunnis, while bringing a military background to the position. Being a former Air Force general means he has some experience, but it would have been better if he’d been in the army as that would be more meaningful to his ministry. The real problem was on the Shiite side where Hadi Ameri, former Transportation Minister under Maliki and the head of the Badr Organization demanded Interior. Badr was a key component of State of Law’s victory in the election, Ameri had been put in charge of security in Diyala by the previous prime minister, and Badr was one of the militias that came to defense of the state to confront the insurgency. The United States and Sunni parties strongly objected to Ameri’s appointment. In 2005 Badr controlled the Interior and filled the police and commandos with its militiamen who were accused of running secret prisons, torturing people, carrying out sectarian arrests, and running death squads. Ameri finally stepped aside, but his party still got the ministry with Mohammed Salim al-Ghadban. Since Badr filled the Interior with its operatives before it will probably do the same this time around. Under Maliki there was no Interior Minister, while Sadoun Dulaimi was named acting Defense Minister. He was always considered the prime minister’s man. Abadi promised to fill those positions, and finally did. At the same time, these were status quo appointments. Shiite parties have historically wanted control of the Interior Ministry, because one it employs so many people it is a perfect vehicle to hand out jobs to followers, and two it gives the lists influence in every town and city in the country through the police. Likewise Sunnis have held the Defense Ministry before, and that has meant little to the insurgency or the street. The one positive is that both new ministers have talked about clearing out incompetent commanders and holding people accountable for the deterioration in security. The police and army are full of political appointees who never had business serving in any capacity. Premier Abadi has already started clearing out some of the officers, and if Obeidi and Ghadban can continue that into the lower ranks and fight the institutional corruption that would go a long way to reforming the Iraqi forces.

It’s too early to tell whether Prime Minister Abadi will be able to bring about any meaningful changes to Baghdad. He has so many structural barriers to overcome it may be impossible for any executive to reform the government. He has fulfilled some early promises such as curbing the size of the cabinet and finally appointing an Interior and Defense Minister. He’s also gotten the Kurds to give up on their boycott. It’s now up to Ghadban and Obeidi to shake up the security forces, but the former may actually make the situation worse if his militia takes over Interior like they did in the past. That’s a major reason why early on it appears that Abadi’s cabinet will be more of the same rather than a step forward.

Prime Minister Abadi’s Full Government

President Fuad Masum, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, Dawa, State of Law
Vice President Osama Nujafi, Mutahidun
Vice President Iyad Allawi, Nationalist Coalition/Wataniya

Prime Minister Haider Abadi, Dawa, State of Law
Deputy Premier Salah al-Mutlaq, al-Arabiya
Deputy Premier Rowsch Nouri Shaways, Kurdistan Democratic Party
Deputy Premier Bahaa Araji, Sadrist/Ahrar, National Alliance

Agriculture Minister Falah Hassan Zaidan, Mutahidun
Communications Minister Hassan Kadhim Rasheed, Badr Organization, State of Law
Culture Minister Fryad Rawanduzi, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi, Mutahidun
Education Minister Mohammed Iqbal Omar, Iraqi Islamic Party, Mutahidun
Electricity Minister Qasim Abdi Mohammed Hammadi al-Fahadawi, Loyalty to Anbar
Environment Minister Qutaiba Jabouri, Iraq Coalition
Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Kurdistan Democratic Party
Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, National Reform Trend, National Alliance
Health Minister Adilla Hamoud Hussein, State of Law
Higher Education Minister Hussein Shahristani, Independents, State of Law
Housing Minister Tariq Kinani, Sadrist/Ahrar, National Alliance
Human Rights Minister Mohammed Bayati, Badr Organization, State of Law
Industry Minister Nasir Issawi, Sadrist/Ahrar, National Alliance
Interior Minister Mohammed Salim al-Ghadban, Badr Organization, State of Law
Justice Minister Haider Zamili, Fadhila, National Alliance
Labor Minister Mohammed Shaia’a Sudani, Dawa, State of Law
Migration Minister Darbaz Mohammed, Change
Minister of State Saman Abdullah, Kurdistan Islamic Group
Municipalities Minister Abdul Karim Younis Aylan, Badr Organization, State of Law
Oil Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, National Alliance
Planning Minister Salman Ali Hassan Jumali, Mutahidun
Provinces Minister Ahmed Abdullah, al-Arabiya
Science Minister Faris Youssef Jajou
Sports Minister Abdul Hussein Abdul Ridha Abtan, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, National Alliance
Tourism Minister Adel Shirshab, State of Law
Trade Minister Mlass Mohammed Husseini, Nationalist Coalition/Wataniya
Transportation Minister Bayan Jabr, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, National Alliance
Women’s Affairs Minister Bayan Nouri, Kurdistan Islamic Union


1. Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 12,” 4/13/11


Kurdish Globe, “Kurdish Ministers swear in as ISIS keeps slow advancing towards Baghdad,” 10/20/14

Al Masalah, “Who is the new Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi?” 10/18/14

NINA, “Parliament Completes Vote to The Ministerial Cab,” 10/18/14

Osgood, Patrick and Smith, Daniel, “Kurds to join Cabinet despite deadlock,” Iraq Oil Report, 10/14/14

Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 12,” 4/13/11

Sullivan, Marisa Cochrane, “New Developments In Iraq’s Nascent Government,” Institute for the Study of War, 4/1/11

Visser, Reidar, “Additional Ministers Approved for the Iraqi Cabinet,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 10/18/14

Whitcomb, Alexander, “Kurds closer to participation in Iraqi government,” Rudaw, 10/13/14

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