In August 2016 Iraq’s Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi was dismissed by parliament. Nouri al-Maliki’s faction of State of Law had been trying to get rid of him for almost a year to undermine Prime Minister Haidar Abadi, but never had the votes to do it. That changed when at the start of the month Obeidi attacked the Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri and several other parliamentarians over corrupt defense deals. Obeidi’s move backfired and created enough opposition to ensure his removal.
The Defense Minister’s problems started when he was called before parliament on August 1, 2016. Obeidi was to answer questions about corrupt deals at his ministry, but instead went on the attack and accused Speaker Salim al-Jabouri, Mohammed Karbuli, the head of the Solution bloc, and others of being involved in crooked deals for military equipment. To back up his accusations Obeidi went to the anti-corruption Integrity Commission on August 4. He was then hit with a lawsuit by Jabouri for slandering his name. In near record time, the Federal Court acquitted Jabouri of any charges on August 9, claiming there was a lack of evidence against him. There was more bad news for Obeidi when on August 24 the Supreme Judicial Council said that it closed the investigation of corruption charges made by the Defense Minister. Obeidi’s accusations made headlines throughout the Iraqi and international press. Many Iraqis’ praised his stance claiming that he was a hero against the corrupt ruling class even though he had been brought in before the legislature to answer questions about illegality going on under him. It didn’t appear he had much to back up his claims though as two courts found he didn’t have any hard facts. His attacks also turned Speaker Jabouri and his Iraqi Islamic Party against the Defense Minister, which would come back on Obeidi.
Events moved quickly and on August 25 parliament held a no confidence vote removing Obeidi from his post. 142 MPs were for removing Obeidi versus 102 against, with the rest abstaining. The move against the Defense Minister was led by Nouri al-Maliki and the anti-Abadi Reform bloc that he is part of. That grouping also includes Iyad Allawi’s Nationalist Coalition, and some Kurdish MPs. Maliki’s faction had been trying to oust Obeidi since 2015 to weaken the prime minister, but was unable to gather enough backing. The Defense Minister accusing Jabouri and Karbuli meant that the Islamic Party and Solution Bloc provided the numbers necessary to remove Obeidi. On the other hand, Osama Nujafi’s Mutahidun, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Ahrar, and Ammar Hakim’s Muwatin were all for retaining the minister. Nujafi and Jabouri have become bitter rivals with the former trying to remove the speaker from office. Sadr and Hakim didn’t want to back any move made by Maliki that might aid his plans to return to power. Those two walked out of parliament on August 23 to block the first attempt to hold the no confidence vote against Obeidi. If the Defense Minister had not gone after Speaker Jabouri he would probably still have his job. Most ministers when appearing before parliament either don’t show up or don’t give any substantive responses, especially when they get accused of corruption. Instead, Obeidi chose to go on the offensive against some of his critics. That backfired. First, Jabouri and company could have very well been involved in all the corrupt deals Obeidi accused them of, but the minister couldn’t get any traction against them in the courts. Second, Maliki had been trying to get rid of Obeidi for almost a year, but got nowhere. Now that the minister had angered the speaker though, he threw his weight behind the no confidence vote and Obeidi was out.
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