Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for January 17th, 2011

Parliament Agrees on Committees, But Not on Their Leaders

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 17 January 2011 16:11

The Iraqi parliament today decided the membership of 26 parliamentary committees. Except that due to disagreements among party leaders they could not decide on who should head the committees, meaning they will probably remain inoperative or at least unable to make major decisions for yet some time. So on top of the partial government without security ministries, vice presidents that aren’t really vice presidents, and a parliament without updated bylaws and with a handful of deputies that clearly violate the constitutional requirements, we today get two dozen headless committees. Bravo!

As for the composition of the committees, a few tendencies can be glanced from the lists of members. For example, there is a clear distinction between prestigious committees and the less sought-after ones. Almost all the frontbench politicians have chosen the committees for foreign affairs, security and defence, legal affairs, integrity, finance, and oil, though with some interesting variations between the parties in terms of how they have staked their bets.

The foreign affairs committee in particular includes several high-ranking individuals, with Sadiq al-Rikabi, Sami al-Askari and Yasin Majid from State of Law listed alongside Khudayr al-Khuzai, tipped as a possible vice president. Humam Hammudi of ISCI is also in this committee and has been rumoured as a possible committee head; however whether he will get this position probably depends on whether ISCI definitively chooses to define itself as part of the all-Shiite National Alliance after all. From Iraqiyya, Salman al-Jamili and Arkan Arshad are the most prominent members.

State of Law has also deputised key party members to the security and defence committee, including Hasan al-Sunayd, Abbas al-Bayati and Adnan al-Shahmani. Ammar Tuma from Fadila and Hakim al-Zamili, a Sadrist, complete the National Alliance contingent in this committee. Iraqiyya has got people like Hamid al-Mutlak, Falah Zaydan and Iskandar Witwit, himself a former army commander.

The legal committee is arguably the most important one since it does the final checking of key legislation, and there are reports that the battle for its leadership – between Iraqiyya and the Kurds – has been particularly intense and one of the reasons for the delay of settling the question of the committee heads. Amir al-Kinani, a Sadrist, and Jaafar al-Sadr, the son of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, represent the National Alliance, whereas Iraqiyya have included people with Kirkuk connections like Umar al-Jibburi and Arshad al-Salihi in this key committee. They will probably be closely watched by some of the most prominent Kurdish politicians that have also been given membership, like Khalid Shwani, Muhsin al-Saadun and Latif Mustafa.

The composition of the integrity commission does not bode particularly well for those looking for a quiet shelving of the de-Baathification question (though there appears to be no de-Baathification committee as such). No prizes for getting that the Sadrist Bahaa al-Aaraji is on it, alongside other vocal National Alliance politicians like Kamal al-Saadi of the Daawa, Jaafar al-Musawi (Fadila) and Hussein al-Assadi from Basra. Sabah al-Saadi, an increasingly outspoken politician who used to be with Fadila but is now independent, managed to secure re-election to this committee (he famously tried to scotch the formation of Nuri al-Maliki’s second government in December 2010 on procedural grounds).

The finance committee includes Haydar al-Abbadi, a prominent Daawa candidate who was once considered a potential PM, and Ibrahim al-Mutlak, the brother of the new deputy PM from Iraqiyya. Jawad al-Bulani is also there, but like Salim al-Jibburi from Tawafuq who is represented on several committees, he is likely to lose his seat when the federal supreme court rules on the replacement of parliamentary deputies who became ministers.

Education and higher education have also attracted some top politicians, especially from the National Alliance and ISCI (Khalid Atiyya, Maha al-Duri, a prominent female Sadrist, Walid al-Hilli of the Daawa and previously a candidate to head the de-Baathification committee, and Aziz Alwan, the former ISCI governor of Dhi Qar). One can perhaps understand that Iraqiyya does not pay so much attention to the education committee since it controls the ministry; however when it comes to the oil committee the absence of prominent Iraqiyya deputies is somewhat more remarkable. The National Alliance has appropriately sent three representatives from Basra to this committee, although they are all less than 35 years of age, with ties to Fadila, Daawa/Tanzim al-Iraq and the Sadrists respectively. Furat al-Sharaa of Badr/ISCI is also from Basra. On the other hand, Iraqiyya has only got Adnan al-Jannabi, a veteran politician from central Iraq, and less known politicians from Diyala and Mosul. How much more important this committee potentially is than the elusive strategic think tank!

The remainder of the committees are of less significance. Some of the people named there are clearly waiting for other, mostly vice-presidential jobs, including Adil Abd al-Mahdi for cultural affairs and Tariq al-Hashemi for migration affairs (their inclusion proves that they are not vice presidents, as argued here earlier), and Ayad Allawi himself (also on the migration affairs committee). The tribal committee has attracted Muhammad al-Sayhud of the National Alliance from Maysan and Hussein al-Shaalan, a veteran Iraqiyya politician from the mid-Euphrates region; Nuri al-Maliki’s recently-confirmed replacement deputy, the secular (ex-Iraqiyya) Izzat al-Shabandar is on the committee for parliamentary affairs; Adnan al-Asadi, thought by some to be the interior minister in waiting is on the national reconciliation committee; Ali al-Allaq and Muhammad Mahdi al-Nasiri of the Daawa are on the religious affairs committee, Mahmud Uthman, a prominent Kurdish politician, is on the committee for regional and governorate affairs; Abd al-Hussein Abtan, ex-governor of Najaf for ISCI is on the separate economic and investment committee; Haydar al-Mulla of Iraqiyya is on the human rights committee.

The parliamentary session appropriately ended with reference to another lacuna in the  new Iraqi political system: A discussion on the need to hold local elections at the sub-governorate level, where no comprehensive, standardised elections have taken place yet in the post-2003 era.

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