Iraq and Gulf Analysis

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.

10 Responses to “Parliament Agrees on Committees, But Not on Their Leaders”

  1. Al-Saffar said

    Thanks for the updates Reidar, useful as ever. It’s a crying shame that Hakim al-Zamili has been appointed in the security and defence committee, it was him and his militiamen that were responsible for the deaths of so many in 2005-07, including the director general of health in Diyala, Ali al-Mahdawi, Moayyad Yahya Hamoodi (specialist at Imam Ali hospital), Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud (MoH), Hassan Ibrahim (forensic medicines department), Malik Sharif, and Mizhir Jawad Hassan, and Ziyad Aziz Sabi’ and Ammar Al-Saffar (deputy minister of health).

    You can find more on him here:

  2. Thaqalain said

    Is Jaafar al Sadr real brother of Moqtada? How old is he?

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Al-Saffar, I share your concerns, I guess the apparent rehabilitation of Zamili could be part of the Sadr-Maliki deal.

    Thaqalain, Muqtada is the son of Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (Sadr II, killed in 1999) not of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (Sadr I, killed in 1980). To the best of my knowledge Jaafar is in his thirties and he may be the sole surviving son of Muhammad Baqir.

  4. Alan said

    Reidar – steady, you mention “Khudayr al-Khuzai, tipped as a possible vice president” as though you thought it meant something …

  5. Reidar Visser said

    Haha, Alan you’re right. But I’ll dutifully report the vice-presidential race until the bitter end, even though it means nothing. The fact that some think something so unsignificant actually means something is of course an interesting testament to the state of affairs of Iraqi politics.

    By the way, it is interesting that Khuzai was given a seat on the prestigious foreign committee whereas Abd al-Mahdi, Hashimi and Allawi were all given second-tier committees. Maybe that means Khuzai will stay in parliament after all, giving way to a Turkmen or something.

  6. Salah said

    I guess the apparent rehabilitation of Zamili

    Reidar, if what it said about him right them why we see (reading some of sympathizers here)when it comes to same criminal acts by those old regime folk can not stand to rehabilitation?

  7. Kjetting said

    I am curious why so many heavy weights have chosen the Foregin Affairs committee. While this is prestigious in most countries, it is also the committee least likely to influence anything in a country like Iraq where most of the challenges are internal to the country.

    As for the Oil committee, the rumour is that Adnan al-Jannabi will head it. It seems like the Kurds are drawing the short end of the stick in relation to most of the committees and that Maliki is in an even better position to have his promises to the Kurds obstructed in various committees after these appointments?

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, the whole problem of reconciliation and dealing with the past in Iraq is that everything is done ad hoc instead of in a systematic and legally consistent manner. It should be added that Iraqiyya, too, is performing great disservice in this regard by focusing on exhonerating privileged individuals (Mutlak, Karbuli, Ani etc.) instead of bringing about a systematic overhaul of the system.

    Kjetting, the foreign committee gets to travel a lot! I suppose it has a certain vice-presidential component to it in that regard… Kurdish representation on the legal committee is solid, and Shwani in particular is known to take a hawkish position on issues that mean a lot to the Kurds (as he is already doing on the budget). I’m surprised at the flimsy Kurdish representation on the oil committee, though. The KDP guy is just 35 years old, and the two others are from the PUK and Gorran which are both known to have issues with the Barzani/Hawrami oil policy.

  9. Jason said

    Kjetting, I suspect that foreign affairs is going to be much more important than perhaps anyone anticipates, given Iraq’s proximity to Iran and Saudi Arabia. Of course, those countries may already be interfering by offering financial incentives to Iraqis in those posts!

  10. Kjetting said


    I guess, if you are the leader of that committee, it gives you a certain access in other countries. Otherwise, in most parlimentary systems the PM and FM will call the shots. To me, even in Iraq, such a committee gives more stature then power.

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