Iraq and Gulf Analysis

How to Shrink the Iraqi Government, Consolidate the Cabinet and Make an Informed Decision about the US Military Presence

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 30 June 2011 9:08

The impact of the Arab Spring in Iraq has been comparatively negligible, with one significant exception: the idea of making the Iraqi government smaller is finally gaining some traction. When Adel Abd Al Mahdi resigned as vice president in May, he did so with reference to a growing chorus of dissent from street demonstrators as well as Shiite clergy who demand a smaller and more effective government. Last week, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki also began talking openly about the need for a much smaller government, and a few days ago the Iraqiyya party, too, said demonstrators had made legitimate demands about a government free from honorary positions whose sole purpose was to satisfy ethno-sectarian quotas…

Full story here. The comments/discussion section on this blog, below, is open as usual.

28 Responses to “How to Shrink the Iraqi Government, Consolidate the Cabinet and Make an Informed Decision about the US Military Presence”

  1. amagi said


    Cogent analysis as always. It seems to me marginalizing Sadrist influence in the ministries is something of a pipe dream, so I’m wondering where you find basis for hope. When elements of civil society attempt to organize a protest, they get, perhaps, 500 individuals. When the Sadrists do it, they get 70,000. This, combined with the looming importance of troop withdrawal — seemingly the number one Sadrist concern — suggests that their influence cannot be mitigated any time soon. I wish to remain optimistic (hope springs eternal) and perhaps Maliki will make a gutsy move similar to the one he made in March of 2008, but I fear the timing favors Sadr. Then again, I rarely have any insight into what is going on in Maliki’s mind…

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Amagi, the Sadrists are impressive in the streets but that doesn’t mean that a parliamentary coalition without them is impossible. A shrinking of the government would make it more cohesive at the same time, and could give Maliki back the courage he demonstrated in 2008 by turning against the most radical of “his own Shiites”.

  3. Santana said

    The best scenario of all would be what you suggested – that Maliki ditch the Sadrists and that would then be viewed by Iraqia as a bold and conciliatory gesture that could raise the prospects of SoL and Iraqiya coming together but even so I think the chances are very slim for Maliki doing that that because the Sadrists have terrorists on their payroll and Maliki does fear them, also Maliki is very sectarian and does not want to share power with Allawi cuz by doing so he indirectly gives more power to the Sunnis …..then there are other reasons like Allawi and Maliki’s hatred of each other is very, very deep, Iran’s displeasure with such a move, Maliki’s hidden Sectarian ..etc…….and if Maliki is brave enough to do it then Talabani will try and screw it up cuz Talabani is completely controlled by Qassem Suleimani.

    I think that unless Iranian interference and control of the Iraqi Shiite parties is marginilized then there is no hope for Iraq….we have to fight the disease and not the symptoms- all your suggestions are great Reidar but the root cause of the current mess is still there. Iran will regroup, assasinate whoever went against the grain and we are then back to square one.

  4. Reidar Visser said

    But look Santana, Maliki has done certain things in the past that were not to Tehran’s liking. Such as refusing to join the National Alliance in 2009 and fighting some pro-Iranian groups among the Sadrists. And Shahristani’s plans for expanding the Iraqi oil output will also come in conflict with Iranian aim to keep prices high.

    He can get sectarian when he is pushed into a corner, but I’m not sure that’s unchangeable.

  5. Santana said


    You are almost correct- at least on the history part but….. that was then- this is now…this is not the same Maliki as 2008. Things are much much more serious now- the Syrian regime was not collapsing, Hezbollah was riding the high horse, things were relatively good for Iran and Maliki was not pressured by Iran like they are doing to him now cuz they didn’t really need him then (they didn’t even like him then)…….now there are weekly meetings of Iranian Officials at private residences of Hezb Daawa members ” by the lake” as the State dept calls it….none of that was happening back then…….even the State dept told me over and over that Maliki is not the same Maliki.

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Thanks Santana – appreciated, and worrying, for sure. But there are really only two alternatives: Either you can accept that Maliki is like that and choose to sit and watch things unfold. The current US administration is unlikely to anything dramatic about Iranian influence in Iraq, I mean on the lines of the coup you hinted at the other day. It is simply a castle in the air. The alternative is to work within the current framework and see what happens. As I see it, shrinking the govt is the best course and far better than the strategic policy council which Maliki will never agree to in the shape Allawi wants anyway. And he has the constitution on his side in that respect.

  7. Salah said

    State dept told me over and over that Maliki is not the same Maliki.

    في أغسطس (آب) من عام 2009، وعلى خلفية تفجيرات إرهابية هزت بغداد، طالب رئيس الوزراء العراقي نوري المالكي مجلس الأمن الدولي بالتدخل وتشكيل محكمة جنائية دولية ضد سوريا التي اتهمها بأن لها دورا في تلك التفجيرات..
    ففي 4 سبتمبر (أيلول) 2009، قال المالكي، أمام رؤساء البعثات الدبلوماسية المعتمدين ببغداد، إن الأجهزة الأمنية العراقية رصدت اجتماعا في الزبداني في الثلاثين من يوليو (تموز) من ذلك العام «ضم بعثيين وتكفيريين بحضور رجال مخابرات سوريين». ثم أضاف متسائلا «لماذا الإصرار على إيواء المنظمات المسلحة والمطلوبين للقضاء العراقي والإنتربول على الأراضي السورية؟ ولماذا يسمحون للفضائيات التي تعرض كيفية صناعة القنابل والمتفجرات، وهم لا يسمحون بصوت معارض لهم؟». هذا كلام المالكي عام 2009، أما اليوم فيقول رئيس الوزراء العراقي، الرجل الأكثر شراسة ضد البعثيين، إن «استقرار المنطقة ككل مرتبط باستقرار سوريا وأمنها»، داعيا رجال الأعمال العراقيين للعمل بشكل متكامل مع السوريين!

    Although I do not believe, Maliki vicious against Baathists as his close circle have old regime personal especially those worked with saddam Intelligence.

    Malki he is driven by his domain as most of those who follow their Master Mullah, but they are very well actors and can been hid themselves just as Mullah always.

    Mallik not changed he is using tactics will never been differ, time will tell what these mind have in deep head and what they thinking,.

    Btw, Malik and Khamenei still in same line when it comes to Bahrain Spring isn’t Santana?

    Whatever subject Malik and his cabinet raises it’s just hot air what really need is real commitments to deliver real work that pick the country from its chaos state in matter of corruptions and service and quality of life also jobs and other real matter which most important for a nation under tremendous poverty and suffering. I believe the subjects from 100 days saga to shrink the government who know what next is just wasting time nothing will come out of it and is just keep thing rolling forever.

  8. Santana said

    Thanks Salah,

    Yes- Maliki and Khamenei have the same exact views on Bahrain. and many other regional issues.

    I am very frustrated….I wish there was some sort of a real solution.

  9. Iranian diplomacy is multifaceted and sophisticated, plain talking US diplomacy doesn’t stand a chance. Time for some lateral thinking, the problem of Iraq’s political process cannot be solved head-on.

  10. Santana said

    Here’s another small reason why I have lost all hope regarding Reidar’s well intended suggestions….please watch this video of the attendees in the reception hall of the Prime Minister’s office and I am dying to hear any justification that anyone can come up with as to why he would put Khomeini’s picture up on the wall ???? ……yeah- Maliki is really secular……!!

  11. Reidar Visser said

    Isn’t that Bayan Jabr al-Solagh of ISCI who is his main guest? ISCI/Badr certainly likes to have portraits of Khomeini everywhere. Are we sure that particular sequence of the video is recent? I agree it doesn’t look very good…

  12. Ali Hadi said

    Reider, the clip with the Khomeini photo is from a National Alliance visit to Tehran on 18 October last year. You can see the Iraqi ambassador to Iran sitting furthest on the left hand side.

  13. Reidar Visser said

    Thanks, that would explain things a little better. In that case, the TV report just mixed random clips of Iraqi politicians and it should not be used to reflect today’s mood.

    In my opinion, the delayed appointment of security ministries to a considerable extent reflects internal rivalry in the Shiite bloc. How about the rumours that Maliki is reconsidering Khalid al-Ubaydi – who was once an Iraqiyya candidate but got de-Baathified by Ali al-Lami in one of his final acts in office – as defence minister?

  14. Santana said

    Thanks for the clarification Ali- I was hoping for a logical explanation, I hope you are right.

    Reidar- The Ubaidi thing may actually work….but Iraqiya is still insisting on the Strategic council cuz that would be the real balance and shared power ….besides- everyone agreed to it in Erbil including Maliki- so why is he renegging now?

  15. Mohammed said

    Hi Santana, Faisal, and Reidar:

    I very much agree with Reidar with regards to government shrinking. I anticipate two problems. Sadrists, Kurds, and maybe ISCI will not want to lose control of positions that guarantee them access to money and power. The sadrists in particular can cause lots of problems by blowing things up and having massive demonstrations…in essense they will make life difficult for Maliki if he makes like difficult for them.

    The other problem is that Iraqiya may still demand more security portfollio despite the govt downsizing.
    Iraqiya’s politics baffle me. From everything I see in the press, they seem to equate “power-sharing” with how many security/military resources they can get their hands on. Why are they so obsessed with this? Santana can you please elaborate since you seem to have Allawi’s ear. Am I making an erroneous assumption that by being head of ministry of oil or electricity/industry etc, that you dont have the ability to make a positive impact?

    It is clear that al-Maliki will not share the military/security with anybody other than those he trusts the most. Why can’t Iraqiya just let that go and focus on more important domestic matters?

    Santana, in reply to your post on the previous thread about bad shiite “karma,” I think you are way over-thinking or give too much credit to shiite superstitions being the prime motivator for actions of some people. When I talk to shiite relatives in Baghdad, their main concerns in life are their wealth, security, jobs, electricity, size of their houses, how nice a car they have, healthcare, and who their kids will grow up and marry. Yes they have their silly superstitions, but they are practical people. These same uncles and cousins fought against Iran in the 80s, without worrying about the “curse of abbas.” When I ask them why they fought back then, they say that Saddam had them convinced that Iran was a threat to all the above (i.e. their way of life.)

    Now you ask why don’t they fight against Iran today?

    The big difference is the information age allows people to see and hear things that they couldn’t back then. Shiites in Iraq realize that they are surrounded by sunni countries where shiites are second or third class citizens. Let’s be reasonable here. How do you expect a shiite in Iraq to respond when he sees a clip of a saudi imam calling him a kaafir?

    My same relatives tell me that they hate Iran, but they hate wahabis even more. My cousin was killed right in front of his 6 year old daughter in adhimiya for no reason other than being a shiite. For years they lived side by side with sunni neighbors in peace and happiness, but no longer.

    It’s not about Karma. It’s about who is the biggest threat to my meal ticket? Now Santana, just look at your own comments. You said “I would be dancing in the streets” if there was a military coup. If Iraqiya leaders think like you, then how can you reasonably expect al-Maliki to let them get even close to one armored brigade/division?

    It’s not about karma. It’s about what presents the greater danger? A poster on this website who worked with Iraqiya, named “Observer”, once commented that Saudi Intelligence was just as active in Iraq as the quds brigade. Given that Observer was anti-Maliki and was actually on the ground in Iraq, I have no reason to believe he is lying.

    So are you advocating that shiites expel the iranian influence at the risk of being swarmed by the saudis. It has nothing to do with the curse of abbas, rather they worry about the curse of al-saud.

  16. Reidar Visser said

    Mohammed, the idea is to strengthen the government and hence enable it to deal with any dirty tricks by the Sadrists if they are unhappy with the “loyal opposition” role. I think ISCI has only the transportation ministry as well as a ministry of state for marshes, the latter of which should certainly be part of the environment portfolio.

    I should add that to the best of my knowledge, among the security ministries, Iraqiyya is only asking for defence, which Maliki seems prepared to grant them (most of the time…)

    Santana, to the best of my knowledge, the lowdown of the Arbil agreement is that parliament “will legislate the national security council” or some such. It was silly of Iraqiyya to stop there without hammering out the details, especially since the council is not in the constitution. I warned against that at the time and the danger of lulling the world into a belief that a true power-sharing deal had in fact been reached:

  17. Santana said

    Thanks Mohamed- I agree with what Reidar said and that as far as Security Ministries go- Iraqiya is only asking for Defense and that was agreed upon from the beginning- Maliki is renegging on that as well. You ask why Iraqiya is hanging on to this so staunchly? well- I can ask you the same – why is Maliki hanging on to it like mad???? as far as Saudi involvement in Iraq- I have seen very little compared to the Iranian entrenchment in Iraq- a Saudi presence in Iraq is almost unheard of and they have no plans whatsoever to “swarm Iraq”..LOL !…that’s nuts !- besides the Saudis pretty much do what the U.S tells them…as far as your relatives worrying about their “meal ticket”….well, Iran wants their meal ticket even more- see Iran wants Iraq for hundreds of reasons and milking Iraq is very high up on the list-…and sorry about your relative that was killed in front of his daughter- I can recite incidents where tens of thousands of Sunnis were killed infront of their families just for having the wrong name…so let’s not go there cuz there are butchers on both sides.

    The grip that the sectarian Shiites have in Iraq today is driven by either greed (almost a complete monopoly on Trade) or fervent loyalty to the sect and to Iran, that’s it pure and simple….the Saudi angle is complete BS – I truly hope you don’t actually believe that. The Shiites of Saudi live much better lives than Iraqi Shiites (and Iraqi Sunnis) while Sunnis of Iran live in hell….

  18. Mohammed,
    You are blaming the victim (Iraqiya) when every indication points to Maliki is planning for his party to stay in power forever.
    Here is another example.

  19. Salah said

    Anyway I hope this will be go forward and published, saying one thing to both sides of the argument about Iran and Saudi in regards to Iraq and Iraqis.

    Both regimes have problems which one more depends who is speaking here, But few things here Saudis have more in matter of its involvement with Arab world is first as Islamic centre more that sect centre if we believe are four sect of Islam believe in on prophet and one Ka’aba In Makah.

    Mohammed and his folk claims Saudi regime supported by US, Iran in Iraq also supported by US adding Iran helped US in Afghanistan and Iraq according to Khamenei Public statement.

    Iran regime use its sect/religious more politically motivated to control Millais/group to form stateless scenarios like in Iraq, Lebanon and other parts.

    Finally, Iran, Saudi are not the only players inside Iraq, US , Israel and also Jordan and Turkey and Kuwait.

    When one accusing Iran like Santana, the other one like Mohammed, accusing Saudis both sides are in same position far from the centre.

    There is also shrink but different:
    إتفاقية بين السفارة الأميركية والخارجية العراقية تخص آلية البقاء

  20. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal and Salah, you both quote unnamed sources from a conspiracy-oriented website. Both stories actually suggest that there may be interest in the Maliki camp for cooperating pragmatically with the Americans, especially against the Sadrists, which is precisely what I suggested in my article. To do this, Maliki will need support from Iraqiyya to survive.

    Another potentially interesting issue underway now is the move to sack the elections commission (IHEC). State of Law is spearheading this move, which is understandable since they are poorly represented inside the commission. Iraqiyya should do the same thing, given all their past bitter experiences with IHEC and again they are poorly represented so there should be a motive in that respect too (IHEC is very 2006 in composition, mostly non-Daawa UIA, Kurds & Tawafuq).

  21. Reidar,
    Realistically, the type of insight from article which was signed by their own editor could not be expected to name the sources, and there is nothing in the article that suggests a rapprochement with Iraqiya, yet I agree with you that this is precisely what is required.
    I heard that Wasat Alliance just asked to join Iraqiya, which suggests that the planned shrinking of the government will target both.

  22. Salah said

    “to sack the elections commission (IHEC).”

    Yes, there was a big bit of news but the speaker from Maliki com-forward he is claimed not sacking, Maliki freeze the commission.

    مستشار للمالكي ينفي اصدار الاخير قرارا بإيقاف نشاطات مفوضية الانتخابات
    فى مستشار قانوني لرئيس الوزراء العراقي نوري المالكي، الجمعة، أن يكون الاخير قد أصدر قرارا بإيقاف جميع أنشطة المفوضية العليا المستقلة للانتخابات حتى يعاد النظر بها، مبينا أن المالكي تحفظ على طلب للمفوضية بشأن ايفاد عدد من الضباط في دورة الى اقليم كردستان.

    There was big thing happened before that the resignation of Alhussieni from the commission many related to corruptions done by her while she was long time IHEC speaker although its from Maliki team.

    المفوض حمدية الحسيني

    كد رئيس المفوضية العليا للانتخابات فرج الحيدري ان استقالة عضو- مجلس المفوضين حمدية الحسيني جاءت في وقت حرج حيث ان مجلس النواب
    يعتزم استجواب اعضاء مجلس المفوضين. واوضح الحيدري ل(المواطن) امس ان سبب استقالة عضو مجلس المفوضين حمدية الحسيني هو لسوء وضعها الصحي حسب ادعائها وانها لاتستطيع الاستمرار بالعمل. واضاف الحيدري ليس هناك اي شىء يمنع اي عضو من ان يقدم استقالته مضيفا ان المفوضية رفعت الاستقالة الى مجلس النواب وهو الذي يقرر وهو ايضا يرشح البديلوكانت مصادر مطلعة قد اعلنت ان عضو مجلس المفوضية العليا المستقلة للانتخابات حمدية الحسيني تقدمت بطلب استقالتها من عضوية مجلس المفوضية الذي تشغله منذ عدة سنوات.وقالت المصادر ان طلب استقالة الحسيني جاء بسبب ما وصفتها بالظروف الخاصة واستنادا الى احكام قانون المفوضية المرقم 11 لسنة 2007 واحكام النظام الداخلي».يذكر ان النائبة حنان الفتلاوي عن التحالف الوطني قدمت طلبا الى مجلس النواب موقعا من 107 نواب لطلب استجواب مفوضية الانتخابات على خلفية فساد اداري ومالي.وكانت الحسيني ترأست الادارة الانتخابية في المفوضية كما اشرفت على انتخابات اقليم كردستان وهي عضو في المفوضية السابقة والحالية.
    الكردستاني يرفض الترشيق ويؤيد إقالة غير الكفء
    أضافت أن”مهلة الـ(100)يوم التي حددها رئيس الوزراء لحكومته غير كافية لتقييم اداء الوزير لكي تتم إقالته من منصبه لكن رغم هذا فنحن مع إبعاد الوزراء غير الكفوئين والمهنيين.”
    وأشارت أن” تم أستحداث المناصب أثناء تشكيل الحكومة من أجل ترضية جميع الكتل السياسية، لذلك لايمكن الآن أن يلغوا بعض الوزارات.
    وكان عضو كتلة الاحرار التابعة للتيار الصدري والنائب عن التحالف الوطني علي التميمي كشف عن إستعداد التيار الصدري التنازل عن وزارات الدولة التابعة له، مشيرا إلى أن الترشيق سيشمل وزارات الدولة فقط.
    وقال التميمي في تصريح سابق (للاخبارية):” أن التيار الصدري لديه إستعداد للتنازل على وزارات الدولة التابعة له”، مشيرا إلى أن أغلب الكتل السياسية أتفقت على ترشيق الوزارات.
    وأضاف أن الوزارات السيادية لن يشملها الترشيق لأن التوجه هو ألغاء كل وزارات الدولة لانها متداخله مع بعض الوزارات، مطالبا جميع الكتل السياسية التنازل عن حصتها بوزارات الدولة.

    حمدية الحسيني تواجه ثلاثة ملفات جرمية

    حمدية الحسيني ردا على اتهامات بالتزوير

    الفتلاوي تقدم طلبا للبرلمان من 114 نائبا لسحب الثقة عن مفوضية الانتخابات

  23. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, as mentioned above, there is indeed a move in parliament headed by State of Law to sack the commission, and this is the same development linked to in your story about the 114 deputies above. Hamidiyya al-Husseini used to be considered to be somewhat close to State of Law so with her gone they may have lost some influence in the commission and they will have even more incentives to get rid of it.

    Faisal, I read that Wasat are terrified that their ministers will get axed in any process of making the government smaller, which resonates with what you describe above. There is an interesting headline just out at NINA but the full story isn’t available yet:

    نائبة عن /العراقية/ تدعو الى ان يشمل الترشيق في اجهزة الدولة نواب رئيسي الجمهورية والوزراء

    Suggesting a female Iraqiyya deputy is asking for the process of shrinking of government to include the deputy PMs and the deputy presidents!

  24. Jason said

    Whose side is Jalal Talabani on?

  25. Reidar Visser said

    That is a valid question but note that the Egyptian press is notoriously hopeless in terms of conflating the complexities of Iraqi politics and reducing absolutely everything to a two-way US-Iranian struggle with lots of imaginative ideas about the mechanics at work.

  26. Salah said

    Well, the shrinks means many different things in the end meaningless…….

    قاسم الاعرجي: الترشيق الوزاري يشمل اعطاء حقائب وزارية لنواب رئيس الوزراء اضافة الى مناصبهم

  27. Salah said

    It start become ugly?

    حمدية الحسيني تكشف عن وثائق تدين النائبة حنان الفتلاوي و إخوتها

  28. Salah said

    More on Hanan Al-Fatlawi

    حنان الفتلاوي …

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.