Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Additional Ministers Approved for the Iraq Cabinet

Posted by Reidar Visser on Saturday, 18 October 2014 22:02

After a month of wrangling and indecision that extended into the Eid al-Adha holiday, new Iraq Prime Minister Haydar al-Abbadi today succeeded in winning approval for new ministers in his government, including most importantly ministers for defence and interior.

It makes sense to start with the choice of ministers for interior and defence. These important posts were a stumbling block for Maliki’s two cabinets. In 2006, they took  a month extra to decide, whereas in 2010 they weren’t decided by parliament at all, as Maliki continued to control them himself or through acting protegées. This time, the candidate for minister of interior, in particular, had caused controversy. For a long time the frontrunner was Hadi al-Ameri, a militia figure from the Badr organization with particularly close ties to the Iranians, whose candidacy caused uproar among many Sunni MPs who remain critical of his conduct during the previous sectarian crisis period of 2005-2007. Today, Ameri gave way to Muhammad Salim al-Ghabban, who shares his Badr background but possibly is seen as less toxic to non-Shiite MPs simply because he is younger and has less baggage than Ameri. For his part, Khaled al-Obeidi who is the new defence minister, had been a candidate back in 2010 as well, when he was nominated by Iraqiyya but quickly was criticized for having moved too close to Maliki. Maybe that sort of person – a Sunni and former Iraq army officers with ties in both sectarian camps – is the best Iraq could hope for in a time when urgent work needs to be done to reorganize the Iraqi army and make it more resilient against the Islamic State terror organization. Both ministers achieved more than acceptable levels of backing by MPs, with Yes votes from the 261 MPs present reported at 173 (Obeidi) and 197 (Ghabban), which is considerably more than what many other ministers got back in September.

As for the Kurdish ministers, it was probably wise of Abbadi to have them approved before parliament in the same batch as the others. The vote on those ministers include some new portfolios that were not voted on back in September (altogether five: migration, tourism, culture, women, and a minister for state), as well as reshuffling two key portfolios whose allocation to individual Kurdish ministers by Abbadi was not to the liking of the Kurdish political parties themselves: Rosch Shaways thereby continues to serve as deputy prime minister, and foreign minister Hosyar Zebari becomes minister of finance.

The vote in the Iraqi parliament today makes the Abbadi cabinet more complete. It maintains differences from the cabinet of his predecessor Maliki in at least two important structural aspects: It has got security ministries approved by the Iraqi parliament with solid backing, and it remains significantly slimmer, with less than 30 ministers (out of the 9 ministers approved today, 2 referred to the reshuffling of ministries already allocated). Moreover there are few “empty” ministries of state with no other purpose than placating particular party interests. Kurds have improved their representation in the cabinet significantly, and the alignment of personnel to ministries is also more in harmony with the wishes of the Kurdish parties.

It can be said that through these additions, the Iraqi parliament has realistically done what it can in the short term to help the Iraqi cabinet achieve a more solid platform for its battle against ISIS. Major legislative acts such as de-Baathification reform, a senate law, and an oil and gas law, will continue to remain on the agenda for a long time, probably with no realistic prospects for early solution. But it will now be the job of the cabinet and the new security ministers, above all, to lead the Iraqi effort in combating the challenge of the Islamic State on the ground in  Iraq. To the extent that there is a remaining parliamentary role in the short term, it relates to approval of a draft law for so-called “national guard” units that may be formed to supplement the Iraqi army, particularly in Sunni-majority provinces.

8 Responses to “Additional Ministers Approved for the Iraq Cabinet”

  1. Amagi said

    Thanks, as always, Reidar. Beyond their ethnosectarian alignments, what do you think of these new ministers? Are either of them competent?

  2. Don’t have much basis to evaluate their competencies. Obeidi was an officer in the Iraqi army, whereas Ghabban’s experience with security issues is mostly as an opposition fighter… He reportedly took part in the 1991 revolt.

  3. Salah said

    These two ministers are of concerns.
    Although Obeidi from Mousel, from the news Al- Maliki who did hold the files for both minsters and introduce them in the Parliament?
    Reidar you Twitted that Obeidi very close to Al-Maliki, how much he close he is?
    How come he is from different block been closed to Maliki?

    As for Ghabban, many news telling he is one of Iranian’s heart & mind man placed in ministry well to do what Iran loves?

    In the end I don’t see positive signs that Haydar al-Abbadi term will better that Maliki it’s the continues for Maliki’s time not more.

    The line-up presented by the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, is, however, likely to be no more than a temporary administration presenting a superficially common front in the battle against Islamic State (Isis).

    Clouds Over Iraq
    The campaign against Islamic State has to change gear
    Times, Published at 12:01AM, October 20 2014

    بعد يومين من تسنمه .. مطالب دولية بتنحية الغبان عن منصب وزير الداخلية !

  4. Salah, I think it’s fair to see Ghabban gravitated back towards the camp of Usama al-Nujayfi after his flirt with Maliki back in 2011. So what we have is effectively a bit of former cooperation between former Baathists and Iran against ISIS, which is perhaps not the worst constellation imaginable, the several contradictions notwithstanding.

    Abbadi is different from Maliki in at least giving that potential a chance. Worth noting that Nujayfi has lately been very prominent in condemning ISIS, visiting Shia shrine cities etc.

  5. Mary said

    Sorry in advance for the off-topic amateurish question. A professor at school told the class that the Iraqi constitution stipulates that the PM must be Shiite, the President Kurdish and the head of the parliament sunni. I read the constitution and it doesn’t say that anywhere so I was wondering whether it’s more of an unspoken rule, a complementary law or just a product of the Shiite Alliance being the majority. Thanks a lot for your help

  6. Please send my regards to your professor and tell him s/he’s utterly wrong & spreading disinformation about Iraq. (It’s a very common mistake.) There’s no such thing as a sectarian quota distribution formula in the Iraqi constitution or elsewhere in the laws of the country, as you say. It has become something of an unspoken convention post-2005, but it’s not unchallengable. In fact, there have been numerous Shiite Arab candidates for the Iraqi presidency, for example.

  7. Mary said

    Hahah I still want to pass the class so I might not argue that one with him this time. Thanks for clearing that up and for the super fast response. I’ve been reading you posts for a while and they always came quite in useful to understand the situation from a non-american, nor Persian point of view. Regards,

  8. Ali Sh said

    Unfortunately, many Iraqis, including those from the educated class are under the same misunderstanding about the power structure being constitutional.
    What is worse is people’s understanding of “Federalism”; grossly misunderstood and resisted; not to mention oversimplified.
    The government has not done a good job in educating the public about their own constitution. While many of those whom I witnessed, voted on the constitution without really reading it or even have an understanding of its main objectives.

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