Iraq’s premier designate struggles for approval from the Kurds

Iraq’s Premier designate, Mohamed Tawfiq Allawi, is struggling to gain approval for his cabinet. He claims to be struggling to keep his team independent to satisfy the demands of the demonstrators. Both the Kurds and some of the Sunnis stand against him. Initially he gave parliament a Monday deadline to assemble and approve his team. This has now been extended to Thursday. One close friend of the NCF comments:

How can progress be made in an environment where the real political power is outside the government, not inside, especially when that’s the way folks with real political power like it and want it to remain? They are the chairmen of the board who have power over the company executives they appoint.

Independents like Adil Abdulmahdi cannot do the job expected by the general public. What real power would Kurds have in Baghdad if they do not demand an appropriate share of what is likely to happen – no systemic change, just a change of clothes.

Adil Abdulmahdi had no backing/militia/group support. Sistani who is outside the government called for him to resign and the next day he does. Barham Salih has no real political power, even the few cogs in the government machinery he can turn are dependent on the cogs that are turned by those outside government. The Iraqi parliament is impotent, just another set of cogs in a machine run by outsiders.

Iraq is a failed state. No one I’ve chatted with can see a way out, especially with Iran in real control and having no interest in Iraq becoming the stable and prosperous country it could and should become, and especially with the US trying to squeeze the last drop of toothpaste out of the Iranian tube. Only the Kurds and Sunnis can begin to act independently of that strong dominating force.

What do we have to add to our armchair prognostications other than time – Trump losing the November election, the US conditionally lifting the Trump sanctions on Iran, the US with European backing engaging Iraq politically, diplomatically, and effectively, which at this time I am incapable of imagining.

Last evening, I watched a documentary on Netflix “Sergio” based on Samantha Power’s book that I read about 10 years ago. The situation in Iraq requires a Sergio who can work with ruthless folks to resolve a severely intractable situation. But even a Sergio could be incapable of cutting through such a conundrum. Iraq is where Sergio was killed. The UN is more impotent than ever, look at Syria!

 

So who Created ISIS?

William Morris, the Next Century Foundation’s Secretary General, addressed lecturers at Takrit University in Northern Iraq as a precursor to discussions the subject of which was, at Takrit University’s behest, the role of Iran and America respectively in Iraq. This podcast was made in the aftermath of that meeting and reflects salient points from that discussion. Podcast from NCF Secretary General William Morris on this link

The following observation and associated note for clarification is relevant and comes from our senior member in Iraq, Stafford Clarry:

Following the drone assassination of two top military commanders – one Iranian and the other Iraqi, an Iranian military strike against US military forces in Iraq, and the Iraqi Parliament passing a non-binding resolution for withdrawal of US forces, the US-led coalition and Iraqi military have since resumed joint operations against ISIS. In addition, the US is negotiating to install defensive Patriot missiles in Iraq. Further, the US is urging a review of the SFA.

To clarify:

In 2008, the US and Iraq entered into two binding agreements.

  • One, the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA), covered the overall political, economic, and security relationship.
  • The other, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), required all US combat forces to withdraw from major populated areas by end-June 2009 and for all US forces to withdraw from Iraq by end-December 2011.

These binding agreements were decided and signed during the White House administration of President George W. Bush. They were publicly endorsed by both Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani and US President George W. Bush in December 2008 in Baghdad.

Thus, contrary to misinformation, President Obana DID NOT decide to withdraw US forces from Iraq. In 2014, in reaction to the ISIS onslaught, however, upon the invitation of the Iraqi government, President Obama DID decide to send US combat forces back into Iraq.

President Obama used the 2001 Authority for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaeda and other associate militant groups that was passed by the US Congress on 14 September 2001 and signed into law by President George W. Bush on 18 September 2001.

 

Former US presidential envoy speaks candidly about Iraq and Iran

Brett McGurk, a senior national security adviser to three presidents, left the Trump Administration after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Our Senior NCF member in Iraq, Stafford Clarry, shared this fascinating insight from Andrew Dyer of the San Diego Union Tribune datelined Jan. 23. It is of particular interest because the NCF is partnering with Takrit University’s Department of Peace Studies and for our first guest lecture, this Thursday, they have asked us to talk to students on the involvement of the USA and Iran in Iraq. For the original text see this link:
https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/military/story/2020-01-23/former-presidential-envoy-to-defeat-isis-coalition-talks-about-iraq-iran-conflict-at-sdsu

SAN DIEGO — A former national security advisor under three presidents, including President Donald Trump, described the administration’s current Middle East policy as “aimless” and flawed during a recent talk at San Diego State University.

Brett McGurk, who resigned in December 2018 as special presidential envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS, described his experiences in the region, from when he first arrived as an adviser to the early Iraq provisional government, set up under then-President George W. Bush, until he left shortly after Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned and Trump ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Syria.

McGurk said during his talk that Trump’s decisions in the Middle East over the last three years — such as pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, pulling U.S. forces out of Syria and assassinating Iran’s top general — were indicative of a poorly thought-out strategy.

“I just don’t think the Trump Administration has thought this through,” he said.
McGurk said that withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal has resulted in a series of consequences that effectively leaves the U.S. in a “strategic trap” with Iran.

“(The Iran deal) was an arms control deal — it wasn’t designed to change the Middle East,” McGurk said. “It was designed to put this horrible problem at least on the back burner (so) we can deal with other things in other ways, and that makes strategic sense.”

Trump criticized the international deal, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for certain limits on the country’s nuclear program, during his 2016 campaign. In May 2018, Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the deal and reimposed sanctions on the country.

In 2019 Iran-backed militias in Iraq, which had been U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS, began targeting U.S. facilities in the country. In December, the U.S. struck back at some of those militias in Iraq and Syria with airstrikes.

In retaliation, militia supporters broke into and set fire to part of the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad, leading to Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a January drone strike.
Days later, Iran launched missiles at two Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops and, during the strikes, also shot down a Ukrainian airliner after it took off in Iran, killing all 176 people aboard.

Trump then announced new sanctions on Iran. Sanctions aren’t the solution, McGurk said.

“(The Trump Administration) thinks sanctions will fundamentally change Iran’s behavior, but there’s no evidence of that at all,” McGurk said.
“It makes their behavior worse. Everything is going the wrong way.”

Another consequence of the Soleimani strike — which occurred at the Baghdad airport — was a vote in Iraq’s parliament to kick the U.S. out of the country.

While McGurk said he felt a sense of justice in Soleimani’s death, “elementary errors” by the Pentagon in the immediate aftermath — such as the drafting of a letter announcing the U.S. would comply with the country’s parliament and withdraw entirely from Iraq — did not paint the U.S. in the best light in the region and among our allies, he said.

“It makes people think we don’t know what we’re doing,” McGurk said.

The talk at SDSU, which was hosted by the nonpartisan nonprofit San Diego Diplomacy Council and the university’s Fowler School of Business, attracted more than 120 people. McGurk took questions from attendees about a broad array of U.S. policies in the Middle East — especially on the fight against ISIS.

McGurk addressed the controversial decision by Obama not to order air strikes in Syria after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was credibly accused of using chemical weapons in 2013. Obama was on record as saying the use of such weapons was a “red line” Assad could not cross.

McGurk said he didn’t think U.S. airstrikes would have been effective in that instance. He cited strikes ordered by Trump in response to more chemical weapons use by Syria in 2018.

“I am skeptical of the view that had Obama enforced the red line, that that would have been the end of Assad,” McGurk said. “Trump has done two series of air strikes against the Assad regime after the use of chemical weapons, and it made no strategic difference in the conflict at all.”

After his talk, McGurk spoke with the Union-Tribune about why it’s important for the U.S. to maintain a presence in Iraq and Syria, because of potential Russian involvement there.

“We built a force of 60,000 Syrians, and it gave us some leverage against Russia, and President Trump gave it up overnight,” he said.
“I thought that was a big disaster. But if we can’t stay in Iraq, then we also can’t stay in that chunk of Syria we’re still in…. The vacuum will be filled by ISIS and by Iranian-backed militias. And the great power that will come in to fill our space is Russia. So we need to stay. “

McGurk currently serves as the Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford University.

 

Stumbling toward war: Why?

The following sequence of events was recorded by Stafford Clarry, one of our senior members in Iraq. He covers most everything in his list, except the key rocket strike on the Saudi oil field on September 14th, which, though never publicly admitted, was, we are led to believe, launched from Iraq by an Iran backed militia group.

Recent militaristic events in Iraq and Iran clearly demonstrate how situations can rapidly go out of control to a point verging on another war with devastating consequences on all sides and beyond.

In Iraq, most everyone has suffered through a lifetime of conflict – battles and bombings during the 1960s and 1970s; chemical weapon attacks, disappearances, community destruction, political detention, torture, and forced dislocation during the 1980s; effects of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran War and the 1961 Gulf war; 13 years of severe economic sanctions (1990-2003); the 2003 war followed by vicious sectarian conflict; the 2014-2018 ISIS war with its savagery; and even more violence in between.

At the country level, those who are more inclined to wage war (the hawks) tend to treat the land and its leadership as essentially separate from the countless families who want what families everywhere want: the opportunity to live peaceful and prosperous lives.

Keeping in mind there are no winners in war, and notably keeping in mind the purposes/intentions of the Vietnam and 2003 Iraq wars, let’s help ourselves get a better grip on what’s been recently happening in Iraq and Iran, its consequences and impact. We are where we are, but it could be much worse.

Discussions continue about the how, why, short-term consequences, and long-term impact of recent incidents. It begins with the JCPOA (nuclear agreement). Very briefly, here’s the sequence of relevant main events:

14 Jul 2015

  • JCPOA agreed, negotiated by six leading countries (P5+1/EU3+3) against one country (Iran) to halt Iran’s movement toward developing nuclear weapons. UN and EU sanctions were terminated/suspended. US sanctions for human rights abuses, missiles, and support for terrorism remain in operation.

8 May 2018

  • Unilateral US withdrawal from JCPOA.

4 Nov 2018

  • Unilateral re-imposition of severe pre-JCPOA sanctions.

27 Dec 2019

  • Rocket attack on K-1 Iraqi military base near Kirkuk (Iraq) where US military personnel were located, with casualties, one fatal. This followed earlier attacks on various locations that occurred without casualties.

29 Dec 2019

  • Airstrikes on five Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) sites in Iraq and Syria. PMF are independently formed and operated (private) militia groups that are included as official security forces of the Iraqi government, which funds and provides weaponry, including equipment received from the US-led international coalition against ISIS. Some PMF units are also backed and perhaps supervised/directed by Iran.

31 Dec 2019

  • US Embassy in Baghdad attacked by PMF supporters/sympathizers. No casualties.

3 Jan 2020

  • Suleimani (Iranian) and Muhandis (Iraqi), both senior government officials, assassinated.

8 Jan 2020

 

Iraq para military in Anbar hit by unidentified aircraft

There are stories of another “anonymous” strike in Iraq in Anbar province on “Iran backed” militia – In other words one of Iraq’s para military units. This follows a recent alleged similar attack (though as yet unconfirmed) near the Iraq border in Eastern Syria – allegedly by Saudi warplanes. Meanwhile speculation continues that the missile strikes on Saudi originated in Iraq. See NCF Secretary General’s comment on Hala London Radio:
Also see this from a senior NCF member in Iraq who comments on the missile strikes on Saudi:
The NYT, WaPo, and WSJ, among others, with all their investigative talents and skills, and with all their credible contacts in the US Government, have yet to confirm the launch sites.  This is, indeed, most amazing. This strongly suggests they may very well know, but for some reason(s) they choose not to publish it. At the same time, none of the powers that be, nor the credible main stream media, as far as I’ve seen, are pointing fingers toward Iran as the launch site.
The public view seems to be swinging back toward Iraq, despite Zarif’s clear denial. Only Middle East Eye (MEE) has reported, as I’ve seen so far, the launch site(s) as being from Iraq. <https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-iranian-drones-launched-iraq-carried-out-attacks-saudi-oil-plants>  It’s curiously interesting that NYT, WaPo, and WSJ, and others of the “free” press, apparently, have not picked up on this and taken it further.
The Haaretz article that is one of the sources of news of the latest attack is below. Please note however that Iraq’s PMU have denied as of today that this attack ever took place. They also denied that the attack by alleged Saudi warplanes last week took place:

Unidentified aircraft strikes base of Iran-backed militia in Iraq

An unidentified aircraft struck on Sunday a military base near an airfield west of Iraq’s Anbar province, Lebanese television network Al-Mayadeen quoted Iraqi sources as saying.

The sources added that the military base serves an Iranian-backed militia. No casualties were reported in the alleged strike.

On Wednesday evening, drones attacked a company of Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces fighters in Syria near the border with Iraq, Iraqi sources as saying.

Sky News in Arabic cited an Iraqi security source as saying that five people were killed in the attack, and nine more were wounded.

The attack targeted militias that were operating near the Syrian city of Al Bukamal, the source said.

Following the attack, the troops dispersed to avoid further assaults on them, the source added; they also moved ammunition to hidden places to make it more difficult to strike them from the air.

This is the third time in two weeks that sites run by Shi’ite militias are attacked in this area. Last Monday, there were reports in Iraq of a strike on weapon storage facilities run by militias affiliated with Iran. Iraq’s Afaq TV attributed the attack to Israel, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 10 Iran-backed fighters died.

Recently, Israel has been accused of carrying out a series of strikes in Iraq — some of them in the country’s west, near the Syrian border. The strikes targeted Iran-backed, Shi’ite militias and its convoys that were smuggling weapons into the area. While Israel did not confirm it carried out the strikes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted on several occasions that he Israel will not hesitate to extend the borders of the fight against Iran.

 

 

So who was it?

The word is quietly awash with conspiracy theories.

But what is the truth? Hard to know but this is a series of Hala London Radio broadcasts from NCF Secretary General William Morris on some of the issues. The conclusions reached do not represent the view of the Next Century Foundation or its trustees. If you do not wish to listen to the background the third in the series stands alone adequately and covers the main points:

On Kuwait

https://www.buzzsprout.com/529801/1735933-untitled-episode

 

Background

https://www.buzzsprout.com/529801/1736191-untitled-episode

 

So who did it?

https://www.buzzsprout.com/529801/1736134-untitled-episode

On minorities in Iraq – and what we should do

This first broadcast in a series of three on minorities in Iraq was prepared as a radio broadcast for the Hala London radio station. It is on the Yezidis. William Morris talks on Hala London radio with Mizgîn Êzîdî on Yezidi religious beliefs – click on this link:

Yezidi Religion

This second is a video in the series and is on Christians in Iraq:

Finally this third broadcast is on the Western response:

A Statement from the new Premier of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Masrour Barzani, the new prime minister of the Kurdistan region of Iraq (pictured left above with the Baghdad government’s premier Adel Abdul Mahdi), has just sent us the following statement which was carried as an opinion article in the Washington Post:

After 16 years of upheaval in Iraq and five brutal years of war with the Islamic State terrorist group, a foe that imperiled all of humanity, we are embarking on a new journey toward building a stronger Kurdistan. The next four years will be a defining time for us, our neighbors and our allies in which we, the Kurdistan Regional Government, look past our recent traumas, consolidate our place in the region and secure a presence on the international stage. In short, we want to make a new start.
 
Last week, I formed a government to lead the Kurdistan region of Iraq. My mission is to change the way we do things, both at home and abroad. As prime minister, I will offer a different way of doing business that feeds off the challenges we’ve endured, builds on our achievements and responds to an evolving global dynamic.
 
The fight against the Islamic State, which we helped lead on behalf of the global community, has damaged us economically. The burden has become intolerable. The cost of war, federal budget cuts by the government in Baghdad and the mass movement of refugees to our lands has left us with billions of dollars in debt.
 
Throughout our hardships, we have remained a friend and ally of the West and a partner in the region. Since the Islamic State took over much of western Iraq and eastern Syria in mid-2014, we have shown that our fight against the terrorists was as much about protecting our allies as it was about safeguarding ourselves.
 
We have provided intelligence that has foiled terrorist attacks abroad and offered refuge to almost 2 million people fleeing persecution. We have clearly demonstrated our good faith as global citizens, sheltering Arabs, Kurds, Muslims, Yazidis, Christians, Turkmen and others. Ten kilometers from our parliament building is a thriving community of Christians, from all parts of the Middle East, who are building churches and worshiping in peace.
 
The cost of other refugees, however, is increasing and remains only partly funded. We cannot perform our role as hosts alone. We need to secure a future for the displaced and for ourselves, and we seek the help of our friends in the West in several ways.
 
Our challenges begin inside Iraqi Kurdistan, which has been our homeland throughout the ages. As prime minister, I will implement reforms that will adopt global best practices and bring accountability to all arms of our civil service and cabinet.
 
My government will create a diversified economy that delivers growing prosperity for all. We will enact legislation to make Kurdistan a welcoming and attractive location for investors. We will integrate and modernize our armed forces. And we will transform public services and tackle corruption to ensure that government serves the people, not the other way around. Engaging us politically and financially will be essential to this transformation, and I call on our friends to do so.
 
I will also take steps to reset the relationship between Irbil and Baghdad, which has remained fraught for the past 16 years. For most of that time we have essentially governed ourselves, though without breaking our tie with Iraq.
 
By agreement, we have received a quota of the Iraqi budget. But the allocations are rarely delivered in full. It is time for a more constructive and stable partnership with Baghdad. This week I made my first visit as prime minister to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, taking with me proposals to settle the disputes between us over oil, territory, budgets and the role of our armed forces. I want to ensure that our agreements are honored through a fair distribution of budget proceeds. A resolution would offer the bedrock for future cooperation. Our future is wedded to a secure and democratic Iraq.
 
In 2017, Iraqi Kurdistan held a referendum on independence. The ballot was nonbinding, but an overwhelming 93 percent of people voted in favor. While we would have welcomed greater support from the international community for our right to self-determination, our priority now is to create a strong, stable Kurdistan region anchored within the international community. We ask those whom we helped protect to acknowledge the constructive global role we have played by helping us build our economy.
 
Over many generations of conflict, every family in Iraqi Kurdistan has suffered a personal loss. We can no longer relinquish solidarity, or squander the sacrifices made by so many, through returning to the squabbling that plagued relationships between parties and neighbors.
 
We have many friends in the international community who wish us well, but it is time to do more. We reaffirm our role as honest brokers trusted by all. We do this through the prism of true friendship, having displayed our steadfast support for the interests of our allies, including the United States, and a commitment to democratic values. We need our friends to help us start again.

Nechirvan takes the Crown in the KRG

Here at the NCF we are thrilled at the election of our old friend HE Nechirvan Barzani to be the next President of the Kurdistan Region.

Under his leadership as Prime Minister, Kurdistan weathered extraordinarily difficult times: a war against ISIS, an enormous and complex humanitarian crisis, and an economic crisis brought on by a precipitous crash in oil prices and an unfortunately timed referendum on independence that also resulted in the loss of much of the disputed territories including Kirkuk. Despite long odds in the past five years, under his leadership Kurdistan survived and is setting the stage for a renewed period of peace and prosperity.

Prime Minister Barzani will be inaugurated as President on June 10 in Erbil. His first order of business will be to designate a Prime Minister to form a government. Already, there is much excitement about the prospects and priorities in the new government. The expected Premier is likely to be the outgoing President’s son, Masrour Barzani, the current Chancellor of the KRG.

This move forward would not have been possible but for an alliance between the old established Barzani party, the KDP, and the new reformist anti-corruption party, Goran. But it comes at a price. The party left out in the cold is the PUK, a party traditionally associated with East Kurdistan and the Talabani family. See the following from Iraq Oil Report:

Kurdistan begins government formation despite unresolved divisions

The KRG Parliament elected Nechirvan Barzani president, as the rival PUK party boycotted and questioned his “political legitimacy.”

By  of 
 
ERBIL – Nechirvan Barzani was elected president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region on Tuesday, despite the potentially destabilizing breakdown of a political deal between his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and its most powerful rival.
 
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which effectively rules the eastern half of the region, boycotted the Parliament session in which Barzani was elected, and accused the KDP of failing to honor an agreement that had been negotiated over more than half a year.
 
“The election of Kurdistan’s president without the vote of PUK MPs raises concerns about the decision-making process and political legitimacy,” the PUK politburo said in a Tuesday statement. “Whatever the consequences of these unrealistic politics, it will not be the responsibility of PUK; it will be the other side’s responsibility.”
 
Barzani, who is currently the prime minister, is expected to name his cousin, Masrur Barzani – currently the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) security chief, and son of former KRG President Massoud Barzani – to be the next prime minister, and task him with forming a government after the Eid holiday.
The KDP and PUK have faced a political quandary ever since the KDP won a lopsided victory in regional elections eight months ago. While the KDP had enough seats in Parliament to lead the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) without the PUK, both parties have viewed such a scenario as a threat to the region’s stability.
 
Despite the KRG’s aspirations toward democracy, the KDP and PUK exercise command over their own security forces and split de facto control over the western and eastern halves of Iraqi Kurdistan, respectively – a legacy of a decades-long rivalry between the parties, which fought a civil war in the 1990s. 
If the PUK were excluded from a new government in Erbil, leaders in both parties worry it would push the KRG back toward the days of “dual administration” over Kurdistan. That, in turn, would weaken the regional government, which has functioned as a vehicle for inter-party coordination on key issues related to the oil sector, the economy, and relations with Baghdad.
 
In an effort to forge some unity, the parties have been negotiating a deal that attempts to give the PUK enough political incentive to join a KDP-led government while also ensuring the KDP a level of political dominance reflecting its election victory. 
The parties recently appeared to reach an agreement under which the PUK would support Nechirvan and Masrur Barzani, and the KDP would help its rival regain the governorship of Kirkuk, a position now held by Rakan al-Jiburi, the first Arab governor of Kirkuk since 2003. 
But those negotiations have also been complicated by internal divisions within the PUK. 
It appeared the two sides had achieved a breakthrough, when one senior PUK leader, Kosrat Rasul, agreed on a short list of three prospective candidates for Kirkuk governor with Massoud Barzani, the former president, who still wields power as the head of the KDP. But other leaders within the PUK did not agree on the candidates, leading the party to insist the KDP essentially write a blank check to support any PUK nominee – a proposal the KDP has consistently rejected.
 
Following the apparent agreement between Rasul and Massoud Barzani, however, Parliament was already mobilized to elect Barzani; at the same time, the PUK was reverting back to its hard-line position. KDP members of the regional Parliament claimed they did not know the PUK was boycotting until just before the vote.
 
“The PUK informed us about its boycott just a few minutes before the session,” said Umed Khoshnaw, head of the KDP’s bloc in the Kurdistan Parliament, in a press conference Tuesday. “We are concerned about this issue. If we had wanted to elect the president of Kurdistan without PUK, we could have done it six months ago.”
 
PUK leaders say the KDP is responsible for the breakdown of their agreement.
 
“We boycotted the session because the KDP has not taken any practical step toward honoring our agreement,” said Shamol Sabir, a PUK member of the Kurdistan Parliament.
 
Nechirvan Barzani received 68 votes, including 45 from the KDP and 12 from Gorran, a party that was originally formed as an offshoot of the PUK and competes for votes in much of the same territory. The PUK’s 21 MPs, as well as eight MPs belonging to the New Generation party, did not attend the session.

Spring is Sprung in Iraqi Kurdistan

The NCF’s longstanding member and friend from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Stafford Clarry, sends these pictures of the mountains in Spring. He writes: It’s as green as it gets. Snow is still deep. Always welcoming. The best part of Kurdistan is out there, friendly and easily accessible. Why waste time indoors?

Spring in Kurdistan
All in a leisurely day’s drive up the Hamilton Road.

Iraq’s New Prime Minister Struggles to complete formation of his Cabinet

The Prime Minister of Iraq, Adel Abdul Mahdi was sworn in on 24 October. This came after months of political indecision and the largest protests Iraq has seen in a decade. To restate the current position: Adel Abdul Mahdi fills the position of Prime Minister, whilst Barham Salih holds the presidency and Mohamed al-Halbousi, the role of speaker. Since 2003, these positions have been held by a Shia, a Kurd and a Sunni respectively. The Prime Minister’s first task was to select the heads of 22 ministries. On 24th October, 14 of these were given the vote of confidence by parliament. However, eight remain to be appointed.

Who is the New Prime Minister?

Like the President and Speaker, Abdul Mahdi is a well respected politician. At 76, he has a lot of experience in Iraqi politics; formerly holding the roles of Minister of Finance and Minister of Oil.  He is also a relatively independent candidate. Not having a particularly strong social base, may weaken Abdul Mahdi’s power in the role. Although, Iraq needs a capable and independent leader who can unite the country internally whilst juggling the opposing needs of the US and Iran.

Who has been appointed? Which positions are left to go?

The 14 ministers given the vote of confidence were:

  1. Minister of Agriculture: Saleh al-Hassani
  2. Minister of Communication: Naim al-Rubaye
  3. Minister of Electricity: Luay al-Khatteeb
  4. Minister of Finance: Fuad Hussein
  5. Minister of Foreign Affairs: Mohammed Ali al-Hakeem
  6. Minister of Health: Alaa al-Alwani
  7. Minister of Housing and Reconstruction: Bangin Rekani
  8. Minister of Industry: Salih Abdullah Jabouri
  9. Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: Bassem al-Rubaye
  10. Minister of Oil: Thamir Ghadhban
  11. Minister of Trade: Mohammed Hashim
  12. Minister of Transport: Abdullah Luaibi
  13. Minister of Water Resources: Jamal al-Adili
  14. Minister of Youth and Sports: Ahmed Riyadh

There were some major criticisms of the new cabinet from different groups. These include, for example, the absence of Turkman and female representation. Parliament will reconvene at a later date to vote for the eight unappointed positions. These include the key roles of Minister of Defence and Minister of the Interior, both of which will be filled by Abdul-Mahdi until they are decided. Those appointed thus far arguably indicate a weakening of Barzani’s influence and a shift towards Iran plus of course a strengthening of the influence of Muqtada Al-Sadr. It also is a reminder if one were needed that the Dawa Party is at a crossroads and must now reform or collapse. That said, the Ministers of Electricity and Oil are decent dependable people and this new government should be given a chance.

What Next for Iraq?

The recent developments have signalled a major step forward, in a country marred by political turmoil since it’s elections in May. However, there is still a lot to be done to solve Iraq’s corruption, unemployment and public utility problems.

The first step to solving these will be to finalise the remaining cabinet positions.