Sunni-Shiite dispute to delay appointment of Iraq ministers

Due to disputes between the major Sunni and Shiite parties and blocs, the Iraqi parliament will not be able to vote in a full slate of ministers in Tuesday’s scheduled session. The top jobs at the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior in particular have caused ruptures.

The media bureau of the Iraqi parliament has published the agenda of Tuesday’s session, scheduled to begin at 1300 local time. Top on the agenda are the swearing in of some MPs, appeals against the membership of some MPs, the 2019 budget bill, the formation of the permanent parliamentary committee, and the death of the fish. It does not include voting on ministries.

On October 24, 14 ministries of the Iraqi government were voted on and sworn in, leaving eight ministries vacant, including the critical ministries of defense and interior.

“The talks are continuous to complete the ministerial formation next Tuesday. I believe most of the ministries, not all, will be passed. We have three days to reach an understanding,” Ahmed Assady, spokesperson for the Fatih alliance, told Rudaw.

Fatih is insisted on its candidate, Falih Fayadh, for the Ministry of Interior and is trying to convince the Sayirun alliance to accept him.

Fayadh was head of Iraq’s Homeland Security, Hashd al-Shaabi Commission, and a National Security advisor in the previous government before he was ousted by former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for politicizing his post.

“With regards to the security ministries, we insist on managing them far from party grips or divisions, for them to be headed by independent, competent individuals. This is our vision, and we insist on it,” Jassim Halfi, spokesperson for Sayirun, told Rudaw.

Muqtada al-Sadr, the populist Shiite leader, has called on the Iraqi PM to insulate security ministries and positions from party influences and power brokering, calling on him to only nominate independent technocrats.

“These two ministries, the Defense and Interior, are concerned with security affairs and the armed forces. Technocrats and independents have to become their ministers, as mentioned in the constitution,” Raeed Fahmi, a Sayirun MP and a prominent member of the Iraqi Communist Party, told Rudaw.

Some parties are trying to impose their will when it comes to the two ministries, added Fahmi.

Eight ministries remain vacant. They are temporarily held by ministers already voted in.

The Ministries of Defense, Interior, Immigration, Planning, Culture, Higher Education, Education, and Justice remain vacant.

The Sunnis, who have held the Ministry of Defense since 2003, are also in disagreement over the post.

The Sunni National Axis Alliance, allied with the pro-Iran Binaa bloc, and Ayad Allawi’s Watanyah, allied with Sadr’s Imaar and Islah alliance, have both presented candidates.

Three names are touted for the position. Faysal Jarba, an air force pilot with a military academy degree, has been put forth by Allawi. Hisham Daraji, who holds a degree in military sciences, has the backing of the National Axis Alliance.

The third candidate is Najm Jabouri, who is the commander of Nineveh Operations Command.

The Nasr (Victory) alliance of former Iraqi PM Abadi complained that the party sharing system has overshadowed his successor Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s government.

“The ministerial cabinet of Mr. Adil Abdul-Mahdi is dominated by political parties that want to impose their will on the joints of the state,” Falah Abdulkarim Khafaji, a Nasr MP, told Rudaw.

Abdul-Mahdi was the compromise candidate between the two opposing Shiite dominated groups. Initially everyone had vowed to refrain from interfering in his choices, claiming he had been given a free hand.

In a first for Iraq, the PM even opened up an online applications website for Iraqis to send CVs and apply for government ministries. Many were hopeful he would form a government that was insulated from party pressure.

However, all confirmed candidates have been party candidates, a majority from the pro-Iran Binaa coalition. Source