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Khaled al-Obeidi / Khalid al-UBAYDI

On October 18, 2014 Iraqi lawmakers approved the critical security posts of defense minister and interior minister in Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's government, amid the fight against the Islamic State group. Parliament voted in Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni lawmaker of the Al-Obeidi tribal confederation from the northern city of Mosul, as the new defense minister. Mohammed al-Ghabban, a Shi'ite lawmaker from the powerful Iran-influenced Badr Brigades political bloc, was elected interior minister.

He is very close to Vice President Usama al-Nujaifi and his brother Atheel, the governor of Nineveh province, both of whom are members of the Mutahidun political bloc. The Mutahidun advocate stronger federal independence for a Sunni federal state. The name of al-Obeidi had been included in many of the lists of candidates submitted to the Prime Minister during the past two years and it was agreed to be extradited defense portfolio without any opposition by the National Alliance and the rest of the political partners.

A retired Major-General in the former Iraqi army, Obeidi, who represents the Sunni political blocs, is a product of the military institution. Obeidi had been an engineer in the Iraqi Air Force for 18 years. He holds a masters degree in political science and is a former security advisor to the governor of Nineveh.

He was nominated to the same post for the first time in 2010, but Maliki and Shia parties rejected him [Maliki retained the Defense portfolio himself]. Obeidis nomination was rejected when it was proposed during the second mandate of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2010. Khalid al-Obeidi shot to fame after the elections in April 2010 as a candidate for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to take over the vacant position, but his weakness is also probably the reason he was acceptable to Maliki.

Abadi may have had other future considerations in mind when he agreed to nominate Obeidi as defense minister. A Mosul native, Obeidi has wide experience and knowledge about the districts geographic and social structure. He became famous for his statement, "Ill be obedient to the owners as commander in chief, not a list" in reference to the Iraqi List, which had sponsored him. This statement caused political observers to title him the weak man.

Malikis candidate for defence, Khalid al-Ubaydi, first emerged as an Iraqiyya candidate but later met with opposition from inside Iraqiyya, in particular from Ayyad Allawi. Some said this was because Ubaydi was considered too close to another Iraqiyya leader, Usama al-Nujayfi. It appeared Ubaydi was favored by Maliki and Nujayfi (and White Iraqiyya) and was opposed by Chalabi, the Sadrists and Allawi.

He was later excluded from the Iraqi List and returned to his home away from the political scene. His name again returned to the fore through the news of his participation in the council elections in 2013, but his candidacy failed.

The Kuwaiti Newspaper Al-Siyasah reported 29 October 2014 that Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi planned to issue strict orders to cut all types of relations and cancel military cooperation between Iraqs army and Irans government. THis was to include all deals and sales that were agreed upon at the time of former Iraqi PM Al-Maliki. It was reported that al-Obeidis intentions was to return all Iranian troops to Iran.

The report said that, Obeidi thinks that any types of military cooperation between his government and Iran will not serve the interest of Iraq since Iran hasnt solved her problems with the world.... Iraqi MoD Obeidi has a solid strategy to strengthen the Iraqi Army in order to face the terrorism and defeat the extremists groups within two years.

Obeidi said he would resign from his position if he found obstacles that aimed at blocking his orders for building and developing the Iraqi Army in a way that met the challenges of the current conflict.

On 04 November 2014 Iran's Fars News Agency reported that Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al-Ubaydi had underlined the importance of bolstering defense cooperation between Baghdad and Tehran for securing peace and tranquility in the region, and appreciated Iran's aid and assistance to the establishment of peace and security in Iraq. "I express my gratitude to Iran for its effective role and crucial support in the fight against terrorism in Iraq," al-Ubaydi said in a meeting with Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad Hassan Danayeefar.

The Iraqi defense minister underlined that his country is willing to further broaden bilateral ties with Iran in defense and security areas. The Iranian envoy, for his part, congratulated al-Ubaydi on his election as Iraq's new defense minister, and said, "Tehran is ready to further expand its cooperation with Baghdad in security and defense areas."

The Iraqi defense minister said that the several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) signed between Iran and Iraq since 2005 show that the two countries are resolved to further broaden their bilateral defense relations and cooperation. Iraqi defense minister expressed his countrys readiness to strengthen joint cooperation with Iran, saying Tehran and Baghdad should establish a regional security system to block enemies moves.

Prime Minister Abadi, who hails from the same Shia political party as al-Maliki, will have the final say on many military matters, giving him broader controls over defense forces than the minister himself. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced 12 November 2014 that 36 commanders had been removed from office and 18 others installed to promote professionalism and combat corruption. The names were not disclosed, but those replaced were said to include the chief of ground forces, the military chief of staff and the commander of operations in Anbar Province. Tellingly, this announcement came from the Prime Minister, not the Minister of Defense.




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