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Iraqi Politics - 2016

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on 31 March 2016 submitted to parliament a proposed lineup of new cabinet members in a move aimed at quashing allegations of government corruption. "He presented a list with the names of candidates for ministries and their CVs who were chosen by a special committee of experts on the basis of professionalism, competence, integrity and leadership," said a statement on the prime minister's website. Al-Abadi's announcement came as Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday launched a sit-in inside Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone, home to several government institutions and foreign embassies, to pressure the government for reforms. Al-Sadr called for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to dismiss ministers and appoint technocrats to the government in an anti-corruption drive.

Moqtada al-Sadr then ordered his followers to end a two-week sit-in at Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. The action aimed at pressuring the government to carry out reforms. The announcement came after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi presented a proposed lineup for new cabinet ministers to parliament. The PM named Nizar Salem al-Numan as a candidate for oil minister as part of a cabinet reshuffle aimed at combating corruption. Prominent Shiite politician Ali Allawi was nominated for the post of finance minister and Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, a relative of Iraq's king deposed in 1958, was tagged for foreign minister.

In February 2016, Abadi called for “fundamental” change to the government and called for the inclusion of academic and professional figures in the Cabinet. Iraq's new government will be tasked with shepherding the nation through an economic crisis and confronting deeply entrenched corruption, as well as riding out the current volatile political situation.

Abadi originally handed a list of his proposed nominees to lawmakers last month, but he faced major resistance as different political blocs wanted to make their own nominations. That feedback process then resulted in the list of names being distributed throughout parliament.

Abadi called for the government to be run by experts, rather than politically affiliated ministers, but the political parties pushed back in order to maintain the patronage system they rely on to stay in power. Parliamentary speaker Salim al-Jibouri called for the session to be dissolved 13 April 2016, after the conflict over a delayed vote on a new cabinet led to blows and hurled water bottles between opposing members. Iraqi lawmakers then voted to remove the parliament speaker amid a major row over the cabinet line-up that has caused chaos in parliament.

Abadi called for parliament to put aside its differences and do its job. Of the original list of 14 cabinet appointees, named at the beginning of the month, just four remain on a new list released 26 april 2016. The nominees for water resources, health and transportation stayed the same, while a fourth nominee from the original list became a candidate for the planning ministry.

Supporters of Iraq’s Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have stormed the Iraqi parliament 30 April 2016. Hundreds of mostly young Muqtada al-Sadr supporters chanted and waved Iraqi flags inside parliament after breaking through barriers and entering the government-controlled “Green Zone.” The action came after Sadr criticized Iraqi leaders for opposing efforts to impose government reform.

UN closed its office in Baghdad and was trying to evacuate personnel. Al-Arabiya TV reported that several foreign embassies, including the US, were also evacuating personnel from the “Green Zone.” Most Iraqi political leaders, including the president, prime minister and speaker of parliament, live inside the Green Zone and it was not clear if troops were continuing to protect them.

These developments were the climax of weeks of political turmoil in Iraq that had seen MPs hold a sit-in, clash in the parliament chamber and seek to dismiss the speaker, halting efforts by Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister, to replace party-affiliated ministers with technocrats.

The incident came minutes after Sadr delivered a televised speech from the holy Shiite city of Najaf, in which he rejected the latest approval of partial cabinet members presented earlier by Abadi. "Any minister in the Iraqi government is not our candidate and represents only his government," Sadr said, confirming that he and his followers "will not participate in any political process that includes quota system." Some political blocs and politicians had been resisting the reforms because there was a lack of trust among the political parties who saw that such reforms would marginalize their factions from a political scheme which originally was built on power-sharing agreements.

Different groups are trying to fill the vacuum, jockeying for positions and power. The Shi’ites want to keep the power they have gained since Saddam’s fall. The Kurds said the time was ripe for independence, and were holding back their lawmakers from parliament as a bargaining chip.

A group of former Saddam-era army generals proposed a military takeover. The bloc wanted to cut off Iran’s strong influence in Iraq and establish a nationalist state, and said it was ready to work with Sadr, the Kurds and the United States to get there. Other Sunnis called for a repeal of de-Baathification, and guarantees they can return to their traditionally Sunni cities after the eviction of Islamic State militants. They also put forward the idea of an autonomous Sunni region in western Iraq.

Until the largely Sunni cities shattered by war and replete with IS-planted explosives are habitable, there are more than three million displaced and impoverished Sunnis in the country who have nowhere to go. Another three million are expected to join that number when IS-held cities are liberated. Unlike those Sunnis who fled the Islamic State onslaught, this second three million will most likely be seen as complicit with the extremists, brainwashed, and potentially radicalized.

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Page last modified: 03-05-2018 18:18:53 ZULU