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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Disputes Hamper Iraq's New Cabinet

Council on Foreign Relations

May 22, 2006
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

Iraq has a new, if incomplete, government (AP). On May 22, parliamentarians, five months after being elected into office, approved the thirty-six-member cabinet of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki amid ethnic and political infighting. The three most hotly contested portfolios—defense, interior, and national security—remain unfilled. A number of members of Iraq's primary Shiite alliance, including loyalists of the Fadhila Party, withdrew from the bloc to protest what they say was an unfair political process (NYT).

This leaves the United Iraqi Alliance with less than 115 out of 250 parliamentary seats. At least fifteen Sunni members of Maliki's coalition also walked out of the negotiations to signal their disapproval of the process, explained in this new CFR Background Q&A. "Maliki is increasingly heading a minority government and heavily dependent on parties outside his own for continued survival," writes Juan Cole, a Middle East expert.

Disagreements arose over which of Iraq's three main ethnic groupings—Shiite Arabs (themselves divided between religious and secular members), Sunni Arabs, or Kurds—should get which portfolio. As it stands now, the cabinet includes seventeen members of Maliki's Shiite coalition, seven Kurds, seven Sunnis, and five secular Shiites. No one from the ethnic Turkmen population, which comprises 3 percent of Iraq's population, won a post. Only four women were selected to cabinet slots, a drop from last year's interim government.

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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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