Maliki Vows to End Militias, Graft
The civil war in Iraq killed 50 persons on Sunday, according to al-Zaman. Reuters managed to detail the circumstances of 35 of them, including bombings in Baghdad.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat says [Ar.] that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called militias “an abnormal phenomenon” and vowed to end it. He also said he would appoint Interior and Defense ministers within two to three days. He also said that corruption and embezzlement (in government offices) were among the biggest challenges facing Iraq, and that he would strive to end these practices.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference is thinking of getting involved with Iraq. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is talking about bringing Iraqi stakeholders together, and is even holding out the possibility of peace-keeping troops! The OIC is a meeting of the foreign ministers of Muslim countries (countries with substantial Muslim populations have observer status; Russia does, and if the US was smart it would seek it). Serious OIC interest in peacekeeping in Iraq would be the most hopeful thing I have heard recently.
The US military hopes to hand over patrolling and battlefield responsibilities to the new Iraqi army by the end of the year. That would be good if it could be done and would be effective. Personally, I don’t see it as realistic.
Ben Gilbert reports from Ramadi, and mean streets is right.
Al-Zaman reports that the distribution of cabinet posts among coalitions and parties has produced substantial discontent in the Iraqi parliament. A number of Members of Parliament have withdrawn from their own parties as a result, while in other cases MPs have openly expressed their disappointment at being marginalized in their own party.
The Iraqi Turkmen Front expressed its disappointment that it was largely marginalized in the new government. Turkmen are probably 800,000 strong in Iraq, a little over 3 percent. They have generally poor relations with the Kurds, whose support Maliki needed to pass a vote of confidence. A kind reader points out that they did get one ministry, Youth and Sports, filled by Jasim Muhammad Jaafar, formerly housing and reconstruction minister. An earlier edition of IF erred in saying that they had not gotten a ministry.
Some members of the United Iraqi Alliance complained that they had been passed over for a cabinet post, and that it was given instead to persons less competent or experienced. They said that the criteria for a cabinet appointment clearly had not been objective ones. The appointment of a member of the al-Hakim family, Akram al-Hakim, as minsiter of state for national dialogue provoked charges of nepotism. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is the leader of the United Iraqi Alliance.
Some members of the United Iraqi Alliance are said to have withdrawn from the coalition over this sort of issue. (Earlier, the Virtue Party with its 15 seats in parliament withdrew from the UIA, leaving it with only 115. If the al-Zaman report is correct, it is even less, now. Al-Maliki is increasingly heading a minority government and heavily dependent on parties outside his own for continued survival.) UIA leaders replied that the MPs were being unreasonable, since not all MPs can become cabinet members. And some of the MPs put forward by the UIA for such posts were rejected by the other parties. They said that the UIA had completely rejected cabinet posts for Wa’il Abdul Latif, Wasfiyah al-Suhail, and Mahdi al-Hafiz. They also pointed out that if they changed off five of the cabinet members, then some other set of MPs would be upset.
A number of MPs also resigned from the Sunni religious coalition, the Iraqi Accord Front, over how its cabinet portfolios were given out by party leaders.
The Turkmen Front leader said he had been assured by all the major actors that the Turkmen needed to be in the government. When none was given a cabinet post, he walked out of Saturday’s session.
The National Iraqi List of Iyad Allawi said that they had attempted to redress the practice of giving out cabinet posts on an ethnic quota system. They protested the small number of women (4) on the Maliki cabinet, a decline from the Jaafari cabinet.
The culture of contemporary Iraqi politics, wherein not getting a cabinet post for you or your sub-faction is a source of shame that makes you quit your party, doesn’t sound very promising for parliamentary governance.
Since the cabinet ministries are vast sources of patronage, if your group did not get one, it means you have just missed the gravy train. That is why they are resigning. Just being an MP is not lucrative; in fact, it is a death sentence. Only if you get a line into a ministry can you share in the spoils. Maliki promised to end the spoils system, but we shall see.
Megan Stack finds Iraqis mostly underwhelmed with their new government.
Trudy Rubin points out that a complete meltdown in Iraq would pull down both Iran and the US, creating a new axis of uncertainty.
For the strong of heart, photos from Iraq for the month of May. Warning, some are graphic.