Maliki Elected Prime Minister 56 Dead

Maliki Elected Prime Minister
56 Dead in Civil War Violence

From al-Hayat [Life]: Nuri al-Maliki won a vote of confidence in the Iraqi parliament on Saturday. He thus became the first full-term Shiite prime minister from an elected parliament since Muhammad Fadil al-Jamali in 1953-1954.

Meanwhile, the civil war took the lives of many Iraqis (Reuters discusses the various bombings and bodies found). 56 persons died or were found dead on Saturday, according to al-Sharq al-Awsat.

Maliki presented an incomplete cabinet. He is serving as interim interior minister himself (in Iraq this ministry is involved in domestic security). He asked his Kurdish vice premier, Barham Salih, to double as Minister of National Security. He asked Sunni vice-premier Salam al-Zawba’i to serve as interim minister of defense until a permanent one could be agreed upon. (The wire services keep giving al-Zawba’i the middle name of “Zikam,” but that is not an Arabic word and I think it is Dhikr or Zikr and they are misreading the “r” as an “m.”)

Some 15 Sunni Arab members of parliament walked out when al-Maliki said his goal would be “fighting terrorism” (i.e. putting down the Sunni Arab guerrillas). These appear mostly to have belonged to the largely ex-Baathist National Dialogue Front of Salih Mutlak, which has 11 seats in parliament, though some of those who walked out belonged to the Sunni religious coalition, the Iraqi Accord Front. Among the latter was Shaikh Khalaf al-Ulyan. Most IAF members, however, stayed and voted for the new government.

Maliki said, “There are three basic files that, because of their primacy, I will fill myself, and they concern security and disorder and services. For, I want to accomplish something for Iraqis.” He pledged to battle terrorism and to isolate anyone who wants to do harm to the Iraqi people.

He promised to appoint the Defense and Interior ministers within a week. He also spoke of setting an objective timetable for transferring security duties from US and Coalition forces to Iraqi troops. He did not, however, say how he would accomplish this miracle, except by sheer proclamation.

MP Nur al-Din al-Hayali of the Sunni religious Iraqi Accord Front said at a press conference, “the Front has reservations about the program of the government . . . We have reservatons about the laws related to fighting terror, which do not distinguish between the Resistance, which plays a heroic role for the sake of liberating Iraq, and acts of violence that all reject.” He added, “It was obligatory to specify the techniques to be used to dissolve the militias altogether, and to transform them into state institutions and to keep them from infiltrating the security apparatuses.”

The ironies here are manifold. Iraq has had to wait over 5 months after the December 15 elections for a government finally to be formed. The US intervened with local Iraqi parties to overturn the democratic vote of the United Iraqi Alliance for Ibrahim Jaafari. It got instead a long-time member of the Damascus politburo of the then-radical Islamic Dawa Party, which helped form Hizbullah in Lebanon. Nuri al-Maliki has finally been elected prime minister, but has not presented ministers for any of the key three cabinet posts having to do with national security.

Wouldn’t you think that addressing national security might be the first priority? He has given us a minister of Tourism but not a Minister of Defense or a Minister of the Interior?

It is also worth noting that under US viceroy Paul Bremer, the US tried to establish “red lines” stipulating that no “Islamist” should fill posts like minister of education or minister of culture. This, Bremer says, was to protect the rights of the “secular” Iraqi “majority.” Whether it existed then or not, that “majority” has evaporated. And now the Bush administration extolls the turn-over of Higher Education to a Sunni fundamentalist from the equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the turn-over of Culture and of Education (i.e. K-12) to Shiite fundamentalists. Iraq now has a coalition government dominated by parties with names such as the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Islamic Dawa Party, the Bloc of Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, and the Iraqi Islamic Party (begun as a branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood). Bremer’s “red lines” are long gone, pushed over the cliff by US policies along with the phantom “secular” majority. No wonder neighbors like Egypt are alarmed and fit to be tied.

Of course, the incomplete character of the new government probably doesn’t matter that much. The Sunni Arab guerrilla movement will only redouble its efforts to overthrow this new government. And, there is no evidence that the troops and security forces of the new government can effectively curb the guerrillas, even if they had new leadership.

There are now four distinct wars going on in Iraq simultaneously

1) The Sunni Arab guerrilla war to expel US troops from the Sunni heartland

2) The militant Shiite guerrilla war to expel the British from the south

3) The Sunni-Shiite civil war

4) The Kurdish war against Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk province, and the Arab and Turkmen guerrilla struggle against the encroaching Peshmerga (the Kurdish militia).

Moreover, all of these wars involve strongly entrenched militias, which both keep some order and also substantially disrupt it. When Basra security fell apart recently, Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi was asked to send envoys to consult with major forces. He ignored powerful tribal chieftains but consulted with the Badr Corps commanders! As a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, he may believe that party’s militia, the Badr, is best placed to calm things down. But many in Basra see Badr as unaccountable and as a part of the problem, not the solution. In any case, what else could Abdul Mahdi have done? It is not as if he has a proper army to send south. If he sent the Sunni Arab or Kurdish battalions, it would anyway be regarded as a provocation. And if he sent the Shiite battalions, there is no guarantee that they would be willing to fight the Badr Corps, as opposed to just going over to it.

See also Helena Cobban at Just World News

Here are the 37 ministers according to Al-Sharq al-Awsat and Kuwait News Agency. I presume the ministers for whom no party affiliation was given are from the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. Unfortunately, neither list broke down the ministers by party within the UIA, e.g. Sadrists, Dawa and SCIRI.

Barham Salih – vice premier and interim minister of national security (Kurdistan Alliance [KA])

Salam al-Zawba’i, vice premier and interim Minister of Defense (Iraqi Accord Front [IAF])

Husain Shahristani – Minister of Petroleum (United Iraqi Alliance, UIA)

Bayan Jabr Sulagh – Minister of Finance (UIA – SCIRI)

Hoshyar Zebari – Minister of Foreign Affairs (KA)

Hashim Shibli – Minister of Justice (National Iraqi List)

Karim Wahid – Electricity (UIA)

Ali al-Shamari – Health (UIA)

khudair al-Khuza’i – Education (UIA)

Abd Ziyab al-Ujaili – Higher Education (Iraqi Accord Front)

Abd al-Falah al-Sudani – Commerce (UIA)

Fawzi al-Hariri – Industry (Kurdistan Alliance)

Karim Mahdi Salih – Transportation

Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi – Communications (National Iraqi List)

Bayan Zarah-‘i – Housing (KA)

Wujdan Mikha’il – Human Rights (National Iraqi List)

Abd al-Samad Rahman Sultan – Immigration

Liwa’ Sumaysim – Tourism and Antiquities (UIA)

Adil Al-Asadi – Civil Society (UIA – Islamic Action Organization)

Rafi` Jiyad al-Isawi – State Minister for Foreign Affairs (Iraqi Accord Front)

Safa’ al-Safi – Minister of State for Parliament

Sa`d Tahir al-Hashimi – State Minister for Provincial Affairs (IAF Sunni)

Fatin Abd al-Rahman Mahmud – Women’s Affairs (Iraqi Accord Front)

Akram al-Hakim – Minister of State for National Dialogue (UIA Shiite)

Ali Baban – Planning (Kurdistan Alliance)

Riyad Ghurayyib – Municipalities and Works

Latif Rashid – Water (Kurdistan Alliance)

Mahmud Muhammad Jawad – Labor

Ra’id Fahmi Jahid – Science and Technology (National Iraqi List)

Ya’rib Nadhim al-Abudi – Agriculture

As’ad Kamal al-Hashimi – Culture (UIA Shiite)

Jasim Muhammad Jaafar – Sports and Youth (Turkmen Front)

Nermin Osman – Environment (Kurdistan Alliance)

Muhammad Abbas al-Rubaie – Minister of State (National Iraqi List)

Ali Muhmmad Ahmad – Minister of State

Hasan Radi al-Sari – Minister of State

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