Al Maliki Plans Overhaul Of His

Al-Maliki plans Overhaul of his Government
18 Dead in Bombing of Shiite Market

Aljazeera Arabic is showing clips of a speech by PM Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq in which he is promising a radical set of changes in his government, so as to make it less ‘sectarian.’

Al-Sharq al-Awsat writing in Arabic says that the Grand Ayatollahs in Najaf are also arguing for the government to be altered in a radical way.

AP reports that the Iraqi cabinet reported out a draft of the petroleum bill for consideration of the parliament.

But this story turns out to be a non-story. Only 24 of 37 cabinet ministers were present. Although AP says this is in part because of the Sadr Bloc boycott of PM Nuri al-Maliki’s government, that seems unlikely, since those 6 ministers have been replaced by technocrats.* At least 6 of the 13 absent ministers, though, were from the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, which is also boycotting the government these days.

Although the cabinet had a quorum, those voting were hardly representative of the country as a whole. And then a further difficulty arose:

A top Kurdistan oil official is denying that there is a deal on a federal petroleum law. It was reported Monday that a deal had been reached and a draft approved by the cabinet, to be taken up by parliament on Wednesday. But the Kurds are now saying that they haven’t seen the draft and might vote against it.

So, a decision may or may not have been made, which is a more accurate way of describing what happened.

AP adds, “in the latest violence, a car bomb exploded late yesterday at an outdoor market in the Shaab area of northeastern Baghdad, killing 18 persons and wounding 35, police said.”

Reuters reports other political violence for Tuesday, including the discovery of 18 bodies in the streets of Baghdad. Other major incidents:

‘ KIRKUK – A car bomb targeting a police patrol killed two civilians and wounded nine others, including four policemen in Kirkuk, police said. . .

SAMARRA – At least two civilians were killed during clashes between police commandos and gunmen in Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad on Monday, police said. . .

MADAEN – Two people were killed and four wounded when gunmen opened fire on pedestrians in Madean, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad. . .

HAWIJA – Three policemen were seriously wounded when a gunman threw a grenade at their vehicle in Hawija, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, police said. . .

BAGHDAD – Gunmen assassinated a police intelligence major in central Baghdad, police said. . .

When the guerrillas are able to identify and kill a police intelligence major, it suggests an inside job. And if police intelligence is compromised, it would be difficult to mount an effective counter-insurgency campaign.

Al-Ittihad reports via Sawt al-Iraq that the al-Maliki government it trying to undo the various defections that have plagued it recently. The Sadr Bloc suspended its participation in parliament to protest lack of progress in rebuilding the al-Askariya Shrine in Samarra. So now al-Maliki is pressuring them to end the boycott, given that UNESCO has contracted with a Turkish architectural form to refurbish the shrine. There are rumors that they will stop their suspension of membership any day now.

Attempts are also being made to pull the Sunni Arab MPs of the Iraqi Accord Front back into the national unity government. They are angry in part about the demotion of Mahmud al-Mashhadani from being speaker of the house. Some compromise, like giving him a ceremonial title in parliament, is being proposed.

Walter Posch on the crisis in Turkey and what it means for Turkish EU membership down the road.

My take on Bush’s commutation of Irv Lewis Libby’s sentence.

BBC journalist Alan Johnston has been released in Gaza.

Yemen is still reeling and putting in extra security after the suicide bomb attack on an SUV carrying Spanish tourists. Al-Qaeda still has some local grass roots in Yemen.

An informed reader from the region notes:

*’I believe you are in error when you suggested that the six Sadrist ministers in the Iraqi cabinet were replaced by technocrats. In fact, none of the candidates put forward by Maliki was confirmed, and the reason is they were not technocrats, they were part of the Dawa or SIIC base. I was surprised at the time that Ali Al-Behadily, the candidate for Minister of Agriculture was described as a “technocrat”. It is true that he has a Ph.D. in agriculture from the University of California Davis and can thus be thought of as a technocrat, but he is a member of SIIC, and has been for years. He was the transitional minister. When he started as minister in 2005, my staff went to see him and after but a few visits to the ministry we started to get death threats. The former security manager in the ministry asked us not to come because the Badr Brigade was after us.

Those six ministries currently have no ministers. After the national assembly refused to consider the six nominations, Maliki has not put forward another set. I daresay he really cannot find technocrats to do the job. All the technocrats have left the country or they stay at home in the dark, in the heat and in fear. ‘

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