Key ministers appointed to restore security in Iraq

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gives a press conference on October 20, 2014 in the Iraqi central shrine city of Najaf, after a meeting with Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. (Photo: AFP-Haidar Hamdani)

By: Mustafa al-Furati

Published Monday, October 20, 2014

After a long delay, the new Iraqi government has been finalized with the appointment of the ministers of defense and interior, who were nominated by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi. And although the new ministers are assigned according to the “power sharing” principle that governs Iraq, they both come from a military background that can aid them succeed in their mission.

Baghdad – After about five years of a power vacuum in the ministries of interior and defense, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi stood by the promise he made during the vote of confidence session on September 8, when he pledged to nominate two candidates away from political pressure.

After long negotiations over possible candidates, the Iraqi parliament approved on Saturday October 18, Mohammed Salem al-Ghaban as interior minister and Khaled al-Obeidi as defense minister, although al-Obeidi’s nomination was previously rejected when it was proposed during the second mandate of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2010.

A retired officer in the former Iraqi army, Obeidi, who represents the Sunni political blocs, is a product of the military institution. He holds a master’s degree in political science and is a former security advisor to the governor of Nineveh. He was nominated to the same post for the first time in 2010, but Maliki and Shia parties rejected him.

The new interior minister, Mohammed Salem al-Ghaban, is the nominee of the Badr Organization. He has a long experience in military field work that dates to his opposition to Saddam Hussein’s regime, which proves he is competent to lead the ministry.

Ghaban, however, does not have a military degree even though he has held leading posts within the Badr Organization, and is close to the organization’s leader Hadi al-Amiri, whose nomination to the post was opposed by the United States.

In fact, Ghaban was a last minute candidate whose name was proposed after the assassination of Ahmed al-Khafaji, a leader in the Badr Organization, who was nominated to the post following a secret agreement between Hadi al-Amiri and Haidar Abadi, which was leaked to the media after Khafaji’s death.

Abadi may have had other future considerations in mind when he agreed to nominate Obeidi as defense minister. A Mosul native, Obeidi has wide experience and knowledge about the district’s geographic and social structure. He was elected as lawmaker to represent the city and served there for years.

Appointing Obeidi to this post may also contribute to the national reconciliation project that the Iraqi government has been advocating for years, and which may be possible through a rapprochement between the government and former officers who served under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Obeidi knows the military commanders in Mosul who were lured by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and knows how to win them over to stand with the Iraqi state. This is something he will work on in the coming period.

For his part, Ghaban knows how to manage the internal security situation. He is close to Shia militias currently supporting the armed forces in the war against ISIS. The new interior minister will be able to eliminate concerns that some parties have expressed about the future of the paramilitary groups; he will seek to define their role as supporters of Iraqi security forces, not as a military force outside the state’s control.

The international community was also involved in the appointment of both ministers and even pressured Prime Minister Abadi to move quickly to nominate them.

Abadi has seemingly stood by his promise, but the main question is: will he be able to successfully protect these two military institutions from all breaches with the help of his ministers?

Although the new ministers were assigned according to the “power sharing” principle that governs Iraq, they both have enough military experience to overcome the mistakes committed in the last five years, when Iraq lacked key security ministers, and lacked security in general.

Meanwhile, 12 people were killed and 29 injured in a suicide attack that targeted the Husseiniya of Abbad al-Adli in al-Harathiya, west Baghdad.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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