Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraq’s foremost Sunni and Shi’ite political blocs remain unable to reach a compromise over filling the defense and interior ministerial portfolios, as resentment continues to build among Iraqi Sunnis over Nuri Al-Maliki’s appointment as vice-president.
The Sunni-majority Iraqi Forces Alliance and Shi’ite National Alliance were scheduled to meet on Wednesday evening to settle the issue, but were unable to reach an agreement over the two key cabinet jobs.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, senior Iraqi Forces Alliance MP Mohamed Al-Khalidi said the disagreement was no longer over the distribution of ministerial portfolios between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shi’ites, but over which figures to nominate.
He said: “It has been decided to give the post of defense minister to us [the Sunnis] . . . The problem now lies in the names being nominated.”
A senior Sunni figure who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity said: “There are two candidates for the post of defense minister: Khaled Al-Obaidi and Jaber Al-Jabri. But the Sunnis’ four main coalition leaders cannot reach an agreement on who to choose.”
Mutahidoun bloc leader Osama Al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya Al-Arabiya coalition leader Saleh Al-Mutlaq, Salim Al-Jabouri, and Iraqiya bloc senior member Jamal Al-Karboli are leading the intra-Sunni negotiations. Mutlaq has been appointed deputy prime minister, while Nujaifi has secured the post of vice-president, with Jabouri succeeding him as parliamentary speaker.
“Nujaifi is inclined to Obaidi, a former military official accepted by all sides. While Mutlaq, Karboli and Jabouri prefer Jabri,” the Sunni official said.
As for the post of interior minister, Iraqi Forces Alliance MP Khalidi reaffirmed the Sunni alliance’s rejection of Badr Organization leader Hadi Al-Ameri.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We continue to reject the nomination of Hadi Al-Ameri, leader of the [Shi’ite] Badr Organization, for the post of interior minister, not because the US has a particular position on this or because there is opposing US–Iranian pressure regarding this post, but because this nomination contradicts the constitution.”
“Ameri, with all due respect to him personally, is a militia leader and therefore his appointment as a minister will not serve the future [of Iraq],” he added.
Though relieved by the appointment of a new government, many Iraqis resent the inclusion of former officials such as ex-premier Maliki and former speaker Nujaifi as vice-presidents.
Despite its largely ceremonial nature, many argue that Maliki’s appointment as vice-president is meant to protect him against prosecution.
“Had Maliki remained a member of parliament, he would have been nothing more than the leader of the State of Law coalition, a capacity he would enjoy whether inside or outside parliament,” a senior Sadrist Movement official told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Moreover, there may not be much consensus on him assuming the leadership of the National Alliance after he fell foul of the Shi’ite authority which forced him out [of office],” the Shi’ite official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, added.
Iraq’s Sadrist Movement and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq were the two major Shi’ite groups within the National Alliance to oppose Maliki’s nomination for a controversial third term in office.
The Sadrist official added that Maliki’s appointment as vice-president will ensure the former prime minister remains “in the shadows,” as the prime minister has the most effective space for political maneuvering in Iraq.