NEW YORK, (Reuters) – The Iraqi Interior Minister said he plans to reshuffle the ministry’s leadership to rid it of sectarian influence, after pressure from Western officials and with political support within Iraq, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
Jawad al Bolani, in a Friday interview with several U.S. newspapers, affirmed that he had the support of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, to make all necessary changes among his top commanders.
“We have an urgent need,” the Times quoted Bolani as saying in what it characterized as his first in-depth conversation with the Western news media. “We have to have changes at this level. He added, “All the senior employees of the Interior Ministry are in a cycle of change,” he said, although he did not elaborate on any plans for changes. Bolani did say that his recommendations were being reviewed by a government committee.
Since taking office in May, Bolani has vowed to clean house at the agency, which oversees Iraq’s police forces, the Times said.
Western officials and Sunni Arab leaders have accused the ministry of harboring senior managers who, during Iraq’s previous government, tolerated or encouraged Shiite militias to infiltrate the police forces, the newspaper said.
Bolani, it added, had made some progress in reforming the ministry, such as firing thousands of employees, but Western officials and some Iraqi leaders say he has not had the political support for the necessary purges, especially at the ministry’s higher levels.
Citing U.S. officials close to the ministry, the Times said that among commanders Bolani may replace is the deputy minister of administration Adnan al-Asadi, who is suspected of supporting the Shiite militias. But Bolani denied that, the Times said, though it reported that he insisted he was trying to transform the ministry from top to bottom.
The Times said Bolani sidestepped questions about sectarian and political influence in the ministry and repeatedly refused to confirm or deny whether there was militia influence in his security forces. But he said he did not approve of the militias, calling them “a new threat to the political process of Iraq,” naming the Mahdi Army, a huge force loyal to the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, the Times said.