Iraqi PM to name cabinet, delay security posts


BAGHDAD – Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will himself take charge of Iraq’s security as ministers heading the army and police will not yet be named when he unveils his cabinet on Monday, sources said on Sunday.
The naming of the government, which must be considered by parliament and approved by Saturday, is the final step in ending the protracted political impasse that has persisted since inconclusive elections on March 7. It also comes with a year to go before US troops must withdraw from Iraq entirely.
Politicians said the ministers of interior, defence and national security would not be named when Maliki presents his cabinet, citing the sensitivity of the posts and the need for consensus as reasons for the delay. “He will head a government of 38 ministers and ministers of state, but the three ministers in charge of security will not be announced tomorrow,” said Khalid al-Assadi, an MP in Maliki’s coalition who is seen as close to the premier.
“The ministers will be chosen by Maliki from among a field of candidates and he will present his choices to all the parties to have their agreement because these ministers cannot be party political,” Assadi said. Including Maliki’s own position and that of his three expected deputy prime ministers, the cabinet will number 42, slightly larger than the previous one.
Maliki has in the past been accused by critics of trying to consolidate his grip on power by grouping increasing responsibilities, in particular intelligence and security, under the office of the prime minister. An aide to the premier confirmed the delay, saying: “These three ministries need more time and study because of the sensitivity of the posts.”
“Everyone must agree on the candidates and the nominees must be acceptable, and that needs more time,” the aide added, speaking on condition of anonymity. Maliki’s State of Law coalition won 89 seats in the elections, two fewer than the Iraqiya bloc of ex-premier Iyad Allawi. But neither won enough for a parliamentary majority, triggering an impasse that is only now being resolved. A power-sharing deal last month finally broke the deadlock, with Maliki being named prime minister-designate on November 25 and given 30 days to name his government.
According to Assadi, the National Alliance, a Maliki-led pan-Shiite coalition, will control 17 ministries, while Iraqiya will hold nine. The Kurdish bloc will retain seven, with the remainder being divided among other smaller groupings.
As a condition for agreeing to the deal, Allawi demanded that pre-election bans on several of his bloc’s members for alleged ties to Saddam’s regime be overturned, and that a new statutory body be created to oversee security matters with himself at the helm.
Based on those demands, three members of Iraqiya had their bans overturned in parliament on Saturday by a vote of 109-61. Iraq’s Council of Representatives has 325 seats, with a quorum requiring 163 lawmakers. Lifting the ban on a fourth politician was delayed but is expected to happen in the coming days.
The bans, implemented before the March elections, generated widespread controversy as they were perceived as disproportionately targeting Sunni Arabs, and the two heads of the body responsible for them were themselves running for parliament on a rival Shiite list.
Parliament will on Tuesday also begin considering legislation to establish the statutory body demanded by Allawi, the National Council on Strategic Policies. The latest news comes with little more than a year to go before the nearly 50,000 US troops still in Iraq must withdraw completely under the terms of a bilateral security pact.