Khadhimi’s nominations for new portfolios to be examined by parliament

Despite quota system at play, names chosen not known for loyalties to Iran.
Friday 05/06/2020
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at his office in Baghdad, June 4. (Reuters)
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at his office in Baghdad, June 4. (Reuters)

BAGHDAD-Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadhimi has issued nominations for seven vacant ministerial portfolios to be approved by parliament, including the key oil and foreign affairs ministries, as well as candidates for the position of deputy prime minister.

In March, Iraq’s parliament approved Kadhimi’s cabinet after some last-minute changes to appease political parties, voting in 15 ministers for the prospective 22-seat body.

Kadhimi’s more recent nominations to fill the seven vacant seats include Ihssan Abdul Jabbas as oil minister, Fuad Hussein as foreign minister, Mohamed Karim for the ministry of agriculture, Alaa Jbouri for ministry of trade, Hassan Nadhem for ministry of culture and Judge Salar Abdul-Sattar for the Justice ministry.

He also nominated Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein as deputy prime minister for international relations, Planning Minister Khaled Battal Al-Najm as deputy prime minister of displacement and migration and Finance Minister Ali Allawi as deputy prime minister for economy and energy.

Despite the sectarian quota system that played a role in the selection of the deputy prime ministers, the figures are all notably absent from Iranian circles of influence, and generally favour the strengthening of relations with Arab Gulf states, the West and the United States, in line with Kadhimi’s vision.

Also noticeable, however, is the absence from the list of poet and prominent civil rights activist Faris Haram, who had been floated as a candidate to head the ministry of culture.

Sources told The Arab Weekly that Haram, who was a leading face in Iraq’s protest movement that broke out last October,  is at odds with the Shia group Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, which was previously allocated the ministry.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, whose leader Qais Khazali is wanted by the United States on terrorism charges, demanded that Haram pledge to protect the movements’ interests in the Ministry of Culture if he were to take over, but Haram refused, the sources said.

Kadhimi came under great pressure at the last minute to replace Haram with current candidate Hassan Nadhem,  a university professor from the city of Najaf, the sources added.

The same sources pointed out that Laith, Qais Khazali’s brother who is also wanted on terror charges, personally supervised the file of the Ministry of Culture during the era of former Culture Minister Abdel Amir al-Hamdani, who was nominated by Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in the government of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

According to political sources, the Iraqi parliament will convene on Saturday to vote on the new candidates. Experts expect at least one of the seven candidates to be replaced — Fuad Hussein, the former finance minister nominated for the foreign ministry and deputy prime minister for international affairs.

He may face rejection from within his own Kurdish movement due to the movement’s stance against including anyone who participated in Abdul-Mahdi’s government.

Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the largest Kurdish party, retracted an earlier recommendation to have Hussein replaced with Fawzi al-Hariri, preferring to keep the former finance minister in Baghdad.

Sources said Barzani will make a final attempt to persuade Shia and Sunni forces to vote for Hussein as foreign minister on Saturday. If this fails, he may have a Kurdish woman nominated for the position.