Iraq Pulse

Abadi's new government will face challenges

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Article Summary
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the formation of the new Iraqi government and vowed to answer the demands put forth by political blocs.

Following weeks of debate, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has finally formed his government. However, Abadi's government has yet to overcome tough challenges, such as finalizing Cabinet appointments. Abadi still hasn't chosen a minister of defense or interior, the two most delicate appointments at this stage.

Yet, the most dangerous test for Abadi's government remains ahead: maintaining the fragile national consensus platform. To do this, Abadi must effectively apply strategies to rebuild political partnerships and uproot raging social crises, as well as implement a new framework to achieve progress in the chaotic security file.

The evening of Sept. 8 was tough for Iraq. People remained glued to their television sets all night, waiting for Abadi to announce his Cabinet, the ministerial plan and the social covenant. In fact, Abadi managed to meet the constitutional deadline for these actions, despite the tensions and disputes that arose during a parliamentary session that continued late in the evening.

Abadi's governmental program and political agreement passed through the voting blocs. This agreement, which proposed solutions to several problems brought forth by the Sunnis and Kurds, addressed the following issues: settling the program of de-Baathification by referring it to the judiciary and working on the amnesty law, and the need to bring balance to governmental institutions and expand the circle of political participation.

Abadi also plans to rearrange Iraq's security forces so local units can form within provinces to fight the Islamic State (IS). Furthermore, Abadi will make pacts to resolve several issues in Iraqi Kurdistan, including the wage crisis, oil investments, peshmerga funding and the disputed areas.

Raising these issues was not an easy card to play. But Abadi also managed to propose his governmental program before the voting session. Abadi's program addressed how to fix the political, security and economic situations and to activate the developmental sector and investment projects. To ensure its support, the Kurdish bloc put conditions on Abadi's program, including giving the government three months to agree to Kurdish demands. Meanwhile, Sunnis continue to object to the lack of binding guarantees for the fulfillment of the pacts.

Regardless, Abadi committed himself to choosing the ministers of interior and defense within one week. This timeline might seem hard to keep, especially given the huge disputes about the two main appointments that almost toppled the government before it was formed.

News has leaked regarding the prospective nomination of Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Badr Corps political party, for the interior minister position, and Khaled Abidi, on behalf of the Sunni Alliance, as defense minister.

Informed sources told Al-Monitor that Abadi wants Qassem Daoud, a Shiite who is a former minister, to handle the Ministry of Defense, and Jaber al-Jabari, an academic from the Sunni bloc, to oversee the Ministry of Interior. Abadi might attempt to put forward these two names in the coming days, especially since he has overcome the main obstacle in securing wider confidence for his government. He is now in a better position than he was preceding the vote.

Still, Abadi will face further challenges since his government is considered hawkish.

His three deputy premiers — Saleh al-Mutlaq (Sunni bloc), Hoshyar Zebari (Kurdish bloc) and Bahaa al-Aaraji (Sadrist bloc) — are among the key leaders in their blocs. Figures like Minister of Oil Adel Abdel Mahdi and Minister of Transportation Baqir Jabr, who are members of the Citizens Coalition, are counted as hawks in the Shiite Alliance. The same applies to Minister of Finance Rowsch Nuri Shaways and Minister of Planning Sulman al-Jumeili.

Leading a government of hawks will not be easy, especially since there is now a new presidential structure that will include three vice presidents: Nouri al-Maliki, Ayad Allawi and Osama al-Nujaifi. These figures, who have been at odds in the past, have also been involved in a heated political dispute.

Maybe this situation is not comfortable for Abadi, but it is the best-case scenario to overcome the crisis in Iraq. Key and influential players in the government will help Iraq reach a mandatory consensus over future decisions. Their presence will also entail collective responsibility for these decisions.

A tough stage lies ahead for Abadi’s government. Its efforts should be directed against IS, and it should aim to solve the crises that have displaced thousands. Such a mission necessitates internal consensus and national solidarity. 

Found in: minister of defense, islamic state, iraq, government formation, cabinet

Mushreq Abbas is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Iraq Pulse. He has been managing editor of Al-Hayat’s Iraq bureau since 2005 and has written studies and articles on Iraqi crises for domestic and international publication.

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