The following article was published on Tuesday by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here in full with the author’s permission. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
In a recent press conference, Ala Makki of Iraqiyya complained that the standard of Iraqi students sent on scholarships abroad was not always as good as it should be. The problem, Makki maintained, was that the system of quota-sharing whereby ethno-sectarian groups are allotted percentages of the places available based on their proportion of the population (muhasasa) meant incompetent students were frequently sent abroad simply in order to fulfil the quota requirements.
Makki’s comments are of course eminently relevant also with respect to another process in which his own Iraqiyya is taking part these days: The enduring Iraqi government-formation saga. With the vote in Iraqi parliament today in favour of around 35 ministers that will serve in the next government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, it seems clear that the goal of satisfying narrow party interests has taken precedence over the idea of creating governance for Iraq. Not only is this an XXL-sized and unwieldy government, there is even more to come: Several portfolios, including key security ones like defence, interior and national security, have yet to be apportioned and are held as temporary deputyships by other ministers pending their allocation to individuals. Highlihting the extent to which this is a collection of party nominees rather than a carefully crafted government team, many of the names of the nominees were presented to Maliki by the various party leaderships just 24 hours before his publication of the government, and with some of the current vacancies being caused by the failure of the various parties to present competent candidates. In those cases, a place-holder deputy has been appointed among the approved ministers, sometimes by someone from the same party that had been promised the post.