The Arbil Agreement and the Real World

For more than one year, the security ministries have been in the hands of acting ministers – Maliki himself for interior, with close allies at defence (Dulaymi) and national security (Fayyad). Two main attempts at having them filled through parliamentary procedure (March and May 2011) both failed. There is general agreement that the jobs should be filled by professionals nominated by the secular Iraqiyya (defence ministry) and the Shiite Islamist National Alliance (interior ministry) respectively, although attempts have been made to Maliki to define the defence ministry as reserved for a Sunni rather than an Iraqiyya candidate, which could enable him to impose a figurehead instead. Critics of Maliki claim the current acting (Sunni) defence minister is precisely such a figurehead.

The dynamics of the security ministries have changed somewhat over time. Initially there was considerable intra-Shiite conflict between Maliki’s State of Law and the other Shiite parties, and the Sadrists in particular, about who should become interior minister. The Sadrists at one point wanted Ahmed Chalabi for interior minister; Maliki favoured Shiite professionals who had worked for the old regime.

More recently, there has been renewed focus on the Shiite candidates for the interior ministry, with a more consistent chorus of voices suggesting Tawfiq al-Yasiri, who was once in the Iraqi army but fled after 1991, is now the consensus candidate of the Shiites and that he also enjoys some support from Iraqiyya and the Kurds. The problem now is apparently that Maliki has rejected a string of defence ministry candidates from Iraqiyya, citing de-Baathification in ways that look inconsistent with how he himself is in the habit of employing Shiites with a Baathist past. In fact, it seems Maliki is actually quite happy with Dulaymi as acting minister. It is not entirely unlikely that Maliki is using the candidacy of Yasiri mainly as a fig leaf and that he is actually also happy with his close ally Adnan al-Asadi continuing to exert de facto control at the interior ministry.

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