Iraq PM scraps 1/3 of cab­i­net posts in re­form drive


Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider alAbadi an­nounced the re­moval of 11 of 33 cab­i­net posts Sun­day, the first con­crete step in a re­form drive to curb cor­rup­tion and stream­line the gov­ern­ment.

The an­nounce­ment came as par­lia­ment and Abadi made pre­lim­i­nary moves to­ward hold­ing top of­fi­cials — in­clud­ing ex-premier Nuri al-Ma­liki — ac­count­able for mil­i­tary dis­as­ters in the cities of Mo­sul and Ra­madi, which have been seized by the Is­lamic State (IS) ji­hadist group.

Abadi rolled out a re­form pro­gram a week ago in re­sponse to pop­u­lar pres­sure from weeks of protests against cor­rup­tion and poor ser­vices, and to a call for dras­tic change from Iraq’s top Shi- ite cleric, Grand Ay­a­tol­lah Ali alSis­tani.

Par­lia­ment ap­proved Abadi’s plan along with ad­di­tional mea­sures two days later, but a ma­jor gap re­mains be­tween an­nounce­ments and im­ple­men­ta­tion.

In a first move from pro­pos­als to ac­tion, Abadi scrapped three deputy premier po­si­tions, three min­istries and a min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio, and merged four more min­istries with oth­ers, his of­fice said Sun­day.

It is un­clear whether the scrapped min­istries — hu­man rights and the min­istries of state for women’s af­fairs and for pro­vin­cial and par­lia­men­tary af­fairs — will con­tinue in another form, or will be done away with al­to­gether.

Amid a ma­jor heat wave that has seen tem­per­a­tures top 50 de­grees Cel­sius, protesters have railed against the poor qual­ity of ser­vices, es­pe­cially power out­ages that leave just a few hours of gov­ern­mentsup­plied elec­tric­ity per day.

Thou­sands of peo­ple have turned out in Bagh­dad and cities in the Shi­ite south to vent their anger and pres­sure the author­i­ties to make changes.

En­trenched Cor­rup­tion

Their de­mands were given a boost when Sis­tani called on Aug. 7 for Abadi to take “dras­tic mea­sures” against cor­rup­tion, say­ing the “mi­nor steps” he had an­nounced were not enough.

The fol­low­ing Fri­day, Sis­tani said ju­di­cial re­forms were needed, and Abadi re­sponded by call­ing on the ju­di­ciary to carry out mea­sures to en­sure its in­de­pen­dence and al­low it to fight cor­rup­tion.

Calls for change by Sis­tani, who is revered by mil­lions, have shielded as well as in­flu­enced Abadi’s ef­forts, as it is po­lit­i­cally risky for ri­val Shi­ite politi­cians to pub­licly op­pose mea­sures called for by the top cleric.

But even with pop­u­lar sup­port and Sis­tani’s back­ing, the en­trenched na­ture of cor­rup­tion and the fact that par­ties across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum ben­e­fit from it will make any ef­forts ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.

Ear­lier on Sun­day, law­mak­ers said that a par­lia­men­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tion found for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Ma­liki — who is now a vice pres­i­dent — to be among those re­spon­si­ble for IS ji­hadists over­run­ning Iraq’s sec­ond 2014.

Var­i­ous for­mer se­nior of­fi­cials were also named in the re­port de­tail­ing the com­mit­tee’s find­ings, which has not been pub­licly re­leased.

An MP on the com­mit­tee said these in­clude De­fense Min­is­ter Saadun al-Du­laimi, Army Chief of Staff Babaker Ze­bari, his deputy Aboud Qanbar, ground forces Cmdr. Ali Ghaidan, Nin­eveh oper­a­tions Com­mand Chief Mahdi al-Gharawi and the province’s Gover­nor, Atheel alNu­jaifi.

city Mo­sul in June

‘No one above the law’

The re­port was pre­sented Sun­day to par­lia­ment Speaker Salim al-Juburi, who said it will be sent to the pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral for le­gal ac­tion.

“No one is above the law and ques­tion­ing by the peo­ple, and the ju­di­ciary will pun­ish those” re­spon­si­ble, Juburi said in a state­ment.

IS launched a dev­as­tat­ing of­fen­sive on June 9 last year, over­run­ning Mo­sul the next day and then sweep­ing through large ar­eas north and west of Bagh­dad.

While Bagh­dad’s forces have re­gained ground, the ji­hadists still hold much of western Iraq, in­clud­ing the city of Ra­madi, which they seized in May af­ter gov­ern­ment forces had held out against mil­i­tants there for more than a year.

Abadi’s of­fice said Sun­day that he had cleared the way for the mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tion of se­nior com­man­ders re­spon­si­ble for the dis­as­trous loss of Ra­madi.

Abadi ap­proved “de­ci­sions of the in­ves­tiga­tive com­mis­sion on the with­drawal of the An­bar oper­a­tions com­mand and units at­tached to it from the city of Ra­madi,” his of­fice said in a state­ment.

Those in­clude “re­fer­ring a num­ber of the lead­ers to the mil­i­tary ju­di­ciary for leav­ing their po­si­tions with­out or­ders and con­trary to in­struc­tions (and) de­spite the is­suance of a num­ber of or­ders not to with­draw,” it said.

Abadi pre­vi­ously said that forces in Ra­madi “had to re­sist, and if they had re­sisted, we would not have lost Ra­madi.”

A se­nior Bri­tish mil­i­tary of­fi­cer in the anti-ji­hadist coali­tion, Brig. Christo­pher Ghika, said in June that the city “was lost be­cause the Iraqi com­man­der in Ra­madi elected to with­draw.”

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