October 28, 2022 | Flash Brief

Iraqi Parliament Approves New National Unity Cabinet

October 28, 2022 | Flash Brief

Iraqi Parliament Approves New National Unity Cabinet

Latest Developments

The Iraqi parliament on Thursday approved the “national unity” cabinet of Prime Minister Mohamed al-Sudani. While Sudani presented his 23-minister cabinet as a harmonious team of technocrats, the appointment of holdovers and new figures suggests that his government is not a coherent bloc but a gathering of competing powers. The development comes a year after Iraqis voted out incumbents and their power-sharing arrangements.

Expert Analysis

 “Iraq’s new cabinet reveals that Baghdad’s ability to stand up against Iran will continue to be limited. Sudani was likely chosen for being a pushover who can be bossed around by his pro-Iran bloc, especially by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. His cabinet lineup, however, is a mixed bag that has anti-Iran ministers and pro-Tehran ones.” Hussain Abdul-Hussain, FDD Research Fellow

The Ministers

Abdul-Amir Al-Shammari, a Shiite, received the Interior Ministry, which supervises the payroll of the pro-Iran militias, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs). As a career army officer, Shammari’s relations with the militias have been tense. In 2015, he commanded the storming of the headquarters of Iran’s flagship militia, Kataeb Hezbollah, which has been on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since 2009.

But Shammari will find himself sitting in the same cabinet with Labor Minister Ahmad al-Assadi, the former PMU spokesperson and commander of the Jund al-Imam militia. Al-Assadi has often reinvented himself to serve his political interests. It remains to be seen whether he will distance himself from Tehran or if he will serve as its asset and Trojan horse inside Sudani’s cabinet.

Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein, a partisan of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and a holdover from the previous cabinet, kept his job, while Hiyam Kazem, from Maliki’s bloc, was given the lucrative telecommunications portfolio. As a lawmaker, Sudani tried to take on the three telecom companies that operate Iraq’s cellphone network, accusing them of corruption. Giving the portfolio to an operative of Maliki’s, whose public image is associated with embezzlement of public funds and corruption, threatens Sudani’s own anti-corruption pet project.

The Platform

Sudani offered an innovative economic plan. Unlike his predecessors, he did not promise government handouts that rely on Iraq’s billions in oil revenue. Instead, Sudani promised to transform Iraq’s economy from its current rentier state model to one that is built on a competitive private sector, that attracts investments, and that exploits the country’s vast human resources. Over 40 percent of Iraqis are between the ages of 10 and 29.

On security, Sudani said he planned to further develop the capacities of the military and the police, which he described as “the guarantor of civil peace, national security and law enforcement,” an indirect swipe at the pro-Iran militias, which attribute to themselves such roles. Sudani, however, stopped short of promising to disarm or disband the controversial militias.

Finally, on regional and global politics, Sudani struck a neutral tone: Iraq will seek friendly relations and mutual interests with all its neighbors. Tehran would have preferred that Sudani pledge to eject American military advisors in Iraq and to fight terrorism and its sponsors, Iran’s codewords for Arab governments.

Related Analysis

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