It's been two weeks since the parliament in Iraq inaugurated new PM Maliki's cabinet and the three vacant seats in this cabinet are yet to be filled with ministers for defense, interior and national security.
Three attempts to find competent and nonsectarian men for theses three important posts have failed so far bringing up questions on this cabinet's ability to provide what Iraqis need most urgently ; security.
People who follow the news frequently enough here in Baghdad know that a big security operation is coming and hearing several tough statements from Iraq's PM Maliki makes one anticipate this operation to be coming sooner rather than later and that it's going to deal with both wings of violence in Baghdad; the al-Qaeda terrorism (and allied local Sunni insurgency) and the out-of-control armed Shia militias.
So, any delay in appointing ministers in the three security-related posts largely serves the immediate interests of the troublemakers of all backgrounds because it also means the anticipated large-scale operation will have to be delayed as a result.
It is true that these three ministries are of great importance and thus the selection of people to fill these posts for four whole years must be made with utmost care but what I find difficult to understand is how making this choice could this take this long?
The talks among parliamentary blocs in this regard did not start after Maliki had been nominated, actually it began long before that and if I'm not mistaken I recall that the blocs upon the deadlock over Jafari's nomination decided to leave the PM issue for a while and move to talk about nominees for the security related ministries in a maneuver to avoid wasting time especially that it took a couple months to convince Jafari to step aside and the UIA to find another nominee.
The point is that with all the time that's been consumed in these talks and with the limited list of candidates for each ministerial post (3 for each post more or less) and given the clear guidelines for selection, there must be something else putting the stick in the wheel, something other than the qualities of the nominees and the agreed upon criteria.
In my opinion, it is quite possible that there are parties within one or more of the political blocs that are trying to make this process take forever; of course it can't take forever but more like to delay it to win as much time as possible to delay military action against armed groups some of those parties are affiliated with; time they need to prepare themselves for the imminent confrontation or, to even succeed in appointing ministers that are inclined to impede such an operation.
This is how I see things and I could be wrong, or there could be other obstacles facing the completion of the cabinet but again what makes this possibility a valid one is the fact that it is no secret that the targets for any future major security operation have friends or affiliates in the parliament and even in the cabinet itself whether on the Sunni side or the Shia side and it is probably naïve to expect these affiliates to give the Iraqi government and the MNF a hand in striking their associates in the militias or the insurgency.
The other point that suggests some political powers are not sincere in their alleged efforts for finding a solution for this deadlock lies in the very mechanism of selection; this mechanism is the same one that was used in almost all previous stages of the political process in Iraq and proven to give rise to deadlocks at almost every single stage, yet the political powers did not think of replacing this mechanism with one that is less likely to produce bumps in the road and I'm really surprised why they did not choose one of the mechanisms traditionally used in our community for solving disputes that involve sharing of power or property.
It would've been way easier if say the UIA was to pick a defense minister from the Accord Front and the latter picks an interior minister from the UIA instead of each bloc making the pick from within its member. This way both blocs will be sure that both selections are as close to neutral as they can be.
This method and similar ones are not uncommon in the community especially among tribes, for example when two tribes dispute over sharing a piece of land they resort to divide duties; one tribe draws the line along which the land is to be divided while the other makes the pick and this way it can be assured that the two portions are as close to perfect halves as they can be.
Primitive? Maybe, but it works.
The latest postponment of vote which was announced an hour ago is going to be bad for the situation in Iraq and for the image of the government in general and that of PM Maliki in particular who wanted to look like the tough and determined new leader of the country.
He warned the parliamentary blocs last week that he would be using his constitutional right to choose people to complete his cabinet as a last resort if the blocs failed to reach consensus on this subject by Sunday but today, although he reportedly presented his candidates for filling the three ministries he was forced to give in and offer the blocs more time to talk and discuss the issue…again.