Tuesday, May 02, 2006

We're almost there…

The process of forming the cabinet has reached a good milestone that promises an end to the long disputes that consumed months over who-gets-what especially when it came to security-related posts that are no more a problem, actually some analysts and politicians expect the next 24 hours to witness the announcement of the final formation of a large part of the cabinet.

Tomorrow there will be another session for the parliament but this one is not going to about the government according to deputy speaker of parliament Aarif Tayfoor and will be dedicated to drafting the internal charter of the parliament as well as forming a temporary committee that will present suggestions for necessary amendments in the constitution according to article 142 of Iraq's constitution.

As pointed out above, the most important development is the agreement between the UIA and Accord Front on leaving the defense and interior ministries to two figures from outside these two blocs; sources from the UIA said that among the candidates for the defense ministry are Hachim al-Hasani (former speaker of parliament, from Allawi's bloc) and Mithal al-Alousi (independent secular Sunni parliamentarian) while some parties think that the US wants to see the security file in the hands of the Iraqi list for the friendly relationship between the US and Allawi which would allow the US to have more influence in this critical file.
Meanwhile Azzaman in today's edition reported that America's ambassador is trying to convince the rival blocs to pick ministers for defense and interior form outside the parliament and not only from outside the major blocs in the aim to discard the suggestion of picking ministers from the independents inside those blocs whose independence cannot be guaranteed. Ayad al-Samarra'i from the Accord Front confirmed this story to Azzaman and said there's a basic agreement among the blocs to answer this request.

It also seems that a solution for the foreign ministry as about to be reached as well; the compromise came with a suggestion from the Accord Front to create a new 'ministry of Arab affairs' to be the Front's share and end the race with the Kurds for the original foreign ministry, and I guess the phenomenon of creating new ministries has become a solution of choice whenever there's a disputed post, Ayad al-Samarra'i said that there's another suggestion to establish an 'intelligence ministry' to match the number of the so called sovereignty ministries with the demands of the blocs!
I really don't how many ministries we will end up with if we continue like this! We started with 21 ministries when Saddam was toppled and now we'll have more than 35 which in my opinion represents an administrative disaster.
However, I think this is only a temporary measure because the state will soon have to deal with the burdens of these unnecessary offices and their load on the budget and the government will find itself forced to drop some weight to be able to move forward but at this moment we will just have to bare with the disadvantages if establishing these new ministries can prevent bloodshed.

On the other hand one of two deputy PM posts is still unallocated but there's a greater chance for it to go to the Iraqi list (Allawi who's also a candidate for becoming secretary of the national security council) than to go to the Accord Front.
The other deputy PM post is allocated to the Kurdish Alliance but there's no final candidate for this one too, as it could be Noori Shawees, Barham Salih or Hoshyar Zibari, in case the latter didn't get the foreign ministry.

Inside the UIA there's another division over the oil ministry after Hussein al-Shahristani joined the list of candidates for this vital post while Fadheela Party insists that they should keep this one and supporting their argument by the 'accomplishments of the ministry when the Party assumed control over the ministry' saying that oil production increased from 1.6 million barrels to 2.2 million barrels in addition to a reduction in fuel imports from 500 to 213 million $ a month. But there are other powers that are pushing towards calling back Thamir al-Ghadban who was oil minister in Allawi's cabinet.

As a summary, Monday negotiations resulted in allocating 13-14 ministries to the UIA and 5 to the Accord Front who are demanding the ministries of agriculture, health, municipalities, youth and education, this means these demands will conflict with those of the Sadrists who want to get the health, education and transportation in addition to two other ministries since they have rooted their rule in these ministries.
I personally think this is a point that requires our attention; the education ministry must not be given to a sectarian or incompetent person just like it's the case with defense and interior ministries and politicians must realize that on the long term, education is just as important as security.

I do not expect these relatively small disputes to be an obstacle after the top posts had been decided and as the new PM Noori al-Maliki explained that consensus has been reached after "everyone agreed that each and every minister will need the approval of all the blocs" which means no one will be able to force the rest to accept a minister they do not find suitable.
And again, politicians expect the cabinet to emerge as soon as next week and I think this is quite possible.

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