When Iraq's political factions finally elected a government on December 21, 2010 - following over nine months of negotiation - they still had not agreed on the key ministries of defense, interior and national security. Over three months later these cabinet-level offices remain unfilled, although there have been numerous leaks in the Iraqi press over potential candidates, and this week it appears that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is finally submitting them to parliament.
Iraqi news reports are today reporting for the first time that Maliki's formal nominees, as submitted to the office of the speaker of parliament, for interior minister, are Adnan al-Asadi, Muhsin al-Kaabi and Ibrahim al-Lami, and for defense minister, Khalid al-Obaydi. Leaders in the Kurdistan Alliance and Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Movement (aka Iraqiya) have stated that they have not been formally notified of the nominations but have only learned them from the speaker's office. It is not clear whether Maliki has yet nominated someone for the ministry of national security.
The issue of Inside Iraqi Politics linked above was published on Sunday and contains background information on these candidates and a range of others, as well as an analysis of the broader political context. There is no guarantee that the candidates submitted so far will be confirmed. I would like to add two additional comments here.
One, of the three candidates for interior, two of them are viewed as being relatively close to Maliki; Asadi is Maliki's first choice, a member of Maliki's Dawa Party and the current undersecretary of interior, and Lami is a general who is a member of Maliki's staff. Kaabi is a general whom some sources indicated to be in the running, but not necessarily close to Maliki.
Two, by submitting Obaydi's name for defense, Maliki is likely playing games with Iyad Allawi, the nominal leader of the largest Sunni Arab-secular Shia bloc in parliament. Obaydi was Allawi's second choice after Maliki blocked his first, and by last week it was increasingly clear that the Kurds were firmly opposed to his confirmation due to his past as a commander in Saddam Hussein's air force. Then on Sunday - after my newsletter was published - it emerged that Allawi was backing away from Obaydi because he refused to promise to resign in case Allawi's bloc decided to oppose Maliki's government. And then today the debaathification commission announced that Obaydi must be excluded due to his past ties to the Baath, something which news reports last week indicated was likely.
So Maliki, it appears, is nominating someone for defense he knows is very likely to not be confirmed, so he can nominate a "compromise" candidate later. The daily al-Mada is also reporting that Kaabi, in addition to Obaydi, is subject to debaathification. This, Maliki likely reasons, should allow him to get one of his first choices into interior.