Iraqi prime minister faces further setback forming government

Adel Abdul Mahdi, center, attends a recent parliamentary session. (AFP)
Updated 26 November 2018
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Iraqi prime minister faces further setback forming government

  • The PM will present his candidates on Monday
  • An attempt to fill the eight remaining ministries earlier this month was postponed

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi will present his candidates for eight ministerial positions Monday but the key positions related to security have still not been resolved.

The nominations come after a month of tough negotiations and serious disagreements over candidates for the Interior and Defense ministries, negotiators told Arab News.

Abdul Mahdi, who took office last month, was chosen as the result of a political compromise between the rival two largest parliamentary coalitions.

The Reform alliance led by the influential cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr is vying for influence against the Iran-backed Al-Binna’a, a coalition led by Hadi Al-Amiri. Al-Amiri is the head of Badr Organization, a powerful Shiite armed faction.

An attempt to fill the eight remaining ministries earlier this month was postponed after the two alliances were locked in disagreement.

Negotiators said this time the two sides had reached agreement on six ministers but interior and defense would probably remain empty.

“As long as we can’t agree on all the candidates, let’s go with what we have so far,” a key Reform negotiator told Arab News.

“Both alliances have agreed on the candidates of six ministries, so we will delay the vote on the candidates of interior and defense until further notice,”.

The vacant ministries to be occupied on Monday are justice, culture, education, higher education, immigration and planning. Abdul Mahdi’s nominations for interior and defense will not have the required backing. 

Maj. Gen. Faisal Fener, a former commander of Saddam Hussein’s private jet squadron, had been backed by Amiri and his allies to be the next defense minister. 

But Fener was finally ruled out from the position because of laws against former members of Saddam’s Ba’ath party holding government positions. In particular, he was sanctioned “for his involvement in the 1991 oppression of the Shiite-led uprising against Saddam,” negotiators said.

Faleh Al-Fayad, a former national security adviser — also backed by Amiri — is still the sole candidate for the Interior Ministry.

One of Sadr’s main negotiators said Fener had been “excluded by the law, not by us.” The negotiator said no deal had been reached between the two factions on Fayad. 

“From the beginning we made an agreement with the leadership of Al-Binna’a suggesting that the candidates to occupy the interior and defense should be independent and have nothing to do with the political parties, but they have been insisting to nominate Fayad.

“We have nothing against him but he is not independent.”

The formation of Iraq’s government has been painfully slow since elections in May. 

The US, which backs Reform, and Iran, have been pushing for their allies to gain the biggest influence in the new government, particularly in the security ministries.

Iraq has been a battleground for the US and Iran since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam.

Iran has gained increasing influence in the country by controlling the officials who run the the Interior Ministry and Fayad is no exception. He is seen by most Iraqi parties as Tehran’s man.

He was also the head of the umbrella organization overseeing Shiite paramilitary troops, which fought Daesh alongside the government from 2014.

Fayad was one of the main allies of former prime minister Haider Al-Abadi. But he turned against him and allied with Amiri during the negotiations to form the government.

An Al-Binna’a negotiator said they had little option other than to nominate Fayad because they have no other option and he is backed by the powerful Iranian General Qassim Soleimani who oversees Tehran’s involvement in Iraq and other countries in the region.

“He is the candidate of Soleimani so we can’t withdraw his nomination,” the negotiator said, adding that Soleiman is trying to reward him after he lost his previous positions due to falling out with Abadi.


UK teen who joined Daesh gives birth in Syrian refugee camp

Updated 1 min 28 sec ago
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UK teen who joined Daesh gives birth in Syrian refugee camp

  • Renews appeal to be allowed back to Britain with her newborn baby
  • Shamima Begum and two friends fled London to join the terror network in 2015 aged just 15

LONDON: A teenager who joined the Daesh group in Syria but now wants to return to Britain on Sunday gave birth in a refugee camp, as European governments grapple with what to do with returning extremists ahead of a US troop pullout.
Shamima Begum, whose fate has stirred controversy ever since she and two friends fled London to join the terror network in 2015 aged just 15, told Sky News she had delivered a boy.
“I just gave birth so I’m really tired,” the 19-year-old said as she made a renewed appeal to be allowed back to Britain with her newborn baby.

“I’m afraid he might even die in this camp. I feel a lot of people should have sympathy for me, for everything I’ve been through,” she said.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into when I left. I just was hoping that maybe for the sake of me and my child they let me come back,” she added.
Her case comes as European nations struggle with how to deal with extremists eager to return home following the disintegration of Daesh’s “caliphate” in eastern Syria.
US President Donald Trump again demanded on Saturday that they take back hundreds of captured Daesh fighters.
Trump said on Twitter that the United States was asking Britain and other continental allies “to take back over 800 Daesh fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial.”
The demand came as he prepared — ahead of the pullout of US troops — to declare the group’s so-called “caliphate” destroyed, with US-led Arab and Kurdish forces close to capturing its last Syrian territorial holdout.
“The US does not want to watch as these Daesh fighters permeate Europe,” Trump added.
“Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!“
Begum, previously gave birth to two other children after marrying in Syria. Both children died.
Leading politicians, including interior minister Sajid Javid, have vowed to prevent her return, pointing to her lack of remorse for joining the terror group.
Begum told Sky News she was aware of Daesh’s brutal tactics, including conducting beheadings, but did not regret going to Syria.
“I knew about those things and I was OK with it at first,” she said. “They take care of you... you’re living under Islamic law.
“I don’t regret it because it’s changed me as a person, made me stronger, tougher.”
The teenager, who said she had had no contact with British officials, added the government should not block her homecoming because she was “just a housewife” while there.
“I never made propaganda, I never encouraged people to come to Syria.
“They don’t really have proof that I did anything that is dangerous,” she said.
Europe has long been grappling with how to respond to foreign fighters, and their supporters or dependants, caught in Syria.
However the looming US departure has created a deadline for those governments whose citizens joined IS and have now been captured by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Britain’s government appears split on the issue.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, a former attorney general — the country’s chief legal adviser — told the BBC on Sunday that it was “obliged, at some stage at least, to take them back.”
He noted it was “a matter of international law and domestic law.”
However, writing in The Sunday Times — under the headline “if you run away to join Daesh, I will use all my power to stop you coming back” — Javid insisted the government should strip “dangerous individuals of their British citizenship.”
He said Britain had already exercised this power more than 100 times.
“In considering what actions need to be taken now, I have to think about the safety and security of children living in our country,” Javid wrote.
Other European countries that have chosen to leave the extremists in SDF detention are now being forced to confront the situation.
“All German citizens — including those who are suspected of fighting for the so-called Islamic state — have a fundamental right to travel back into Germany,” a German foreign ministry source said Sunday.
Belgian justice minister Koen Geens told Flemish broadcaster VRT there was the need for a “European solution” to the issue, but appeared irked by Trump’s blunt call.
“It would have been nice for friendly nations to have these kinds of questions raised through the usual diplomatic channels rather than a tweet in the middle of the night,” he said in Dutch.