Parliament fills key Cabinet posts in Iraq

Members of the Iraqi parliament are seen vote on remaining cabinet ministers at the parliament headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq June 24, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 24 June 2019
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Parliament fills key Cabinet posts in Iraq

  • In October, Iraq’s Parliament voted to confirm Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s new government while leaving the four Cabinet posts unfilled

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Parliament on Monday filled three key ministerial positions to end seven months of failed negotiations and political deadlock in the country.

The Parliament approved Najah Al-Shammari as defense minister, Yassin Al-Yassiri as interior minister and Farouq Amin Othman as justice minister. The three were sworn in on Monday.

The election of an education minister was postponed after its candidate was voted down.

In October, Iraq’s Parliament voted to confirm Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s new government while leaving the four Cabinet posts unfilled, a move that underlined the country’s deep political divisions.

Parliamentary approval of the three ministers came on the eve of a deadline by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr to the prime minister and leaders of political blocs to fill the vacant ministries.

Al-Sadr, one of the most influential clerics in the country, with millions of followers, a large armed faction and a parliamentary bloc, last week threatened to withdraw his support for the government if Abdul Mahdi failed to finalize his Cabinet within 10 days.

In response, Iraq’s leader rushed to provide a list of candidates to fill the vacant ministries.

Abdul Mahdi’s government resulted from an agreement between the parliamentary Reform coalition led by Al-Sadr and the pro-Iranian parliamentary Construction Coalition led by Hadi Al-Amiri, commander of the Badr Organization, one of the most powerful Shiite armed factions.

The two coalitions agreed to share ministries, support the government and vote for each other’s candidates, but a dispute erupted when Al-Amiri and his allies insisted on the nomination of Falih Al-Fayyadh, the current national security adviser, as interior minister. Al-Sadr and his allies within Reform rejected the nomination, saying Al-Fayadh was backed by Qassem Sulaimani, leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The vote to fill the three ministerial vacancies is unlikely to end Iraq’s political turmoil, analysts warned.

“Now Abdul Mahdi can catch his breath until the next crisis,” Abdul Wahid Tuama, an independent analyst, told Arab News.

“Nothing will be changed after the election of these ministers. The performance of the government will not change and the problems facing the prime minister will not be resolved.

“The most important thing achieved today is that the pressure submitted by Al-Sadr on Abdul Mahdi and the heads of blocs will ease for a while.”


US ‘suspects’ Iran seized UAE based oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

Updated 25 min 14 sec ago
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US ‘suspects’ Iran seized UAE based oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

  • Ship tracking data shows the Panamanian-flagged tanker Riah stopped transmitting its location Saturday
  • A US defense official told AP that Riah is in Iranian territorial waters near Qeshm Island

LONDON: The US said it suspects Iran has seized an oil tanker that drifted into Iranian waters as it traveled through the Strait of Hormuz.

Ship tracking data shows the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah, which is based in the UAE, stopped transmitting its location on Saturday.

The incident is the latest involving shipping in the region where tensions between Iran and the US have escalated in recent months. Iran has been accused of planting mines on several tankers as Washington ramps up economic and military pressure on the regime over its nuclear program and aggressive foreign policy in the region.

Iran also threatened to retaliate against shipping after British forces this month helped seize an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar as it attempted to deliver oil to Syria.

A US defense official told AP that Riah is in Iranian territorial waters near Qeshm Island, which has a Revolutionary Guard base on it. He said the US "has suspicions" Iran seized the vessel.

"Could it have broken down or been towed for assistance? That's a possibility," the official said. "But the longer there is a period of no contact ... it's going to be a concern."

The Riah, a 58-meter oil tanker, traveled from a port near Dubai through the Strait of Hormuz toward Fujairah on the UAE's east coast. After 11 p.m. Saturday something happened to the vessel, according to tracking data.

Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told AP that the tanker had not switched off its tracking in three months of trips around the UAE.

"That is a red flag," Raja said. 

An Emirati official told Al Arabiya that the oil tanker is not owned or operated by the UAE and has not sent a distress call.

“We are monitoring the situation with our international partners,” the official said.

The ship's registered owner, Dubai-based Prime Tankers LLC, told AP it had sold the ship to another company.

Iranian officials have not said anything publicly about the ship.

*With AP