Six ministers face sack in Iraq Cabinet shake-up

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. (Reuters)
Updated 08 May 2019

Six ministers face sack in Iraq Cabinet shake-up

  • US flexes muscles in turf war with Iran

BAGHDAD: Six Iraqi government ministers, including Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban and Electricity Minister Luay Al-Khatteeb, are expected to lose their jobs in a major reshuffle of the Cabinet in Baghdad.

The shake-up in Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s government is part of a turf war between the US and Iran for power and influence in Iraq, which has hamstrung his attempts to form a government since he was sworn into office in October 2018, five months after bitterly contested elections.

“Iraq is the chessboard that Iran and America are wrestling on. Upcoming interrogations of ministers and dismissals are part of this wrestling,” a leading negotiator told Arab News. “Both sides have tools in Iraq and both are trying to trim each other’s nails.”

The government in Baghdad was formed last year, after months of wrangling, in a deal finally thrashed out between Reformation, the largest parliamentary bloc led by the anti-Iran Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, and Al-Binna’a, the largest pro-Iranian bloc led by Hadi Al-Amiri, head of Badr organization.

Even then, the two blocs were unable to agree on candidates for the two key security ministerial posts of defense and interior. They are now expected to be filled as part of the latest agreement.

Tension between Washington and Tehran is rising as the anniversary approaches of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and the reimposition of crippling economic sanctions.

Iraq is at the center of that tension. On Monday the US announced deployment of an aircraft carrier strike force to the Gulf in response to an “escalated threat” from Iran. US officials did not specify the location of the threat, but are known to be concerned about the activities of Iran-backed militias in Iraq.

Against this background, the US and its allies in Iraq believe Abdul-Mahdi has moved too close to Tehran, and changes in the government to restore balance are the solution, negotiators told Arab News. The ministries involved will be oil, electricity, water resources, industry, health and communications.

“Abdul-Mahdi himself will not be toppled, no one is able to do so, but the Cabinet reshuffle will take place soon,” a key negotiator told Arab News. “The situation is serious and our discussions have focused on the importance of fortifying the internal situation.

“Iraqi and European mediators are trying to reach understandings and calm the situation between Iran and America, because we believe Iraq is in the midst of the storm and we Iraqis will pay the biggest price as a result.”

Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

Updated 15 November 2019

Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

BEIRUT: Three major Lebanese parties have agreed on nominating Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, to become prime minister of a new government, the Lebanese broadcasters LBCI and MTV reported on Thursday.
The agreement was reached in a meeting on Thursday between outgoing Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician, and senior representatives of the Shiite groups Amal and Hezbollah.
There was no official comment from the parties or Safadi. The broadcasters did not identify their sources.
Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of an unprecedented wave of protests against ruling politicians who are blamed for rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Hariri remains caretaker prime minister for now.
Since quitting, Hariri, who is aligned with the West and Gulf Arab states, has been holding closed-door meetings with parties including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which had wanted him to be prime minister again.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim according to the country’s sectarian power-sharing system.
Mustaqbal Web, a Hariri-owned news website, said a meeting between Hariri, Ali Hassan Khalil of the Amal Movement and Hussein Al-Khalil of Hezbollah had discussed recommending Safadi for the post.
MTV said the government would be a mixture of politicians and technocrats. Mustaqbal Web said the type of government was not discussed, and neither was the question of whether Hariri’s Future Movement would be part of the Cabinet.
LBCI said the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party allied to Hezbollah, had also agreed to Safadi’s nomination.
They did not identify their sources.
Safadi is a prominent businessman and member of parliament from the northern city of Tripoli. He served previously as finance minister from 2011-2014 under prime minister Najib Mikati.
Prior to that, he served as minister of economy and trade in the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who was backed by the West. He held that post again in the Hariri-led Cabinet that took office in 2009.
Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister of a Cabinet of specialist ministers which he believed would be best placed to win international aid and steer Lebanon out of its economic crisis, sources close to Hariri have said.