Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, a Shiite lawmaker with new Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s State of Law political bloc, was appointed as Minister of Interior while Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni lawmaker from the besieged city of Mosul, was named for the post of Defense Minister.
The postponement of the ministerial announcements last Thursday came after Abadi’s earlier choices were rejected by Parliament on September 16. Abadi had presented Sunni MP Jabar al-Jabbari as Defense Minister and Riyad Gharib, a Shiite lawmaker with the State of Law parliamentary bloc, as Interior Minister.
While Abadi succeeded in reaching a breakthrough on Saturday, Iraqis hope that the new Ministers will put national interests above narrow sectarian agendas.
In Iraq the post of Parliament speaker is reserved to a Sunni Arab, the Premiership to a Shiite Arab and the Presidency to a Kurd. It is traditional for the Defense and Interior portfolios to go to a Sunni Arab and Shiite, respectively.
The stalemate over choosing candidates for the security posts was widely predicted by political observers who noted Abadi’s difficult task after the eight-year premiership of Nouri al-Maliki whose policies were widely regarded as polarizing and partisan.
The key posts have been vacant since late 2010; Maliki had served as the acting Defense and Interior Ministers.
Filling the posts has become even more pressing following the lighting seizure of Iraqi territory this June by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad told Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi that the international anti-ISIS coalition needs to deal with a Defense Minister to help in the fight against the militant group, urging Iraq to speed up the process of choosing a candidate.
Photo: Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban (L) was appointed as Minister of Interior, while Khaled al-Obeidi (R) was named for the post of Defense Minister.