Baghdad – The Iraqi parliament’s endorsement of two key ministers will boost the government’s war efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and will pave the way for more domestic and international backing, former Iraqi security ministers and analysts said.
On October 18, the Iraqi parliament approved the appointment of Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni from the northern city of Mosul that is now under ISIL control, as defence minister. Mohammed al-Ghabban of the powerful Shia political party, the Badr Organisation, which has a militia wing, is to take over the interior ministry.
Under former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, key security posts like the ministries of defence and interior as well as the National Intelligence Service, had remained vacant and were run by Maliki’s office.
Several security analysts told Al Jazeera that the appointments are likely to provide Prime Minister Haidar al-Abbadi with much needed political backing in his war against ISIL. The group has seized most of Iraq’s northern and western Sunni-dominated provinces.
“Sanctioning the ministers of defence and interior [from parliament] reflects the much sought after consensus between Iraq’s various political blocs,” Abdulwahid Tuama, an independent political analyst, told Al Jazeera. “This will positively reflect on the ground since those two ministers will lead the battle against ISIL fighters.”
Since August, a US-led military coalition has been bombing ISIL fighters who hold swaths of territory in northern and western Iraq. Progress has been stymied by a recent influx of new ISIL fighters, according to Iraqi military experts.
The battle against ISIL has highlighted the fragility and lack of professionalism of the Iraqi security forces and exposed the financial and administrative corruption plaguing these two key security ministries.
Security experts believe the ministers’ appointment will help facilitate the flow of weapons for Iraqi troops.
“After the appointments, the perception among international and key regional players is that the Iraqi government is moving in the right direction. This will help Abbadi get more support,” said Abdulkareem al-Enazi, a Shia lawmaker and a former minister of National Security during Ibrahim al-Jaafari government in 2005.
“This [the appointments] will help solve many problems, including obtaining the weapons, ammunitions, equipment as well as the intelligence information needed to stop the flow of fighters and funds for terrorists.”
will help solve many problems, including obtaining the weapons, ammunitions, equipment as well as the intelligence information needed to stop the flow of fighters and funds for terrorists.”]
Interior Minister al-Ghabban, was nominated to replace Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr Organisation who was nominated for the post but faced serious objections from Sunni lawmakers. Iraqi Sunnis have blamed Badr Organisation for what they describe as a wave of targetted killings of former Iraqi pilots and senior military officers in the years that followed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Ghabban is not a well-known figure but his nomination was backed by the Sunni parliamentary bloc despite his senior leadership position in the Badr organisation.
The Minister of Defence, Khaled al-Obeidi, also a lawmaker and well-known former general was nominated by al-Mutahedoon Bloc, headed by former Parliament Speaker and current Sunni vice president Osama al-Nujaifi.
There are no high expectations that Ghabban and Obeidi will be able to make big changes any time soon, according to Iraqi military analysts. However, there is a consensus that the Iraqi army’s performance and coordination with the US-led coalition on the ground is likely to become more effective.
“The minister of defence is a professional and he has more understanding of the type of military operations, the needed equipment for the battlefield, which battle fronts to focus on,” said Emad Belou, head of the Republic Center for Strategic and Military Studies. “Most importantly, he will be able to select the right commanders to lead the battles against ISIL.”
Some, however, remain doubtful about a shift in the battlefield in the absence of major reform plan of Iraqi security institutions. But according to Iraqi officials, the dissolved military divisions are being restructured whereby thousands of deserters, who have returned to the service after the government’s amnesty last August, are undergoing rehabilitation process and many were redeployed.
Abbadi’s military team believes that while reforms would take months, this is the only available option in light of the strong opposition to deploying foreign troops on the ground. Shia fighters have, on many occasions, threatened to withdraw from the front lines if the Iraqi government brings in foreign ground troops. Washington has also ruled out the option.