Arab League chief Nabil al- Arabi yesterday called for international support for Iraq’s new government as United States secretary of state John Kerry hailed it as a “milestone” and urged Arabs to support the Washington-led coalition formed to battle Islamic State (IS), the jihadist group formerly known as Isis.
In his address to parliament, prime minister Haider al-Abadi pledged to “back the military operations in all the areas of confrontation against the armed gangs and the forces of terrorism . . . until victory is achieved.”
Six portfolios have yet to be chosen, including defence and interior, positions Mr Abadi’s autocratic predecessor held for more than three years.
The 37-member cabinet, formed just ahead of the 30-day deadline, is not seen as “inclusive” of all Iraq’s communities, particularly marginalised Sunnis, some of whom have been recruited by IS.
Instead, the cabinet reflects the ethno-sectarian forces dominating Iraq since the 2003 US occupation and comprises politicians who served under former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. An Iraqi source told The Irish Times the theory is: "Any prime minister is better than Maliki."
The former prime minister has been appointed co-vice president with former parliamentary speaker Usama al- Nujayfi and opposition leader Ayad Allawi.
Mr Maliki made inclusion his price for stepping aside in favour of Mr Abadi, who belongs to Mr Maliki’s Shia fundamentalist Dawa party, winner of the largest number of seats in April’s parliamentary poll.
Mr Maliki, in power since 2006, is largely blamed for Iraq’s sectarian and ethnic divisions, deteriorating security situation, rampant corruption and IS victories.
A former communications minister, Mr Abadi joined Dawa at 15, studied engineering at Manchester University and lived in Britain until he returned to Iraq in 2003. His deputies are former foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd; former legislator Baha Arraji, a non-Dawa Shia fundamentalist; and Saleh Mutlaq, a Sunni who has held the post since 2010.
Former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, of Dawa, is foreign minister; a former finance minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, another Shia fundamentalist, is oil minister; and former deputy premier Rowsch Shaways, a Kurd, is finance minister.
The Kurdish bloc joined on condition that within three months disputes with Baghdad would be resolved, particularly the dispute over the export of oil from the Kurdish autonomous region.
“This is an American government,” said the Iraqi source, who admitted that many ministers, including Mr Abadi, owed allegiance to Tehran, sponsor of Shia fundamentalist political factions as well as Shia militias and volunteers battling IS for possession of Takrit, Mosul, Ramadi and Falluja as well as swathes of countryside.
While Washington and Tehran have rejected overt military coordination in the struggle against IS, there is no doubt that there is not-so-covert co- ordination between US
combat aircraft over battlefields and Iranian-allied Iraqi forces on the ground.
This co-ordination has the blessing of US president Barack Obama and Iranian supreme guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate decision-maker in Tehran. Neither side admits co-ordination, due to vehement opposition from hardliners in both countries.
US aircraft bombed IS positions around the Mosul dam, the largest in Iraq, enabling Kurdish peshmerga forces, which have Iranian advisers, to retake the facility.
US air strikes on IS elements besieging Shia Turkomen villages in Amerli aided Iranian- backed Shia militia men to break the siege.
And US air action against IS units advancing on the Haditha dam in Anbar province enabled Iraqi army troops to secure the facility. Both the US and Iran have dispatched advisers to army units.
Since IS forces captured Mosul on June 10th, Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Republican Guards Quds Force has been in Baghdad aiding Baghdad’s efforts to meet the IS threat.