Iraqi PM scraps 11 Cabinet posts as reform drive starts

BAGHDAD • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced the removal of 11 of 33 Cabinet posts, the first concrete step in a reform drive to curb corruption and streamline the government.

Sunday's announcement came as Parliament and Dr Abadi made preliminary moves towards holding top officials - including former premier Nouri al-Maliki - accountable for military disasters in the cities of Mosul and Ramadi, which have been seized by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Dr Abadi rolled out a reform programme a week ago in response to popular pressure from weeks of protests against corruption and poor services, and to a call for drastic change from Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Parliament approved Dr Abadi's plan along with additional measures two days later, but a major gap remains between announcements and implementation.

In a first move from proposals to action, Dr Abadi scrapped three deputy premier positions, three ministries and a minister without portfolio, and merged four more ministries with others. It is unclear whether the scrapped ministries - human rights, women's affairs as well as provincial and parliamentary affairs - will continue in another form or be done away with.

But even with popular support and Ayatollah Sistani's backing, the entrenched nature of corruption and the fact that parties across the political spectrum benefit from it will make any efforts difficult.

Yesterday, Iraqi lawmakers voted to refer to the judiciary a report holding top officials and Mr Maliki, who is now a vice-president, responsible for the fall of Mosul, Iraq's second-biggest city, said Parliament Speaker Salim al-Juburi.

"None of the names mentioned in this report were deleted, and all of them will be sent to the judiciary. An investigation and follow-up and accounting of all those who caused the fall of Mosul will be carried out," Dr Juburi said.

But there were disagreements over the report, with Members of Parliament voting to send it without an official reading, and members of the investigative committee that compiled it complaining that there was no vote to approve the recommendations it contained.

ISIS launched a devastating offensive on June 9 last year, overrunning Mosul the next day and then sweeping through large areas north and west of Baghdad.

While various leaders have long been blamed for the Mosul loss, the report is the first time that they have been named officially. Those named include defence minister Saadun al-Dulaimi, army chief of staff Babaker Zebari and his deputy Aboud Qanbar.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline 'Iraqi PM scraps 11 Cabinet posts as reform drive starts'. Print Edition | Subscribe