Iraqi Parliament Approves New Cabinet

Iraq moved one step closer to democracy and self-sufficiency today, approving a new cabinet. There are, however, still major problems to be solved.

Iraqi Parliament Approves New Cabinet (AP)

Iraq’s parliament approved a national unity government on Saturday, achieving a goal the U.S. hopes will reduce widespread violence so that U.S. forces can eventually go home. But as the legislators met, at least 27 people were killed and dozens wounded in a series of attacks.

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In a show of hands, the 275-member parliament approved each Cabinet minister proposed by incoming Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The new ministers then took their oaths of office in the nationally televised session in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. That completed a democratic process that began following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

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But his failure to fill the top two security porfolios illustrated the challenges ahead. Al-Maliki, a Shiite, said he would be acting interior minister for now, and he made Salam Zikam al-Zubaie, a Sunni Arab, the temporary defense minister. That angered some legislators, and before the Cabinet was approved by a show of hands, parliament turned down a motion by Sunni Arab leader Saleh al-Mutlaq to postpone the session. Al-Mutlaq then walked out with about 10 other Sunni deputies. The defense ministry oversees the army, while the interior ministry is responsible for police.

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“This is a historic day for Iraq and all its people,” deputy parliament speaker Khalid al-Attiyah said at a nationally televised news conference as the legislators gathered. “It is the first time that a full-term, democratically elected government has been formed in Iraq since the fall of the ousted regime. This government represents all Iraqis,” said al-Attiyah, a bearded Shiite cleric wearing a white turban.

The failure to fill the two most important posts below prime minister is a strong signal that national unity is still a distant goal. Still, there have been a number of historic milestones and progress toward democratic legitimacy that would never have happened without the forcible overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.