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Iraq: Cabinet Expected To Be Announced

  • Charles Recknagel --> Ahmad Chalabi is tipped to take over the Interior Ministry, which Sunnis accuse of being used as cover by Shi'ite militias (AFP) PRAGUE, May 19, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Expectations are high in Baghdad that a new Iraqi government is about to be unveiled, with parliament speaker Mahmud Mashhadani having said on May 17 that the legislature would receive and vote on a full list of names in a special session on May 20.

Since that announcement, media speculation over who will get what post has run high. But the speculation has often been contradictory, offering few certainties as to the final nominees.

Power Ministries

Much speculation centers on who will lead the three most powerful ministries, Interior, Defense, and Oil.

One name frequently mentioned as a top contender to lead the Interior Ministry is Ahmad Chalabi, who is currently oil minister. Chalabi, a secular politician, was a key U.S. ally until Washington accused him two years ago of selling secrets to Iran. If Chalabi becomes interior minister, he would replace another controversial figure, Bayan Jabr, who heads that ministry now.

RFE/RL regional analyst Kathleen Ridolfo says Sunni parties frequently accuse Jabr of letting groups in the Interior Ministry carry out kidnappings and assassinations of Sunnis:

"Bayan Jabr is a former high-ranking official in the Badr Brigades, which is the former armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Sunni Arabs have claimed that Interior Ministry forces under his command are linked to the Badr militia and they have said that this militia is responsible for carrying out armed attacks, kidnappings, and assassinations against the Sunni Arab community. For his part, Jabr has denied the claims against him."

Meanwhile, there is much speculation that the Defense Ministry could go to a Sunni. There are several Sunni names in contention, as well as some Shi'ite politicians.

The Oil Ministry could go to independent politician Husayn al-Shahristani, a nuclear physicist. He is widely esteemed for his years of resistance to Saddam Hussein while remaining in the country.
Nuri al-Maliki

Nuri al-Maliki (epa)

NURI KAMIL AL-MALIKI (Jawad al-Maliki is a nom de guerre) was born in 1950 in the Twayrij al-Hindiyah district of Karbala.
Commonly known as Abu Isra, al-Maliki joined the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party in 1968.
He holds an M.A. in Koran and Arabic Language Studies from Salah al-Din University in Irbil.
Following a crackdown on outlawed parties by the regime of Saddam Hussien, al-Maliki fled the country in 1980, seeking asylum first in Iran and later in Syria.
While in Syria, he also published a magazine -- "Al-Mawqif" ("The Attitude") -- that became the mouthpiece of the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party.
For several years, al-Maliki served as the head of jihad and military operations for the party, subsequently becoming a member of its political bureau.
Following the liberation of Iraq, he served as deputy director of the de-Ba'athification commission established by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
In 2004, al-Maliki was elected deputy speaker of the interim National Assembly.
He played a leading role in settling the August 2004 crisis in Al-Najaf when supporters of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr battled coalition forces for three weeks.
In 2005, he served as chairman of the transitional National Assembly's Security and Defense Committee. He was also a member of the committe responsible for drafting Iraq's new constitution.
He has also served as a spokesman for transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari and as spokesman for the United Iraqi Alliance.

More about al-Maliki:
Premier-Designate Promises Tough Approach

Tough Challenges Face New Prime Minister

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