2 May 2005, Volume 8, Number 14IRAQ'S TRANSITIONAL CABINET ANNOUNCED AFTER WEEKS OF POLITICAL WRANGLING. Nearly three months after Iraq's landmark national elections, the transitional National Assembly overwhelmingly approved Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Ja'fari's cabinet list on 28 April despite key vacancies in some posts, including the coveted posts of oil and defense.
Al-Ja'fari made no apologies for the incomplete list, telling parliamentarians before the vote: "I have worked night and day to form the government which will focus on action and which reflects the ethnic and religious diversity of Iraqi society." He anticipated that the cabinet appointments will be completed in the next few days.
The list was submitted five days after an expected announcement, following negotiations plagued by political wrangling between Sunni and Shi'ite negotiators; Sunnis had called for some nine posts in the interim cabinet but ended up with only a handful, leaving many to criticize the outcome.
Just one day before the cabinet was announced, Muhammad Shihab al-Dulaymi, deputy secretary general for the Unified Iraq Council (the Sunni negotiating body representing the National Forces Front and the National Dialogue Council and led by transitional Vice President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir) told Al-Jazeera television that purported Sunni representatives were attempting to influence the negotiations. He denied however, that there were divisions within the Sunni bloc. At the same time, rumors began surfacing that Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) head Mas'ud Barzani had sent a letter to the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) threatening to withdraw from negotiations unless interim President Iyad Allawi's Iraqi List was included in the cabinet. Barzani's spokesman denied the rumor to Kurdistan Satellite TV on 27 April.
Following the cabinet announcement, transitional Vice President al-Yawir called the composition of the transitional cabinet below the expectations of Sunnis, while Salih al-Mutlaq of the National Dialogue Council and Mish'an al-Juburi of the Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc both criticized Shi'ites for backtracking on an agreement to meet with Sunnis prior to the announcement of the cabinet. Shi'ites were to sign off at the meeting on a political statement calling for the revision of the de-Ba'athification law, the dissolution of the Iraqi Army, and justice for those recently isolated by the political process.
In a speech to parliament broadcast on Al-Sharqiyah television after the cabinet vote, Al-Juburi criticized Assembly Speaker Hajim al-Hassani for not allowing parliamentarians to speak until after the vote of confidence was taken, saying: "A political annihilation and exclusion of an important and basic group of the Iraqi people was exercised today."
Al-Juburi further claimed that some members of the newly appointed government tried to kill him 14 years ago "in the name of the Iraqi intelligence." He said that he had previously raised the issue with Shi'ite negotiators but was not allowed to express his opinion before the entire assembly ahead of the vote. Al-Juburi later told Al-Jazeera: "We feel that we have been let down and that our arms have been twisted. Our existence in this country has not been respected and a process of serious sectarian isolation has been exercised against us." He also claimed that Shi'ites conspired against the Sunnis in the government formation, and criticized Vice President al-Yawir for not vetoing the cabinet list in the Presidency Council's vote. "Now we believe that those who think that they represent the Sunni Arabs should withdraw from the government," al-Juburi said.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Jawad al-Khalisi, secretary general of the Iraqi Constituent Conference, told "Al-Hayat" that Shi'ite negotiators attempted to conspire against the boycott movement by courting Sunnis to participate in the cabinet, the daily reported on 28 April. Al-Khalisi criticized the use of quotas in the appointment of the cabinet. He called for an end to "the dirty play" of sectarian identity that he said was carried out in the cabinet appointments. He called the inclusion of the Sunni parties that boycotted the elections in the transitional government "a political ploy to conspire against Iraq and the Sunnis in particular by convincing them that they had made big and disastrous mistakes by boycotting the general elections." He also accused the United States of interfering in the formation of the government.
Weeks of negotiations between Sunnis and the Shi'ite-led UIA led to the defection of three Sunni members from the UIA: Mudar Shawkat, Sheikh Fawwaz al-Jarba, and Abd al-Rahman al-Nu'aymi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2005). Shawkat, a UIA member from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), told "Al-Hayat" in an article published on 28 April that the defections were partly related to a feeling among Sunni members of the UIA that they were being sidelined in the political process. "The Sunnis in the alliance are fully understanding of the demographic weight that the Shi'ites represent and the injustice from which they suffered in the past. But some [UIA] Shi'ites' views of us was sectarian and not as part of the alliance," he said. Shawkat added that the issue had "nothing to do with the marginalization of the Sunnis inside the alliance with regard to their getting ministerial posts" saying, "posts should be given to those who merit them and not on the basis of sectarian distribution."
Turkoman representative Sami Shabak also criticized the process, telling Al-Sharqiyah television on 28 April: "As you know, we are now 15 [Turkoman] National Assembly members. Five of us are in the Kurdistan Coalition and the rest are in the United Iraqi Alliance except for one in the Iraqi List. They were supposed to consult with us. We were supposed to have an opinion about the make-up and the quota decided for the Turkomans." Shabak said that the Turkomans had wanted two cabinet posts in the new government.
Husayn al-Sadr, spokesman for outgoing Prime Minister Allawi's Iraqi List, told reporters that it was also not consulted in the negotiation process. He said he hoped that the transitional government would not begin working from scratch but rather consider the progress achieved by the interim government, adding: "It is not important for [the Iraqi List] to take part in the portfolios and political posts" but rather that it works to serve the nation.
The discontent expressed by Sunnis with regard to the cabinet composition leaves many wondering if anything concrete was achieved in the building of al-Ja'fari's "national unity" government. Most likely, those achievements will take time to surface. Time will also reveal what effect the weeks of negotiations with Sunnis will have on the insurgency. Shi'ite and Kurdish politicians had argued that bringing Sunnis into the cabinet would have a marked impact on at least part of the insurgent movement. But with so many Sunni politicians disgruntled with the process, it is unlikely this goal will be realized.
What is obvious at this stage is the fractured state of the Sunni polity. In the absence of a strong Sunni agenda or political platform, it would have been difficult for any group to offer up a cabinet satisfactory to all Sunnis. Nevertheless, the state of the Sunni camp could adversely affect the challenges ahead for the transitional government, namely the writing of a permanent Iraqi constitution. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
CORRUPTION RESTRICTS DEVELOPMENT IN IRAQI KURDISTAN
By Kyle Madigan
One might expect the Kurdistan region to be leading the way in the development of Iraq's civil society and infrastructure after more than a dozen years of self-rule. While Kurdistan has flourished on many levels, it lags behind in many areas that are essential for democratic development. In addition, corruption and government control are pervasive, leaving many Kurds feeling helpless, apathetic, and in disbelief that they are living in a "new" Iraq.
At the root of the problem in the Kurdistan region is the absence of the rule of law. Generally speaking, rule of law means that governments act according to written laws and regulations. Rules are applied consistently, whether to citizens or elected officials. Rights are upheld and protected through a functioning judicial system. Government authority is limited, and private property is protected. In the absence of the rule of law, arbitrary practices by the government discourage personal initiative, breed apathy, cynicism, and distrust.
It is easy to lose focus on the need to develop the rule of law when the rest of the country is wrapped up in an insurgency and is struggling with more critical infrastructure issues such as electricity and clean water. In the absence of international aid agencies, civil society development in Kurdistan is stagnant, leaving the regional governments to fund projects they deem worthy. Party membership is a requirement for anyone wanting to advance his or her cause.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) must be free of party and governmental control if they are to flourish. Unfortunately, the climate in Kurdistan is not conducive to such development. Kurds say the desire is there, but many outside the parties lack the wherewithal to navigate the halls of bureaucracy in order to establish an NGO. Many say the impression is that no organization can get off the ground without the support of the Kurdistan administrations. Kurds not affiliated with either of the two dominant parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) or the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), see little hope of achieving such goals.
Another marker of a developing civil society is independent, functioning trade unions. A 22 April article on ft.com highlights the struggling trade union movement in Kurdistan. "Kurdish [union] leaders are clearly also officials of, or closely linked to, the two main parties," the reporter observed. "In a session with Imad Ahmed, the PUK leader in the region, he gives the game away by saying, 'the unions are weak: they are dominated by the parties. They need to become stronger and more independent.'" A visiting British trade union delegation wondered "why a union movement that is poor and needs funds as well as training is able to drive [the guests around] in big Toyota Land Cruisers and BMWs," the article noted.
There are signs everywhere of the same government control that was practiced by the regime of Saddam Hussein. Residents in KDP-controlled territory say it is impossible to voice dissent against KDP leaders or their relatives, who are said to have profited immensely from lucrative business deals. Enterprising Kurds say that in order to open a company or secure a permit, a cut, in the form of a payoff or a stake in the business must be paid. Perhaps the most lucrative practice allegedly employed by some government insiders is the revenue gained from taxes on oil tankers and other importers upon entering and leaving the KDP controlled areas of Turkey.
Kurds say that a different set of standards exists for foreign investors and expatriate Kurdish investors. Nowhere in KDP-controlled areas can the Iraqi national flag be found -- only the KDP and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) flags fly outside government buildings and military installations.
A 27 April report by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (http://www.iwpr.net) claims that the investment climate in the eastern part of Kurdistan controlled by PUK leader and new Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is the best in Iraq, but Talabani's administration has also been accused of corrupt practices. Some critics say that left unchecked, party members and parliamentarians from both the KDP and PUK have usurped land and taken control of natural resources for their own personal use, growing wealthy off of smuggling and shady business ventures. Meanwhile, the parties maintain budgetary control over their administrations, and many report that economic data is a closely held secret.
The newly elected parliament resembles the last one, with its members split evenly between the two major Kurdish parties. The former parliament was known for the corrupt practices of its members, who often showed more interest in profit than in knowing the concerns of their constituency. The parliament functions in much of the same fashion as the rest of Kurdish administration.
Fereydun Hilmi wrote in a December 2004 article published on kurdishmedia.com that the problem stems from a lack of accountability and control. "The executive administration, which is owned by the party, is appointed one by one by direct order from the men at the very top or via party recommendations and not as a result of the qualifications or suitability or experiences of those holding office. Their allegiance is therefore to the people above them while the people below them [the major part of the masses] do not get any attention. Because of the lack of planning and the prevalent corruption, no department is required to prepare any job descriptions for their staff."
Party control over the media helps perpetuate the abuse. Kurdish peshmerga forces, also tied to the parties, operate with impunity as well. Kurds quietly speak about peshmerga forces seizing goods imported by the few humanitarian organizations operating in Kurdistan for their own personal use. As the peshmerga cruise across Kurdistan in new pickup trucks and land cruisers -- all sans license plates -- their authority is not questioned. The political and security apparatuses are further complicated by tribal loyalties that impede the establishment of the rule of law.
Kamal Berzenji wrote in an article published by kurdishmedia.com in December 2002: "The members of the [Kurdish] security services...try to make a business out of their powers by accusing and arresting anybody whom they think they could blackmail and extract money from." He says the practice has its roots in Hussein's Ba'athist regime, but was also practiced during the Kurdish civil war in the 1990s. "One of the reasons [for that war is] business -- and profit making by some Kurdish warlords on both sides. Some of them grew [into] millionaires by confiscating and stealing the property of his fellow Kurdish brothers."
With no functioning judicial system in place, party members and representatives go about their business free from prosecution. In a conference paper republished this month on kurdishmedia.com, Rebwar Fatah identified three systems that can loosely describe the judicial system in Kurdistan: the civil, security, and tribal systems. "The judicial system needs to be independent and free from any external interference," he wrote. "The concept of 'rule of law' must be implemented."
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld addressed the issue of corruption during his visit to Baghdad this month, telling newly elected officials that it must be rooted out. And there have been reports of across-the-board corruption within the interim administration of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. While Baghdad remains the focus, Kurdistan runs the risk of falling behind rather than leading the way in the new Iraq.
RFI REPORTS ON IRAQI WOMEN. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on a press briefing held by three prominent Iraqi leaders regarding the role of women in the transitional administration on 26 April.
Jumana a-Ubaydi, RFI correspondent in Baghdad: Iraqi women have asked the elected government to represent them seriously, correctly, and accordingly with their proportion in the Iraqi National Assembly. This was said in a press conference held [on 26 April] in the presence of Pascal Esho Warda, [interim] minister of migration and displaced persons; Layla Abd al-Latif, [interim] minister of labor and social affairs; and Safiya al-Suhayl, Iraq's [interim] ambassador to Egypt.
Pascal Esho Warda: As women were with the struggle, among those who participated in delivering their voice, I think the memories will not remain only memories. They will be changed into reality and thus the merit of the group of women will not be forgotten, [of the women] who have always tried during the last years to highlight the importance of providing opportunities to Iraqi women. Unfortunately, despite the achievements that Iraqi women have achieved, we see the traditions [continued] as people have learned. But we need not be forced to compare ourselves with the weakest [parts of the] world. We did not expect anyone to teach us. Excluding women means dealing a blow to the very essence of democracy because we cannot forget that women make up nearly 55 percent of Iraqi society. That is why we would only have taken part in destroying the development of democracy in Iraq had women been outside this political process. So my slogan is: "There will be no political building of the new Iraq unless women are given an effective participation."
A-Ubaydi: Engineer Layla Abd al-Latif, [interim] minister of work and social issues, described the reasons that affect the difficult struggle of Iraqi women, as she put it.
Layla Abd al-Latif: We frequently see women whose husbands are unemployed and whose children are not safe going to school. And if they, scared and terrified, send them to school, the [mothers] cannot find sufficient job opportunities. Iraqi women are not provided with safety, health, and complete education. These are the issues that unsettle women. Women are the foundation of the family. If a husband is unemployed, it means the woman is not stable. If her son does not go to school, the woman is concerned. At the present time, many women are divorced or widowed, wives of men killed in wars through which we have participated in. So these women need support.
A-Ubaydi: Safiya al-Suhayl, Iraq's ambassador to Egypt, asked [transitional Prime Minister] Ibrahim al-Ja'fari to give women leaders the opportunity to choose their representatives.
Safiya al-Suhayl: The [female] activists from Iraqi women and from women's organizations, they themselves must choose their representatives. That is why we call today on doctor [Ibrahim] al-Ja'fari and on other leaders of the political process to give us, the women in leadership positions, the opportunity to choose women that will represent us within the Iraqi cabinet. This is very important. Why have we not been provided with the opportunity to choose who will represent us in the cabinet? This is very important. Why have women in Iraq not been given key ministries? Why is there no woman as vice president or president? I said earlier that I would be the first woman to run for president of the republic because I find myself able, competent, ambitious, and disciplined. (Translated by Petr Kubalek)
LIST OF TRANSITIONAL CABINET MEMBERS
Prime Minister and acting Defense Minister, Ibrahim al-Ja'fari
Deputy Prime Minister and acting Electricity Minister, Rowsch Nuri Shaways
Deputy Prime Minister and acting Oil Minister, Ahmad Chalabi
Interior Minister, Bayan Sulagh Jabr
Foreign Minister, Hoshyar al-Zebari
Finance Minister, Ali Abd al-Amir Allawi
Construction and Housing Minister, Jasim Muhammad Ja'far
Education Minister, Abd al-Falah Hasan
Higher Education Minister, Sami al-Muzaffar
Health Minister, Abd al-Muttalib Muhammad Ali
Planning and Development Cooperation Minister, Barham Salih
Telecommunications Minister, Fu'ad Ma'sum
Trade Minister, Abd al-Basit Karim Mawlud
Acting Industry and Minerals Minister, Muslih Khadr al-Juburi
Agriculture Minister, Ali al-Bahadili
Justice Minister, Abd al-Husayn Shandal
Labor and Social Affairs Minister, Idris Hadi
Water Resources Minister, Latif Rashid
Transportation Minister, Salam al-Maliki
Culture Minister, Nuri Farhan al-Rawi
Science and Technology Minister, Basimah Yusuf Butrus
Displacement and Migration Minister, Suhaylah Abd al-Ja'far
Youth and Sports Minister, Talib Aziz Zayni
Environment Minister and acting Human Rights Minister, Narmin Uthman
Municipalities and Public Works Minister, Nisreen Mustafa Sideek Barwari
Minister of State for National Security Affairs, Abd al-Karim al-Anzi
Minister of State for Governorate Affairs, Sa'd Nayif Mujhim al-Hardan
Minister of State for Civil Society Affairs, Ala Habib Kazim
Minister of State for Women's Affairs, Azhar Abd al-Karim al-Shaykhali
Minister of State for Tourism and Antiquities, Hashim al-Hashimi
Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs, Safa al-Din Muhammad al-Safi