Iraqi parliament confirms 3 new ministers, 5 seats unfilled


BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s parliament confirmed three ministers to Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s government Tuesday but left other key posts, including ministers of Defense and Interior, vacant as an impasse over the appointments threatened to stretch into its third month.

The confirmations come two days after Abdul-Mahdi’s controversial nominee to head the Interior Ministry returned to his former posts as the chairman of the Popular Mobilization militias and national security adviser to the prime minister.

Falih al-Fayadh retook his seat at a National Security Council meeting on Sunday after he was sacked from his positions by caretaker prime minister Haidar al-Abadi in August for political behavior.

Al-Fayadh has been at the center of the deadlock surrounding Abdul-Mahdi’s appointees. His nomination to run the Interior Ministry has the backing of the largest Iranian-aligned bloc in Parliament, which includes representatives of the Popular Mobilization Forces.

The PMF were formed in 2014 to stop the advance of Islamic State group militants through Iraq. They include several militias funded and trained by Iran.

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The political bloc of populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is opposing Al-Fayadh’s appointment at the Interior Ministry, saying it wants to limit outside influence in politics. Sadr’s bloc, Sa’eroun, won the largest share of seats in parliamentary elections last May.

The Interior Ministry has been under the control of ministers close to Iran since 2010.

Abdul-Mahdi was sworn in to his post in October but has governed without a full cabinet after parliament approved just 14 of 22 ministerial appointments. On Tuesday, parliament approved new ministers of culture, planning and higher education, leaving five posts unfilled.

But Al-Fayadh’s return as national security adviser and chairman of the PMF could soon break the deadlock over the remaining appointments, said Hussein Allawi, director of Baghdad-based Akkad Center for Strategic Affairs and Future Studies.

“This gives Abdul-Mahdi an opportunity to name a new nominee to the Interior Ministry,” said Allawi.

Parliament is slated to meet again Thursday to discuss the remaining cabinet vacancies.

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