BAGHDAD – In a major shuffle of positions in government institutions, agencies, and military positions, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi among others replaced the governor of the Central Bank, appointed a new mayor for the Iraqi capital Baghdad and appointed a new head of the government Integrity Commission.
The presidency of the National Investment Authority went to the Syriac Chaldean Suha Dawud Elias Al-Najjar who’s family originates from the town of Karamlesh in the Nineveh Plain. Al-Najjar currently holds the position of senior advisor to the Prime Minister for Economic and Investment Affairs. She is the third Syriac Chaldean this year to assume a minister or senior role in the administration of PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
With the replacements and new nominations, al-Kadhimi is trying to fulfil his promise of reform as demanded by the protesters who have taken the streets of Iraq’s cities for over a year now. The protesters were able to make the pro-Iranian government of Adel Abdul Mahdi resign and expose the influence of Iran and the militias it backs. Al-Kadhimi took office on expectations of amending the election law and the election commission, bringing the killers of the activists and protesters to justice, putting an end to the uncontrolled armed groups and militias, bringing an end to corruption, diminishing the role of Iran in Iraqi decision-making through proxies, and holding early parliamentary elections – recently announced for June 2020.
Al-Kadhimi is struggling to implement his reform agenda and e.g. bring to justice the killers of Iraqi protesters and activists. By assigning new people, the Iraqi PM intends to clear out corruption in the government agencies and branches of the government. But he has to fight many sectarian opponents who, with backing from the Islamic Republic of Iran, do everything to take his administration down and sabotage his relationship with the Americans and the West. Almost on a daily basis rockets are fired at American and Iraqi military bases and the US embassy.
How difficult al-Kadhimi’s task is, is evident in that most of the killers of activists are still at large. They are protected by their militias or para-military groups who in turn are backed by Iranian-backed sectarian political parties. The new appointees are also largely nominated along sectarian lines e.g. the Baghdad Municipality went to the Shiite Al-Hikma or National Wisdom Movement and the Hajj Commission went to the Shiite Fatah Alliance (which controls many of the Popular Mobilization Forces).
After the Baath regime and Saddam Hussein were taken down in 2003, Iraqi politics was divided along religious and sectarian lines – similar to the situation in Lebanon. The sectarian basis was, at the time, seen as the best solution in given all sects a place in the Iraqi state and avoid (armed) conflicts. It also enabled Iran however to move in and govern Iraq through proxies.
Al-Kadhimi, the protesters, and the Iraqi people await a heavy task and long road in curbing Iranian influence. Whether appointing new people along old sectarian lines will help remains to be seen.