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Iraqi Sunnis Accept Nomination of Shiite to Defense Ministry

Iraqi Sunnis Accept Nomination of Shiite to Defense Ministry

Wednesday, 12 December, 2018 - 07:30
US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, left, with Iraqi oil minister, Thamir Ghadhban during a U.S. chamber of commerce's U.S. Iraq business initiative mission to Iraq, in Baghdad, Dec. 11, 2018.

Several Sunni blocs in Iraq said Tuesday they accept to back the nomination of a Shiite military leader for the Defense portfolio.

Iraqi parliament's Speaker, Mohamed al-Halbousi sent letters to several leaders from the Counter-Terrorism Service to nominate one of them for the post of defense minister, without being restricted by the fact that the post is usually allotted to Sunnis.

Head of the "Anbar Is Our Identity" alliance, Abdullah Al-Kharbeet told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday: “We believe that the matter is linked to a national merit that requires appointing the most efficient candidate, rather than being linked to the share of that party or the other based on sectarian and ethnic quotas.”

He said: “We want to break down this 'Muhassasa' system that greatly ruined Iraq.”

A Muhassasa system allows leaders of different ethnic backgrounds to take various roles in the government, including some key ministries. 

A leading Iraqi political figure told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Sunni stance on the Defense Ministry post has greatly embarrassed Shiite political blocs, particularly Al Binaa bloc, which not only insist on the system of Muhassasa but also on a sole candidate to the Ministry of Interior: Falih al-Fayadh.

Meanwhile, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry arrived in Baghdad on a trade mission Tuesday and he met with President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to discuss the US sanctions on Iran.

The US official urged Iraq to reduce its energy dependence on Iran and open its own energy sector to American investment.

"The time has come for Iraq to break its dependence ... on less reliable nations seeking domination and control," he said, in an apparent reference to Iran.

Asked whether Iraqis demanded that Baghdad be exempted from the US sanctions on Iraq, an Iraqi official told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Baghdad had repeatedly asked Washington to be excluded from those sanctions but never received an answer.”

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