Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sayirun alliance. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Muqtada al-Sadr, Shiite firebrand cleric-turned kingmaker, appears to be losing patience with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and his failure to finalize a cabinet of technocrats.
Although Abdul-Mahdi has been prime minister since early October, he has still not completed his Council of Ministers.
Sadr, whose Sayirun alliance of Sadrists, secularists, and communists won the most seats in Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary election, wants technocrats without party affiliations to take office – breaking Iraq’s cycle of patronage and corruption.
The parties, however, have not taken Sadr’s challenge sitting down – insisted on their own candidates for the ministries of defense, interior, and other security posts.
In a public letter addressed to the Iraqi PM on Monday, Sadr urged Abdul-Mahdi to urgently fill the remaining posts with technocrats – else he’ll go into opposition.
“Some hands joined forces again to bring Iraq back to its previous condition of the rule of parties and the corrupt, to deepen their state, dig the roots of their corruption, rule over the resources of its people and potentials, and even its blood again, with external dictation and support,” Sadr said in his letter, published on social media.
Sadr said he had rushed to “contain the crisis” by partnering with Hadi al-Amiri, head of the rival pro-Iran Fatih bloc, following the election. These efforts are now at risk, he warns.
Those individuals who have gathered in “sectarian alliances” based on “rivalries and previous confrontations” for their own “political goals” undermine the entire project, he said.
Abdul-Mahdi must “establish a new phase that meets the expectations of the people, not the expectations of parties, irrespective of their affiliation,” Sadr said.
“Hence, dear respectful brother, today you are obliged not to give in to what is taking place behind the scenes concerning the division of positions and what not, but that you have to be free, as we have seen with your previous resignation,” added Sadr, referring to Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation as oil minister in 2014.
Abdul-Mahdi’s government must be free to establish a country based on “healthy principles” using technocratic ministers independent of the “whims” of political parties.
In previous Iraqi governments, the Ministry of Interior has been handed to an Iran-backed Shiite bloc, while the Ministry of Defense has typically been held by Sunni parties.
This time around, Sunni-Sunni and Shiite-Shiite rivalries are preventing these posts from being filled.
Sadr’s Shiite bloc has rejected the pro-Iran candidate, former national security advisor Falih Fayadh, insisting on a technocrat.
The Sunnis meanwhile have been unable to come to an agreement, with both Sunni camps insisting on its own candidate.
Besides technocrats, “the brave commanders” that took part in the fight against ISIS also have a “priority” for the security positions, said Sadr.
He demanded an end to “procrastination”.
Abdul-Mahdi can count on Sadr’s continued support if he can deliver public services, border security, and improved international standing.
“However, if there is personal slacking and shortcomings on your part, God forbid, then you will be responsible in front of Allah, the people, and Marja, and then we will be in opposition to your government,” Sadr warned.