Iraqi Government Reshuffle Leaves Critics Dissatisfied

Iraqi Government Reshuffle Leaves Critics Dissatisfied
December 20th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraqi Government Reshuffle Leaves Critics Dissatisfied

Iraqi Government Reshuffle Leaves Critics Dissatisfied
Los Angeles Times
December 20, 2006
Key security and economic Cabinet positions remain unchanged. Meanwhile, at least 70 people are slain across the nation.
By Borzou Daragahi, Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD An Iraqi government shake-up meant to improve a much-criticized executive branch won't change key security and economic Cabinet positions, top Iraqi officials said Tuesday.
Though his nation is ravaged by violence and poverty, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki will include only a dozen relatively minor ministry posts in his reshuffle plan, including the heads of health, transportation, culture, women's affairs and tourism, his deputies and inner circle said in telephone interviews and media outlets.
No changes will be made anytime soon at the key security and economic ministries: defense, interior, foreign affairs, finance and oil.
"The security dilemma is not an issue of ministries," said Abbas Bayati, a member of Maliki's Shiite Muslim coalition. "The issue is beyond the government and ministries. The real challenge is to find reconciliation and political understanding. It's not possible to accuse the security ministries of poor performance."
Word of the plan emerged amid swirling lawlessness throughout the country that left at least 68 Iraqis and two U.S. troops dead Tuesday in shootings, bombings and sectarian death-squad killings.
And thieves made off with nearly $1 million in government money.
Given Iraq's dire state, some Iraqi politicians said they were surprised by the limited nature of Maliki's reforms.
"I'm astonished," said independent lawmaker Mithal Alusi. "Do we have a problem in tourism so we need to change the minister of tourism? Or do we have a security problem? Or do we have economic problems?"
Maliki's spokesman said removing any of the most high-profile ministers would be politically difficult. The choices for both defense and interior ministers were arrived at through a painstaking process of negotiation with all three major blocs in the coalition government and can't be easily replaced.
"It is the will of the prime minister to reshuffle as much as he can," said Ali Dabbagh, the main government spokesman. "But it's also the decision of the other blocs in the parliament."
Government insiders predicted the first changes would begin next month.
Some of the ministers said to be on their way out are loyalists of radical cleric Muqtada Sadr, who controls a bloc of about 30 seats in parliament as well as the health and transportation ministries. But officials said the reshuffle was in no way an attempt to isolate Sadr.
"The service ministries are performing poorly, that's obvious to everyone," said Hassan Senaid, a member of Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party. "The Sadr movement supervises many of the service ministries. The reshuffle is not targeted toward their bloc. It happens that the ministries they control are service ministries."
But Sadr won't lose his influence. Under Iraq's power-sharing agreements, he probably will get to nominate replacements for departing ministers.
"The prime minister can't change any minister unless the given bloc associated with that given ministry agrees and then provides the candidates' names," said Ali Adib, one of Maliki's top deputies.
Meanwhile, Iraq's torrent of violence continued. Among those assassinated or found dead Tuesday were the coach of the national bicycling team, a former Olympic wrestling star and a well-known television actor.
Robbers made off with about $890,000 in Iraqi currency meant to pay the salaries of government workers. The holdup took place in central Baghdad as a group of employees was leaving a bank with the money.
In other violence, two U.S. troops were reported killed. A Marine died in combat Monday in Al Anbar province. At least 2,952 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq theater since the U.S-led March 2003 invasion.
State-controlled Al Iraqiya television reported that the government had put to death 13 men found guilty of terrorism-related charges. Television footage showed the convicted men in green overalls lined up against a wall, handcuffed and with black hoods over their heads.
Later footage showed the convicted men with ropes around their necks, though the hanging was not shown. The newscaster said that the convicts had confessed to killing several people and that one of the accused didn't even remember how many people he had slain.
A bomb explosion near a group of cigarette vendors in southeastern Baghdad killed two people and injured nine.
Authorities in the violence-racked city of Baqubah, a provincial capital 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, reported finding the bodies of 10 men and two women.
The throats of several of the victims had been slashed.
Times staff writer Raheem Salman and special correspondents in Baghdad and Baqubah contributed to this report.

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