Iraq parliament approves new defence, interior ministers

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament approved the appointment on Monday of a new defence minister, Erfan al Hiyali, and a new interior minister, Qasim al Araji, state television said, but rejected nominees for new ministers of trade and industry.
Hiyali and Araji, are filling positions left vacant last year.
Hiyali replaces Khaled al Obeidi, who was sacked by parliament last year, while Araji replaces Mohammed al Ghabban, who resigned after a massive truck bomb in central Baghdad in July.
However, Prime Minister Haider al Abadi’s nominees for the trade and industry ministries failed to win the necessary votes for approval. Those two positions, alongside the finance ministry, have been vacant since last year. Hoshiyar Zebari was sacked as finance minister in September following accusations of corruption, which he denied.
Critics have slammed the dismissals of Obeidi and Zebari as politically motivated and warned they risked further undermining security in the country. Iraqi forces are battling IS fighters in the northern city of Mosul.
Industry Minister Mohammed al Daraji resigned following orders from Moqtada al Sadr who called for protests last year demanding Abadi replace his cabinet with technocrats. Daraji is from Sadr’s political camp.
Defence Minister Al Hayali began his career under Saddam Hussein, who was ousted by a US-led invasion in 2003.
More recently he served in the elite counter-terrorism force which has spearheaded offensives against IS in the northern city of Mosul and elsewhere.
Parliament sacked his predecessor, Khaled al Obeidi, in August in the wake of a political storm caused by his accusations that its speaker had been involved in corruption in the military.
Al Abadi accepted the resignation of former interior minister Mohammed al Ghabban in July after a car bomb attack, claimed by IS, killed almost 300 people in northern Baghdad.
Al Abadi’s nominees for the industry and trade ministries failed to gain approval. Parliamentary sources said lawmakers felt they did no thave enough information on the two nominees, saying both were academics without relevant political experience.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by US air strikes and bolstered by aUS-led training effort have now driven State out of many of the areas it
captured in a lightning offensive in mid-2014.
Earlier this month, al-Abadi declared the eastern half of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and IS main stronghold, to have been liberated.
The fighter organisation has continued to launch deadly bomb and car bomb attacks against both military and civilian targets in Baghdad and other areas. — Reuters