Washington – The Iraqi Council of Ministers voted by large margins June 8 to approve nominees for the three remaining ministerial positions in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Cabinet.
After weeks of political bargaining, al-Maliki obtained parliamentary approval of his candidates to fill three key security posts: Minister of Defense Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassim, Minister of the Interior Jawad al-Bolani, and Minister of National Security Shirwan al-Waeli.
President Bush welcomed news of the completion of the government.
“These new ministers are part of a democratic government that represents all Iraqis,” Bush said in June 8 remarks at the White House rose garden. “They will play a vital role as the Iraqi government addresses its top priorities – reconciliation and reconstruction and putting an end to the kidnappings and beheadings and suicide bombings that plague the Iraqi people.”
Al-Maliki presented nominees for a 38-member Cabinet to the Council of Representatives May 20 with temporary appointments for the three security posts. The permanent appointments come after intense negotiations with the various political parties to ensure that all communities are appropriately represented. (See Iraq’s Political Process.)
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, said the posts took a long time to fill because al-Maliki “made a decision that those posts would not be part of the spoils system of the electoral process, but instead, that they would be individuals who were highly competent, who would govern from the center, who would manage those critically important departments in a way that left no doubt in the minds of the Iraqi people that they were being run in a fair and nonsectarian manner.”
Rumsfeld said he looks forward to working with the new security ministers. Bush said he and his security team plan to have a teleconference with al-Maliki and his newly completed Cabinet June 13 to discuss “how to best deploy America’s resources in Iraq and achieve our shared goal of an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself.”
Coalition spokesman General William Caldwell said coalition forces are pleased that the Iraqi security leadership is finally in place and able to make decisions about future security strategies.
“Those of us here in the coalition force are ready and want to support [al-Maliki] and his ministers as they move forward with their ideas and vision for the people of Iraq,” he told reporters during a briefing in Baghdad.
Rumsfeld said he found it appropriate that the announcement of the final Cabinet appointments came on the same day that news broke about the death of Jordanian-born terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who devoted tremendous effort to derailing Iraq’s political process.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said the coincidence provides a good opportunity for Iraqis to come together in the country’s national interest.
“With the new government in Iraq, now that this government has its ministers of defense and interior as well, with a reconciliation program, with a unity program, with a new plan for security of Baghdad and for increasing services for the people of Iraq, and particularly for Baghdad, there is a good omen in terms of the death of Zarqawi for this new government,” he told a reporter at MSNBC.
Al-Maliki presented his Cabinet nominations only minutes after announcing the killing of Zarqawi. All three nominees were approved by large margins.
Story By David Shelby, Washington File Staff Writer