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“You get your man, I get mine” method of appointing a cabinet just means more of the same corrupt elite at the helm while 3 million Iraqis remain internally displaced, says Sabah Alnasseri, Professor at York University’s Department of Political Science.

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

Since the formation of the new government of Iraq, headed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, two key members of the cabinet has been missing. This week, the Iraqi parliament finally approved the appointment of Khaled al-Obeidi, who will serve as the minister of defense, and Mohammed Salem Ghabban, who will serve as the minister of the interior. The appointments were made as an attempt to create a more inclusive government, as well as a secure government that will focus on confronting the Islamic State.

Now joining us from Toronto to discuss the new appointments of the Iraqi cabinet is Sabah Alnasseri. Sabah Alnasseri is at the Department of Political Science at York University, and he is joining us from Toronto.

Thank you so much for joining us, Sabah.


PERIES: So, Sabah, the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi’s appointments this week were supposed to make sure that they had an inclusive state. Why are these particular appointments so important?

ALNASSERI: Well, Sharmini, this incident is symptomatic of a political class which is so corrupt and far removed from reality. Iraq is going through a terrible security situation in which thousand of people die and hundred thousand are displaced every day. Yet it took the parliament almost two month to agree on two candidates for the security apparatus. And this happened according to the formula you get your man, I get mine, the so-called /muˈhasəsə/, which is a power-slicing formula institutionalized by the U.S.

So what do we have? We have the candidate of the Badr organization/Badr militia turned political party who became the minister of interior. But de facto the head of the organization, Haider al-Abadi, wanted to be actually the interior minister, but he was rejected by the parliament. So he sent one of his men into the race, who now became the interior minister. But de facto, /ˌhagɪl ˈamədi/ is the interior minister. And this guy, with this organization, the Badr militia, was involved and is still involved in intimidating, terrorizing, and killing a lot of Iraqi people since the beginning of the occupation in Iraq.

On the second, on the other part, as I said, the principle is you get your man, I got mine. That means in order for the parliament to accept the candidate of Badr organization, in order to secure the deal, they have to accept the candidate of the opposite side, who is Khaled al-Obeidi. He is from Mosul. And now he is the minister of defense. So what happens here is not so much a rotation among the political elite as much as a rotation of power among the same elite, the same corrupt elite.

PERIES: So, Sabah, does this kind of bickering, which has become normal, will they be able to actually succeed in the objective, which is a more united, more peaceful Iraq?

ALNASSERI: Right. You see, in the last interview with The Real News, I was saying there was a facelifting of this government. But I think what I was wrong. It was not even a facelifting of this government or so-called government. I don’t think so, because as I said, the same constellation of forces, the same elite, the same corrupt elites, are negotiating some ministerial posts and other posts according to this power-slicing formula, regardless of the situation on the ground, regardless of the terrible situation people go through every day in Iraq. As I said, Iraq now has more than 3 million displaced people, probably the biggest in the world, and these politician have nothing in mind but to exchange posts and exchange position within different apparatuses of the state just to secure their own political power.

PERIES: Right. So the new government is also working to create an Iraqi national guard. This has been an attempt to bring volunteer and armed forces and militia under the full control of the central government, which hopefully is an attempt to bring an end to the atrocities that the Shia militias are committing against the Sunnis, and to create a strong fight also against Islamic State. What do you think of this policy?

ALNASSERI: I mean, we’re witnessing a déjà vu with the Bush administration along the way, with the–first with the so-called coalition of the willings. And now what the Obama administration–it is actually Obama that carries the idea, is to create militias, local and provincial militias, especially in the so-called Sunni provinces at the Western, Northwestern provinces of Iraq, who then would kick out the Islamic State fighters from Iraq, just like in 2006, when Petraeus, at that time, he negotiated with the tribes and political forces in these provinces to kick out al-Qaeda. At that time they used to call it al-sahwa, awakening councils. So they’re trying to repeat the same thing in completely different realities, which would contribute to further militarization of the Iraqi societies, creating more militias than already on the ground, cementing the sectarian dividing line among the Iraqi population, empowering the provinces at the cost of the central government, which would contribute to further cantonization and fractioning of the Iraqi societies and the state.

This is not a strategic consideration, but I think it’s a sign of helplessness on the part of the U.S., because they don’t dare bring U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq. So they’re trying to use the Iraqi–especially the so-called Sunni population, to function as troops on the ground for the U.S. strategy against IS.

PERIES: But this has so far already proven to be not very successful. As we know, the Iraqi military basically laid their weapons and walked away, and President Obama was forced to admit that after putting billions of dollars into the Iraqi military and training, they had to finally admit that it’s not a very successful army, at least in fighting the IS, because they actually laid their weapons down and walked away.

ALNASSERI: Yes. True. I mean, the U.S. spent billion of dollars training not an Iraqi army, as they claim. They were training different militias serving the agenda of the United States and the political parties in power, who are the allies of the United States.

So what do you have? Not an Iraqi army. You have a bunch of militias related to different political parties or special forces trained by the U.S. and used by the U.S. against Iraqi population. Later on, they were under the command of al-Malki, the minister-president, who used them as its own militias. So there was no Iraqi army as they claim. They produce a situation of conflictual militias, who in turn start controlling Iraq–and different provinces of Iraq, by the way, not only the so-called western and northwestern provinces, but also in Baghdad and in the south the Shiite militias. And some of them are the worst kind of militias, who terrorize the population, intimidate them. And until the last week, I was really reading, for instance, one of the Shiite militia, one of the most powerful Shiite militias, supported by Iran, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, they kidnapped a prominent Kurdish woman, the wife of one of the prominent politician in Kurdistan, and asked for $1.6 million ransom for the woman. So the people of Iraq thought that is the ISIS, the Islamic State. But when the police tried to liberate the woman, they realized it’s the Shiite militias. So that’s the situation, as I said, created by the United States. And with the so-called building of the national guards, they will contribute to further militarization and destabilization of Iraq.

Iraq has history, actually, of so-called national guards. Under the Ba’athists, for instance, or under Abd al-Karim Qasim after 1958 Revolution, under the republic, with the difference there was a centralized stated and there was a ruling party and there were functioning state institutions. So these militias were subsumed and subjugated to the Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry central commands, that they couldn’t do whatever they want to do. Now the situation is completely different.

PERIES: And the Kurds, with the latest news being that Turkey is allowing Iraqi Peshmerga forces to cross over into Kobani from Turkey to defend the Kurds against Islamic State, what does this reveal about the political relationship between Ankara and Erbil?

ALNASSERI: Right. Well, it seems to me–I’m just speculating here–it seems to me that Kobani is a trap, a trap for Kurdish fighter, and because Kobani is governed by the local Kurdish population in northeastern Syria, who created an autonomous region, governed democratically, and a very progressive form of goverments, including Kurds and Arabs and non-Arabs in this region, and carried by mostly popular classes, peasant and worker. So these forces are a problem not only for Turkey, because it accused them for harboring PKK, which they term a terrorist organization, but also for the, especially, Iraqi Kurds in western Kurdistan and al-Barzanis and al-Zebaris, who are basically landlords. So they don’t want such a democratic, grassroot type of governance in Kurdistan-Syria to emerge, because it’s a real threat to their position in Kurdistan-Iraq. So they are collaborating with Turkey in de facto destroying the autonomous region in Kurdistan-Syria and help secure the position of al-Barzani in Erbil, Iraq, and for Turkey to utilize this situation to open a corridor and then create a buffer zone in northern Syria. That’s why Turkey was insisting that people join the so-called coalition of the willings only if it is to have a buffer zone in Syria, and was insisting that–Prime Minister Davutoğlu was saying two days ago, no Kurds should be in charge in Kobani, but only the so-called Free Syrian Army, an ally of Turkey and Syria.

So you can see here there’s a collaboration between some Iraqi Kurds and al-Barzani and Zebari with Turkey against their brothers and sister in Kurdistan-Syria to dismantle their self-governments and make sure that Turkey and the Free Syrian Army has everything to say in this region bordering to Turkey, rather than the YPGs and the PKK.

PERIES: Sabah, thank you so much for joining us.

ALNASSERI: Good to be with you. Thank you for having me.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Sabah Alnasseri was born in Basra, Iraq, and earned his doctorate at the Johann-Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. He teaches Middle East politics and economy at the Political Science Department at York University in Toronto, Canada. His publications cover various topics in Marxist political economy, Marxist state theory in the tradition of Gramsci, Poulantzas and Althusser, theory of regulation, and Middle East politics and economy.