Influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political party has a plurality in the Iraqi parliament, has called on PM-designate Adel Abdul-Mahdi to agree not to assign the positions of interior or defense minister to any members of any political factions, including his own.
The two factions control all major national security forces, and Sadr says it is vital that those forces remain loyal to the Iraqi state, and not to political figures. Abdul-Mahdi was an independent candidate in the most recent election, in keeping with Sadr’s keenness to have non-partisan figures in top government positions to tackle corruption.
Abdul-Mahdi is in the process of trying to form a majority government, and withholding those top security positions will mean he has less key posts to offer to major parties for backing him. That could make the road to a majority government difficult, though it is likely necessary to ensure the backing of Sadr’s party and allies.
Maintaining control over the interior and defense ministries has been a popular strategy in Iraqi politics since the 2003 US invasion and occupation, with former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki using control over both to effectively dominate the political landscape for years.