In his latest effort to bring lasting change to the central government, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi cut his cabinet by a third and dissolved four ministries, including human rights and women’s affairs, the Associated Press reported in a series of tweets Sunday. The news broke just hours after an Iraqi parliamentary panel called for former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and 30 other officials to face trial for their involvement in the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State group last summer. Abadi also called for military commanders who abandoned their posts in Ramadi in May to face trial.
The news from Baghdad Sunday comes as the Iraqi government launched a campaign to implement reforms tackling corruption and compensation for government officials, an effort the U.S. has encouraged since al-Abadi took power in 2014.
Under pressure from Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who last week called on all Iraqis to protest government corruption, al-Abadi began implementing his reform package. This week he fired Mohammed Khalaf Ahmed, the secretary-general of his cabinet, a close ally of Maliki. Other officials on the chopping block include three figures who have dominated Iraqi politics since the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, including Maliki, a Shiite; Ayad Allawi, a Shiite from a Sunni-dominated bloc, and Osama al-Nujaifi, a prominent Sunni Arab leader.
The new regulationsapproved by al-Abadi’s cabinet were designed to eliminate sectarian and party quotas for appointing top officials. Al-Abadi also vowed to eliminate the position of vice president, which is currently held by three people, two Shiites and a Sunni.
Al-Abadi warned Wednesday during a televised speech those affiliated with the old governing system would try to “sabotage” the changes.
“The corrupt will not sit idly by,” al-Abadi said. “Those with interests and privileges will defend their interests and privileges. Some of them will even fight for them. They will attempt to sabotage every step we take towards it.”
Iraq is divided by politicians who are Sunni and Shiite, two sects of Islam. The political parties have unofficial armed factions that carry out suicide and car bomb attacks.
Al-Abadi proposed sweeping changes to restructure the central government last week, which some residents in Baghdad say led to the bombing in Sadr City Thursday. Other residents in Baghdad said they think Thursday’s bombing was carried out by Sunni fighters who used to back Saddam Hussein. The bombing killed at least 76 people, the deadliest attack in the Iraqi capital this year.