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IRAQ: The interim government leaders

Author: Sharon Otterman
June 2, 2004
This publication is now archived.

Who are the new Iraqi leaders?

The members of the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) were appointed June 1 by U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. They were selected after a long consultative process by Brahimi, who met with hundreds of Iraqis from around the country before making his choices. U.S. officials, including L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, and Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill, an aide to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, had significant input. But perhaps the key role in selecting the government was played by the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), the caretaker government that served under the U.S.-led occupation since July 2003 and dissolved itself June 1.

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What are their backgrounds?

The 37 officials are a diverse group that reflects the ethnic and religious divisions in Iraq. The president is a Sunni Arab—a group that makes up some 20 percent of Iraq’s population and was dominant under Saddam Hussein’s regime. A secular Shiite holds the more powerful prime minister’s post. Some 60 percent of Iraqis are Shiites. Kurds, who make up most of the remaining population, have a number of key posts, including one of the two deputy presidencies. There is also one Assyrian and one Turkmen minister, representatives of small Iraqi ethnic groups.

Many of the top posts are held by politicians, exiles, and former IGC members. But most of the lower-ranking ministries appear to be headed by highly educated technocrats. Six of the lower-profile ministries are headed by women.

Who holds the top posts?

Mostly former members of the IGC. The group of six includes a leading Sunni tribal sheik, three Shiite politicians, and two prominent Kurdish politicians. Five of the six have spent a considerable part of their adult lives in exile.

President:

Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar, 45, is a Sunni and an important sheik in the Shammar tribe, one of Iraq’s largest. He is the immediate past president of the IGC—its presidency rotated on a monthly basis—and won the support of the majority of its members for this post. He won the job after Adnan Pachachi, 81, a former foreign minister, reportedly refused an offer from Brahimi. Born in Mosul, Yawar studied engineering at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and spent 15 years in exile in Saudi Arabia

Deputy president:

Dr. Ibrahim Jaafari, 57, served on the IGC. Born in Karbala, he is the chief spokesman for the Da’wa Party, a Shiite Islamist group that was founded in Iraq in the late 1950s and was later banned by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Jaafari fled Iraq in 1980 for Iran, then moved to London in 1989. He earned his medical degree from Mosul University.

Deputy president:

Rowsch Shaways, 57, is the current president of the Kurdistan National Assembly in northern Iraq. He earned a doctorate in engineering in Germany and returned to Iraq in 1975 to join the Kurdish rebellion against Saddam Hussein. A senior member of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), one of the two main Kurdish political parties, he became the deputy prime minister of the joint Kurdistan regional government in 1992, after the withdrawal of Saddam Hussein’s forces from the Kurdish-held area protected by a U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone.

Prime minister:

Dr. Iyad Allawi, 59, is the co-founder of the London-based Iraqi National Accord (INA), an opposition group supported by the CIA that staged an unsuccessful coup d’etat against Saddam Hussein in 1996. A secular Shiite, he was a Baathist who served in the Iraqi intelligence services until falling out with the regime and leaving Iraq in 1971 to study medicine in London. On returning to Iraq, he became a member of the IGC and chair of its security committee. Born in Baghdad, he is a neurologist and a businessman.

Deputy prime minister for national security:

Barham Salih, 44, was most recently the regional administrator of Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan. Born in northern Iraq, he joined the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the other main Iraqi Kurdish political party, in 1976 and was arrested twice by the Iraqi secret police. After fleeing Iraq in 1979, he became the PUK’s spokesman in London and, later, in Washington, D.C. He holds a doctorate in statistics and computer modeling from the University of Liverpool.

National security adviser:

Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie is the former Da’wa spokesman in London and served on the IGC. He is also a neurologist and human rights activist.

Who heads the most important ministries?

The diverse group of six includes three Sunnis—a tribal sheik, a U.S.-trained engineer, and a distinguished Iraqi lawyer—as well as an oil technocrat, a Kurdish diplomat, and a Shiite economist who belongs to an important Islamist political party. Four spent much of their adulthoods in exile. They are:

Minister of defense:

Hazem Sha’alan, 57, is a Sunni and the sheik of the Ghazal tribe. Born in Diwaniya, he was named its governor in April 2003. He served as inspector general of the Iraqi Real Estate Bank from 1983-1985 but left the country because he opposed the Saddam Hussein regime. Until the U.S.-led invasion, he managed a successful real estate firm in the United Kingdom.

Minister of foreign affairs:

Hoshyar Zebari, 51, served as the foreign minister under the IGC-appointed Cabinet. Born in Aqrah in 1953, he left Iraq in 1976 and earned a political science degree from Jordan University in Amman and a master’s degree in sociology from Essex University in Britain. A Kurd, he is a senior member of the KDP.

Minister of oil:

Thamir Ghadbhan, 59, has worked for the Iraqi Ministry of Oil since 1973 and was its former chief executive officer. Born in Babil, he earned his master’s degree in petroleum engineering from London University. A Sunni, he was briefly named minister of oil in May 2003—but ceded his position to a governing council appointee a few months later.

Minister of interior:

Falah Hassan al-Naqib, 48, is a Sunni who was named the governor of Salah al-Din after the fall of Saddam Hussein. He is seen as an ally of Allawi and is the son of an important Iraqi general, Hassan al-Naqib, who defected in the 1970s and became an active opposition member in exile. Born in Samarra, he is a U.S.-trained civil engineer.

Minister of finance:

Adel Abdul Mahdi, 62, is an economist and a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a Shiite Islamist group that opposed Saddam Hussein’s regime. He was imprisoned and sentenced to death for his political activities in the 1960s, and in 1969 fled to France. There, he earned graduate degrees in politics and economics and served as the head of the French Institute of Islamic Studies. Born in Baghdad, he recently served as the deputy for Abdul Aziz al-Hakim—one of the founders of SCIRI—on the IGC.

Minister of justice:

Malik Dohan al-Hassan, 84, is one of Iraq’s foremost authorities on tort law. He was elected twice to the Iraqi parliament during the monarchy—which ended in 1958—and was appointed minster of culture and information in 1967. A Sunni born in al-Hilla, he received his doctorate in law in France and served as a law professor at the University of Baghdad. In 2003, he was elected president of the Iraqi Bar Association and also serves as the chairman of the special task force on compensation for victims of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Who are the other ministers?

Some have ties to various political parties, but many appear to be technocrats. Most are highly educated; 15 of the 25 hold doctorate degrees. Six are women.

Minister of agriculture:

Sawsan al-Sharifi, 48, served as the deputy minister of agriculture under the CPA government. Born in Baghdad, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Baghdad University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in animal breeding from Iowa State University. After returning to Iraq in 1984, she served on the Scientific Research Council and supervised graduate students in Baghdad. She is the editor of the Iraqi Journal of Agriculture.

Minister of communications:

Mohammed al-Hakim, 52, served as the deputy secretary general of the IGC and as an ambassador at the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the IGC-appointed government. Born in Najaf, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Baghdad, his master’s in computer science in Britain, and his doctorate in information management from the University of Southern California. He co-founded a U.S.-based technology company called Infoclarus and has recently been part of several delegations representing Iraq to the international financial community.

Minister of culture:

Mufid al-Jazairi, 65, is a former journalist and a member of the Iraqi Democratic Journalists, Writers, and Artists Association and the minister of culture under the IGC-appointed government. Born in al-Madhatiah, he received a master’s degree in journalism in 1966 in Prague and spent the 1960s and 1970s working in Eastern Europe for Arabic-language publications and radio broadcasts. From 1982 to 1988, he lived in Kurdish northern Iraq and was active in the underground opposition movement against Saddam Hussein.

Minster of displacement and migration:

Pascale Isho Warda, 43, is the president of the Assyrian Women’s Union in Baghdad. Born in Duhok, she co-founded the Iraqi Society for Human Rights and served as the representative of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) Foundation in Paris. The ADM is the main Assyrian political party in Iraq.

Minister of education:

Sami al-Mudhaffar, 64, is one of the most senior biochemists in Iraq. Born in Basra, he received his bachelor’s degree in science from Baghdad University and his doctorate from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. From 1968-2000, he was a lecturer at the University of Basra and Baghdad University and has published more than 250 scientific papers.

Minister of electricity:

Ayham al-Samarrae is a long-time U.S. resident who completed his doctoral studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. He worked for 30 years for KCI Technologies, a U.S.-based engineering firm. Since 1992, he has been involved with the Iraqi Middle Democratic Trend, a little-known Saddam Hussein opposition group, and is reportedly a close associate of Pachachi.

Minister of environment:

Mishkat Moumin is a law professor at Baghdad University specializing in human rights law. She is the assistant director of a nongovernmental organization called the Iraq Foundation and is active with the Iraq Advisory Council on Women’s Affairs.

Minister of health:

Dr. Alaadin al-Alwan, 55, served as the minister of health under the IGC-appointed government. Born in Baghdad, he holds a medical degree from Alexandria Medical College in Egypt and postgraduate degrees from the United Kingdom. He has served as dean and professor at a medical college in Baghdad and, among other international positions, head of the department of chronic and noncontagious diseases at the World Health Organization’s offices in Geneva.

Minister of higher education:

Taher al-Bakaa, 54, became president of al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad in 2003. Born in Dhi Qar, he received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in history from Baghdad University.

Minister of housing and construction:

Omar al-Damluji earned his doctorate degree in engineering from Baghdad University where he was a professor until recently. He had been the head of the university’s civil engineering department since 2000.

Minister of human rights:

Bakhtiar Amin has served as the secretary general for the Kurdish Institute in Paris and the director of the Human Rights Coalition in Washington, D.C. Born in Kirkuk, he holds a master’s degree in international affairs and a doctorate in political geography from the Sorbonne in Paris.

Minister of industry and minerals:

Hakim al-Hasni, 50, is the spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Islamist organization, and was active in the anti-Saddam Hussein opposition. Born in Kirkuk, he graduated from Mosul University and moved to the United States in 1979. He earned a doctorate in industrial organization from the University of Connecticut and most recently was the head of the American Investment and Trading Company in Los Angeles. Since returning to Iraq in 2003, he has been a deputy member of the IGC and the deputy chair of its finance committee.

Minister of labor and social affairs:

Layla Abd al-Latif. No information about her is currently available.

Minister of planning:

Mahdi al-Hafidh represented Iraq as the minister plenipotentiary at the United Nations in Geneva from 1978-1980. He then worked for the United Nations from 1983-1996. He was a founding member of the Arab Organization for Human Rights and worked as a vice president of the al-Tasami Afro-Asian Organization. He holds a doctorate in economic science from the University of Prague.

Minister of public works:

Nesreen Berwari, 37, is a Kurdish woman and KDP member. Trained at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, she is the former minister of reconstruction and development for the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Minister of science and technology:

Rashad Mandan Omar served as the head of this ministry under the IGC-appointed government. A Turkman, he was the director of the committee for oil construction at the Iraqi oil ministry until 1999. He then worked in Dubai as a construction manager. He holds a doctorate in civil engineering from the University of London.

Minister of trade:

Mohammed al-Jibouri, 55, became director general of Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) in May 2003. Born in Mosul, he holds a postgraduate degree in economics from Glasgow University and has worked at SOMO since 1983.

Minister of transportation:

Louay Sultan al-Erris, 52, was an aircraft engineer for Boeing and is now a director general for Iraqi Airways. He was appointed vice chairman of the Baghdad provincial council by the CPA.

Minister of water resources:

Abd-al-Latif Rashid, 60, has been the spokesman for the Kurdistan Front Union in the United Kingdom since 1978. He holds a degree in civil engineering from Liverpool University and completed his doctorate in engineering at Manchester University in 1976. He has worked in the fields of irrigation and drainage, water control engineering, and agricultural development.

Minister of youth and sport:

Ali Faiq Al-Ghadban, 49, is a member of SCIRI, the Shiite opposition group. Born in Baghdad, he holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Baghdad. He fled Iraq in 1980 to Iran.

How many ministers of state are there?

Five. Three of them do not have specific portfolios. They are:

Minister of state for provinces:

Wail Abdul al-Latif, 54, was an IGC member. After training in law at Baghdad University, he became a judge in Basra in 1982 but was later imprisoned and prevented from working by Saddam Hussein’s regime. He was named interim governor of Basra in June 2003.

Minister of state for women:

Narmin Othman, a Kurd and PUK member, is a former minister of social affairs in the Kurdistan regional government. Before joining government service, she was a member of the peshmerga, or Kurdish militia.

Minister of state without portfolio:

Kassim Daoud, 55, is a scientist and member of the Iraqi Democratic Movement. He has a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Wales.

Minister of state without portfolio:

Mahmoud Othman, 53, is a scholar and linguist and served on the IGC. He has doctorates in English and German philosophy.

Minister of state without portfolio:

Adnan al-Janabi is a London-trained economist and the head of the large Janabi tribe. He was head of marketing for the Iraqi oil industry in the 1970s and head of foreign relations for the oil ministry in the 1980s. He was elected to the National Assembly in 1996.

Sources:

Coalition Provisional Authority, news reports.

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