State Dept Welcomes Selection of New Iraqi Cabinet Ministers

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The State Department issued a statement on Saturday congratulating the Iraqi people and their representatives in parliament on the decision to elect seven new cabinet ministers, completely filling the cabinet for the first time since 2010. Parliament elected Sunni lawmaker Khaled al-Obeidi as the new defense minister and Shi’ite lawmaker Mohammed al-Ghabban became interior minister. Control over the defense and interior ministries has long been a source of tension among Iraq’s feuding political parties. The U.S. had been pushing for a more representative government that would reach out to Iraq’s Sunni minority after critics said former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki marginalized the population and led to the rise of the Islamic State. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that these new ministers “represent the diversity of Iraq,” and complete an inclusive cabinet led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The selection of these ministers has been welcomed as another important factor in the long-term campaign to restore stability in Iraq. Critical appointments to security posts were hailed by Secretary John Kerry as a “very positive step forward” in the fight against the Islamic State. Furthermore, Vice President Joe Biden personally called Prime Minister Abadi to congratulate him on the proceedings and discuss next steps to rebuild Iraq’s security forces and enlist Iraqi communities in the fight against ISIS militants.

President of the Arab American Institute, James Zogby, published an article in the Huffington Post calling for greater understanding of Islam and Arab culture. He argued that recent commentary on ISIS, Syria, and Iraq has remained too shallow to inform the debate, raising fears that the U.S. will run blindly into another ground offensive without proper notions of the people American soldiers will be fighting. While a war may be worth waging, Zogby claims that before “we do more, we must know more” about the nature of ISIS and how it appeals to locals, and what the social and political characteristics of its base are that account for its rapid spread. Zogby concludes by calling for policymakers to stop defining the Middle East by stereotypes and instead work to build bridges of understanding between the East and the West.