Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
Your Handy Guide To The New Iraqi Government
"The case for democracy is not aesthetic."
- George Will

Congratulations to the Iraqi people for finally forming a government! Ain't parliamentary democracy a bear? Though it does occur to me that – with all its squabbling, horse-trading, bickering, demands, and compromises – it's probably just the thing for the second democracy in the Middle East (after Israel, est 1948, obviously), to get them accustomed to this wonderful innovation of consensual self-government.

If you haven't already got a program, here's your concise guide to a few of the new Iraqi ministers (not a few of whom have pretty interesting and, in some cases heroic, backgrounds).

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
Also known as 'Abu Esraa', after his eldest daughter. Holds a master's degree in Arabic literature from Baghdad University. Became a Shia dissident under the Hussein regime (read: psychopathic crime family), then fled a death sentence and went into exile – for 24 years. Co-ordinated activities of anti-Saddam guerillas from abroad.

After toppling of regime, returned and was elected to the National Assembly, where he helped draft the new Constitution. Became PM after 2006 election; presided over the quelling of violence, after authorising the surge. In 2008, sent the Iraqi army to retake Basra and the south from militants – kicking ass and taking names under their own power – then brokered a peace deal with the Mahdi Army. Convinced Sunni politicians to end a boycott of Parliament, and appointed a number to cabinet positions.

Formed the new Rule of Law party, which stood in the 2010 elections. Lost by two seats to Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqiya coalition, but horse-traded his way back into the top spot.
President Jalal Talabani
Widely referred to by his fellow Kurds as 'Uncle' Jalal. (Doesn't he just look like your favourite uncle?) Fluent in Kurdish, Arabic, Persian, and English. Founder and secretary general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – one of the two major parties representing the world's largest stateless people (30 million Kurds, mainly in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey). Has been an advocate for Kurdish rights and democracy in Iraq for over 50 years.

Fought in the Kurdish revolutions against Baghdad in the 60s and 70s. Hit with chemical weapons by Saddam in 1988. After the 1991 war, worked with the US and UK to set up the Kurdish safe haven in the north, saving untold lives from the Saddamite genocide.

Elected first President of Iraq in 2005 by National Assembly; re-seated twice after 2006 and 2010 national elections.
Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain Ibrahim Saleh al-Shahristani
A nuclear scientist who studied at Imperial College, London; then got his PhD at the University of Toronto. Imprisoned by Saddam in Abu Ghraib prison in 1980, and subjected to torture – for 11 years. (This kind of torture, not this kind. (*) ) This may have been a result of his intentionally slowing down progress on the Saddamite nuclear weapons program. Dramatically escaped when the prison was bombed during the 1991 Gulf War, fleeing to Canada, with his Canadian wife, and their children.

Now faces the daunting task of creating fair laws for the sharing of oil revenues amongst Sunnis, Shi'a, and Kurds. Also tackling the repeated sabotage of the country's oil pipelines (by bozos who clearly want to keep the Iraqi people poor and pissed off).
Minister of State (without portfolio) Bushra Hussein Saleh
While the Iraqi constitution stipulates that a quarter of seats in Parliament be held by women; and the cabinet is made up of a broad range of Shi'a, Sunni, Kurds, secularists, and others; and while there were four women in the previous government . . . they've only got one woman cabinet minister now. (A second, a Kurdish woman, was offered a role but turned it down in protest.) Everyone knows this is a problem. (106 Iraqi lawmakers of both sexes have petitioned the MP and President to do better.)

Actually, all I can find out about Saleh is that she is from Fadhila, a small Shiite fundamentalist party that is a member of the National Alliance.

In fact, that's not even her in the picture there – that's Safiya al-Suhail, another MP who's pissed off about having only one woman in the cabinet.

Hopefully all this will change – both the lack of info (and photo) on Saleh, and the lack of woman ministers – so watch this space.

Anyway, nobody's totally happy about the government (ah – what does that remind me of?), but they're nonetheless getting to work on a program that stresses security (fighting terrorism), economic liberalization, public services (especially the electrical grid), improving relations with neighbours, and ramping up oil production. Ain't democracy boring?

We wish them much luck.


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about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

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