Iraq minister accuses lawmakers of graft during corruption questioning

Iraq minister accuses lawmakers of graft during corruption questioning
The Iraqi defence minister ignited a political storm after alleging that the parliamentary speaker and a number of MPs are linked to extortion and corruption, prompting an investigation.
3 min read
01 August, 2016
Khalid al-Obeidi made the allegations during questioning in parliament [Anadolu]

Iraq Defence Minister Khalid al-Obeidi ignited a political storm on Monday after accusing the parliamentary speaker and several lawmakers of corruption and blackmail.

The allegations have prompted the prime minister to order an investigation into MPs accused of illegal activities.

The political row surrounding the defence minister comes as Iraq prepares to launch an offensive to retake Mosul - the country's second largest city - from the Islamic State group.

Obeidi made the accusations as he appeared in parliament for questioning over corruption allegations brought by Alia Nasayif, a lawmaker whom the defence minister asserted was herself corrupt.

The session broke down after Obeidi made the accusations, and the parliamentary speaker Salim al-Juburi then held a press conference denying the allegations.

The meeting of parliament was closed to the press, and while Juburi's denial was broadcast on state television, Obeidi's remarks were not.

But posts on Obeidi's official Facebook page gave a few details on his allegations.

One is that Obeidi told parliament that Juburi was "involved in attempting to pass corrupt armament contracts".

Another charge was that Juburi and three lawmakers, including Nasayif, sought to blackmail the minister "for the purpose of passing corrupt deals and contracts at the expense of Iraqi blood".

Corruption is widespread in Iraq's government, from senior officials to low-level functionaries.

Obeidi later took to Twitter to make similar points, saying he had revealed the "names of MPs and politicians who practice acts of blackmail against him to pass corrupt contracts, among them the (speaker) of parliament".

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi responded by ordering Iraq's anti-corruption commission to investigate the allegations and to cooperate with a parliamentary investigative committee on the issue, his office said in a statement.

"No one is above the law," the statement said.

Following the session, Juburi held a news conference rejecting the accusations against him and the MPs.

"Everything that was raised today is theatre" aimed at allowing Obeidi to avoid questioning by parliament, Juburi said.

Corruption is widespread in Iraq's government from senior officials to low-level functionaries.

Iraqis have repeatedly demonstrated for change over the past year but little in the way of real reform has taken place.

The latest parliamentary acrimony follows weeks of deadlock in the legislature over Abadi's efforts to replace the cabinet earlier this year.

It comes as Iraqi forces conduct operations to set the stage for an assault on Mosul, which has been held by IS militants since June 2014.

The conflict between Obeidi and Juburi - two of the country's most senior Sunni-Arab politicians - does not bode well for unity in the community ahead of the battle to retake the Sunni-populated city.

Agencies contributed to this report.