Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Mohamed al-Halbousi, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, and Khamis al-Khanjar, the leader of the al-Azm Front, in Istanbul on Saturday, the Turkish state news agency (AA) reported.
It was briefly noted that Erdoğan and the two Iraqi officials met behind closed doors, and that Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT), also attended, while other news sources have claimed that a pending appointment of a new Iraqi defence minister and a disagreement among Iraqi Sunni political parties over the selection for the post were discussed at the meeting.
Kurdpress News Agency cited a source who spoke to Shafaq News, saying: “The negotiations have been mainly about the post of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, and in recent days, there have been disagreements between the Iraqi Sunni movements over the selection of a person for this ministry.”
The source added:
“The speaker of the Iraqi parliament wants to appoint one of the famous military commanders close to him as the Minister of Defence. Khamis al-Khanjar, meanwhile, supports Nasser al-Ghannam’s candidacy for the post. It is also said that Ahmad al-Jubouri, known as Abu Mazen, is calling on other leaders of the Iraqi Sunni movement to re-elect the current Iraqi Minister of Defence, Anad, for another term (…) These differences have caused Al-Halbousi and Al-Khanjar to travel to Turkey with the aim of finding a solution for the problem.”
According to the source, the two officials had visited Qatar before meeting with Erdoğan.
Al-Halbousi’s Progress Party was ranked first among Sunni parties in the 2021 parliamentary elections in Iraq, gaining second place overall with 37 deputies after the Shi’a Islamist Sadrist Movement.
Al-Khanjar’s al-Azm Front was ranked second within the Sunni political movement, with 14 deputies elected.
Al-Halbousi’s re-election to the post of Speaker of parliament reportedly resulted from his co-ordination with the Sadrist Movement and with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which won 31 seats in the elections, and his success in securing all fifty-one Sunni votes behind his candidacy.
The ministry of defence in Iraq is, by political custom, handed over to a military figure from among the Sunni Arabs, and the interior ministry to a Shiite Arab.