Global Policy Forum

Leaders and Occupiers in Iraq

Picture Credit: Bag News Notes

Since the US invaded Iraq and overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein, several bodies have successfully claimed authority over the Iraqi state. The occupiers established the Coalition Provisional Authority in April 2003, staffed by many Bush administration political appointees and led initially by General Jay Garner and later by L. Paul Bremer III. The CPA governed Iraq until June 2004. In preparation for the "transfer of sovereignty," the CPA handpicked 25 Iraqi representatives to make up the Iraqi Governing Council, including Ahmad Chalabi and other Iraqi exiles who supported the US invasion. In June 2004, the CPA disbanded and transferred authority to the Iraqi Interim Government, headed by US favorite Iyad Allawi, and comprised of many members of the earlier Governing Council. Following the January 2005 elections, which were largely boycotted by the Sunni Arab population, the Iraqi Transitional Government was established in May 2005, under the leadership of Kurdish President Jalal Talabani and Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The October 2005 elections for a permanent, 4-year National Assembly brought in greater Sunni representation, and witnessed the rise of the anti-occupation cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Ongoing political haggling and US interference have slowed the formation of a permanent government, and led to the sacking of Prime Minister al-Jaafari in favor of fellow Shiite politician Nouri al-Maliki. Since the official transfer of sovereignty, roughly 150,000 US troops have remained in Iraq with the 'surge' strategy of General David H. Petraeus bringing the number to 180,000. The US Ambassador, Ryan C Crocker, along with General Petraues delivered a report on the success of the strategy to Congress in September 2007 but refused to set a timetable for withdrawal.

This page examines the various leaders and occupiers that have held power in Iraq following the US invasion and occupation including influential religious and trade union leaders, US state department leaders and a guide to the executive and legislative branches of the Iraqi government.



Articles on Iraqi Parliament and Cabinet Structure

2007 | 2006 | 2005


Diagram of Political Affiliations and Alliances in the Iraqi Parliament (Summer 2007)

This diagram shows political configurations in the Iraqi parliament. A number of political blocs have now united across the previous sectarian political divisions. Some Shi'a, Sunni, secular, and other blocs have joined together in a new alliance. There are now two major tendencies , a majority (the "nationalist" tendency) and a minority (the sectarian or "separatist" tendency). The diagram shows all the political blocs in the parliament, with their place in the old (largely sectarian) structures and their place in the newer trans-sectarian alliances. The nationalists support a centralized government and a timetable for US withdrawal. The separatists favor a highly decentralized state, foreign oil company investments and an ongoing US presence in the country. Though the separatists are in the minority, they completely dominate the executive branch and are supported by the United States. (Raed Jarrar)


Iraq Parliament Re-Opens Amid Strife (September 5, 2006)

As Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki struggles to unite his country's warring factions, the question of federalism remains at the top of Iraq's parliamentary agenda. Whilst many Shiite and Kurdish leaders push for more autonomous regions, Sunni lawmakers seek a strongly centralized and unified Iraq. As this Herald Sun article emphasizes, independent zones in the oil-rich Shiite south and Kurdish north would leave Sunnis economically isolated and enhance the fragility of an already war-torn country.

Members of Iraq's Government (July 10, 2006)

This Education for Peace in Iraq Center document provides brief biographical details of Iraqi cabinet members. After months of negotiation, Iraqi politicians agreed on the formation of a permanent, 4-year government in May 2006 under Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. This document includes information on the controversial Ministries of Interior, Defense, and National Security.

Who's Who in Iraq's New Cabinet (May 22, 2006)

BBC provides a list of cabinet members in Iraq's government. With the Interior, Defense, and National Security ministries still vacant, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and Deputy Prime Ministers Salam Zaubai and Barham Salih have temporarily assumed the respective posts. Cabinet positions are split between Iraq's various ethnic and religious groups, including 17 members of the dominant Shiite alliance, 7 Sunni coalition members, 7 Kurds, and 5 members from the secular alliance.

The New Face of Iraq's Government (April 22, 2006)

With the nomination of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki as prime minister, Iraq has ended a months-long political deadlock and moved closer to forming a permanent government. Nonetheless, questions remain over political leadership and the control of Iraq's key government ministries. In this article, the Council on Foreign Relations examines various political figures and the future of Iraq's government.


Major Parties and Contenders for December Parliamentary Elections (November 23, 2005)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has compiled a list of major political groups participating in Iraq's December 15 parliamentary elections. Included are brief descriptions of each group along with each party's leader.

Iraqi Transitional Government (August 3, 2005)

The US State Department included this chart in its Iraq Weekly Status Report. It lists the names and positions of the members of Iraq's current government and specifies which ministry portfolios are held by women.

Political Figures


Executive Branch of Government

Picture Credit: Associated Press

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

Nouri al-Maliki or Jawad al-Maliki is the Prime Minister of Iraq. He lived in exile in Syria and Iran after he was sentenced to death in 1980 by the Saddam Hussein government for his active role in the Dawa party. He is a Shi'a Muslim, and is the secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party. Al-Maliki and his government succeeded the Iraqi Transitional Government and was sworn in on May 20, 2006. Al-Maliki's mandate will last until 2010.

Jawad al-Maliki: A Novice, but Outspoken (April 23, 2006)

After prolonged negotiation, along with substantial pressure from the US and the UK, Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari withdrew his nomination for permanent prime minister, and the United Iraqi Alliance selected fellow Dawa party member Jawad al-Maliki to replace him. Though many Iraqis welcome the change and the formation of a permanent government, Maliki is not a well-known figure in Iraq, and the public has shown mixed reactions to his nomination. While some praise his direct and decisive style, others describe him as a Shiite "hard-liner"and criticize his lack of political experience. (New York Times)
Picture Credit: CSN


Deputy Prime Minister Rafi al-Issawi

Rafi al-Issawi, from the Sunni-Arab majority Iraqi Islamic Party, became Deputy Prime Minister in July 2008 .  He is native of Fallujah in Anbar province and leader of the Abu Eissa tribe. Al-Issawi became director of Fallujah General Hospital in 2003. In 2004 he accused the US army of having blocked a team of 11 Iraqi ambulances from evacuating or helping the dead during the Second Battle of Fallujah. In 2005 al-Issawi was elected to the Iraqi Parliament and became minister of state for Foreign Affairs. Two years later, he resigned, demanding that Nouri al-Maliki's government take a stronger stance against Shi'ite Militia. Four other ministers left government at the same time. Al-Issawi returned to government in July 2008 to his current post.


Picture Credit:
Samir Mizban
Associated Press

Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubai

A Sunni-Arab, al-Zubai is one of two Deputy Prime Ministers. He was injured in an assassination attempt on March 23, 2007, one day after meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the situation in Iraq. He is the highest ranking Sunni Arab in the Maliki government; his party, the Accordance Front, is the main Sunni Arab grouping in the governing coalition. He is also a member of a well-known tribe from the Abu Ghraib area northwest of Baghdad. Commentators report that the assassination attack results from feuds between rival factions in his tribe, with one side supporting Al Qaeda militants and the other loyal to the deputy prime minister and the government.


Picture Credit:
Associated Press

President Jalal Talabani

Jalal Talabani was named interim president on April 6, 2005. He was chosen by Iraq's two key Kurdish parties who came in second in the elections in January 2005. Talabani is a Sunni Kurd who joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party at a young age and in 1975 he established the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of two key Kurdish parties. He helped lead the Kurdish fight in Iraq's north against former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi President Backs US Senate Proposal to Decentralize Iraq (October 8, 2007)

A US Senate resolution which calls for the division of Iraq into separate regions receives widespread opposition in Iraq. However, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, has expressed support for the proposal and says the resolution does not undermine Iraqi unity. He also calls for a withdrawal of 100,000 US troops by the end of 2008 but suggests that three US bases remain in the country. (Voice of America)

Iraq's President Complains of Shiite Prime Minister Monopolizing Power (July 10, 2005)

According to Arabic press sources, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sent a letter to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in July 2005, complaining that he monopolizes power and ignores the Kurdish members of the Iraqi Cabinet. Talabani also charged that al-Jaafari has not done enough to ensure the return of displaced Kurds to Kirkuk. A Kurdish legislator said that the letter had been "effective,"and that al-Jaafari has agreed to apply the laws concerning the Kurds' return to the province. (Associated Press)

Breakfast at Talabani's (February 24, 2004)

This article provides information on Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and member of the Iraqi Governing Council. As political events in Iraq unfold, one wonders what he endeavors for the Kurds in Iraq and what role he will play in a new Iraqi government. (Daily Star)


Picture Credit:
Associated Press

Vice President Adil Abd Al-Mahdi

Abdel-Mahdi is one of two vice presidents in the government elected in December 2005. He is an official in the Shiite Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and previously served as minister of finance in the US installed interim government. He was educated in France, and is the son of a respected Shiite cleric who was a minister in Iraq's monarchy.

Picture Credit:
State Department

Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi

"As an Iraqi -- I am also vice president -- I would like very much to see that Iraq is free tomorrow, and to assist all those families waiting their sons to receive them back as soon as possible, in fact, and to stop and to put an end for this -- for the tragedy. I be very much on the same side and the same time I would like to see my own national armed force, in fact, to shoulder responsibilities and secure the situation in Iraq."
December 2006 discussion with Council on Foreign Relations.

Tariq al-Hashimi is one of two Vice Presidents of Iraq chosen after the December 2005 elections and the general secretary of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni Muslim bloc in parliament. He opposes the formation of autonomous regions and has advocated for the distribution of oil revenues based on population, a reversal of de-Baathification, and the removal of Shiite militia fighters from the Iraqi security forces. Three of his siblings were allegedly killed by Shiite death squads in 2006.

Picture Credit: Raed Jarrar
See Enlarged Diagram


Legislative Branch of Government

A selection of parties in the Iraqi Parliament (the Iraqi Council of Representatives).


  • United Iraqi Alliance (128 plus 2 seats)


  • SCIRI –Badr (36 seats)


  • Sadr (32 seats)


  • Iraqi Islamic Party (25 seats)


  • Kurdish Democratic Party (25 seats)


  • Iraqi National List (Allawi) (25 seats)


    Tribal Coalitions

  • National Council of Iraqi Tribes


  • Iraqi Tribes Democratic Gathering or Democratic Grouping of Iraqi Tribes


  • The National Alliance of Iraqi Tribes


  • Clans Independent Democratic National Tribal Gathering



    Social and Religious Figures


    Religious Leaders

    Picture Credit:
    Associated Press

    Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini Sistani

    Iraq Loses Its Voice of Reason (September 6, 2006)

    Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most prominent Shiite spiritual leader, has ceased his participation in Iraqi politics, citing disillusionment with the ruling coalition and continuing sectarian violence. Sistani, once the "voice of reason"for many Iraqis, expressed his frustration with the government's failure to bring law, order and security to Iraq and announced he will restrict himself to religious duties. As this Asia Times article suggests, Sistani's exit leaves room for the popular Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who has won the support of many Iraqis with the creation of his own militia, the Mehdi Army, and his outspoken criticism of the US occupation forces.

    Iraq's Shadow Ruler (October 17, 2004)

    Iraq's most prominent Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatullah Sistani, has emerged as "the country's pivotal political figure."Sistani's influence reaches as far as the White House, but his aides stress that he will not take on any leading role for himself in a future government. This article gives an extensive overview of Sistani's personal history and explains why he is "of a different breed"than another Shiite mullah, Iran's Ayatullah Khomeini. (Time)

    Call of History Draws Iraqi Cleric to the Political Fore (February 1, 2004)

    This article explores the life of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, from his Iranian roots to his present role as spiritual and political leader of the Shiite Muslims in Iraq. Since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the reclusive leader has become a dominant voice shaping the future of Iraq. (Washington Post)


    Picture Credit:
    Pier Paolo Cito/
    Associated Press

    Hojatalislam Muqtada al-Sadr

    Archived Articles on Hojatalislam Muqtada al-Sadr

    Warlord: The Rise of Muqtada al-Sadr (April 11, 2008)

    According to Patrick Cockburn, Muqtada al-Sadr has gone from a "small-time cleric from the outskirts of Baghdad to the most influential figure in the power struggle shaping post-war Iraq."This Independent article details the rise of Muqtada al-Sadr, his ability to mobilize millions of Shia and Sunni citizens in Iraq and the US policy decisions which ultimately led to the cleric's overwhelming popularity in his defiance of the US-led occupation.

    Iraq's Sadr Orders Militia to Stand Down (August 30, 2007)

    The Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr calls for a ceasefire in the activities of his Mehdi Army. A spokesperson for al-Sadr says the aim of the ceasefire is to "rehabilitate"rival factions and ‘rogue' officers who Sadr blames for attacks on Sunni civilians and Iraqi government forces. Sadr also calls for an end to attacks by the militia on US and coalition troops. The ceasefire comes as fighting between rival Shiite factions culminates in gun battles in Karbala. (Los Angeles Times)


    Trade Union Figures


    Picture Credit: David Bacon

    Felih Abood Umara

    Felih Abood Umara is the General Secretary of the General Union of Oil Employees (also known as the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions) (IFOU). As general secretary of the IFOU, Faleh Abood Umara toured the United States in June 2007 to discuss US attempts to control Iraq's oil, women's issues under the occupation, and the role of unions in Iraq. The Southern Oil Workers Union is now one of the largest organizations in the country with thousands of members on the rigs, pipelines, and refineries.


    Picture Credit: David Bacon

    Hassan Juma'a Awad

    Hassan Juma'a Awad is the President of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, which had been banned from the secret negotiations involved in drafting Iraq's controversial oil law. He wrote a letter to the US Congress and said "[e]veryone knows the oil law doesn't serve the Iraqi people."The draft law "serves Bush, his supporters and foreign companies at the expense of the Iraqi people."The union has threatened to strike if the law is implemented.


    Picture Credit: David Bacon

    Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein

    Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein is the President of the Electrical Utility Workers Union which is part of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers. She is also on the executive committee of the Basra Work Unions Coalition. She is head of the Women Workers Bureau and is a leader in the Iraqi Women's Association. She toured the US in June 2007 to discuss US attempts to control Iraq's oil, women's issues under the occupation, and the role of unions in Iraq. The electrical workers union is the first national labor organization headed by a woman.


    US State Department Leaders

  • Picture Credit: BBC News

    US Ambassador Ryan C Crocker

    The Iraq Report's Other Voice (September 10, 2007)

    In anticipation of the Congressional testimony on progress in Iraq, the Washington Post compares military commander, General David Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. The two leaders were appointed around the same time in 2003 and witnesses say their appointments represent the Bush administration's acknowledgment of the "perilous state of its Iraq venture."Commentators suggest that, although Crocker cautioned against the US invasion in Iraq in 2003, as the new ambassador it is likely he will argue for a long term US presence in the country.

    Crocker Blasts Refugee Process (September 17, 2007)

    Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement in the US may wait up to two years before being admitted into the country. In a State Department cable, Ambassador Ryan C Crocker criticizes the bureaucratic obstacles in processing some 10,000 refugees referred by the UN for refugee status in the US. He recommends fast tracking security checks, increasing the number of processing officers and conducting interviews in Baghdad. Washington has been criticized since the beginning of the war for its reluctance to accept Iraqis, many of whom work alongside the US. Since 2003, the US has accepted only 1,521 Iraqi refugees. Meanwhile, Syria and Jordan struggle to accept the 60,000 refugees that flee across Iraq's borders each month. (Washington Post)

    Embassy Staff In Baghdad Inadequate, Rice is Told (June 19, 2007)

    The Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C Crocker expresses concern that US embassy staff in Iraq are too young and unqualified for the job. Crocker suggests that a management review take place to ensure the State Department overcomes some of the bureaucratic struggles such as public criticism of the mission's US$1 billion budget in 2007 and the growth of the world's largest US embassy in Baghdad. Crocker blames the speed with which positions were filled at the embassy and the lack of management for the problems in staffing. (Washington Post)

    Ryan Clark Crocker, A Diplomat Used to Danger (January 6, 2007)

    According to political commentators, the Bush administration's choice for US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has extensive experience working in the Middle East and "will manage the job with skill and sensitivity."Crocker speaks Arabic, has worked in Iraq in the 1970s and was the ambassador to Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria and Pakistan. However, commentators suggest that unlike the current ambassador, Zalmay M Khalilzad, Crocker will not have a strong public presence in Baghdad. (New York Times)


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    Picture Credit:
    Joint Chiefs of Staff

    Commanding General Multi-National Force - Iraq- General Ray Odierno

    Odierno Replaces Petraeus in Iraq (September 16, 2008)

    US General Ray Odierno has taken command of US- led forces in Iraq, replacing General David Petraeus on September 16, 2008. From December 2006 to February 2008 General Odierno was the deputy commander of coalition forces in Iraq assuming the responsibility for implementing the US "surge"strategy in February 2007. ( Al Jazeera)



    Picture Credit:
    US Department of Defense
    D. Ward

    US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad

    "Viceroy" Khalilzad Leaves Controversial Legacy in Afghanistan (April 6, 2005)

    President George Bush has named Zalmay Khalilzad Ambassador to Iraq. According to this Agence France Press article, Khalilzad acted "more like a ruler than a humble envoy"; during his time as US Ambassador to Afghanistan. Afghan sources say he took political sides, favoring fellow Pashtun Hamid Karzai during Afghanistan's October 2004 elections. Also, his high-profile activities led some to accuse the US of interfering in the country's affairs. Others say Khalilzad was an effective ambassador because of his close relationships with "powerful hawks on Capitol Hill."


    See previous US Leaders in Iraq

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