Friday, February 09, 2007

Iraq's Deputy Health Minister Arrested

Some of you may have heard that Deputy Health Minister Hakem Abbas al-Zamili was arrested yesterday morning as part of a raid. That he was a criminal is no real surprise. As a senior member of al-Sadr's political party and by extension militia, al-Zamili was known for having flooded the Health Ministry’s payroll with militants, embezzled American money meant to pay for Iraq’s overworked medical system and used Health Ministry facilities and services for sectarian kidnapping and murder.

The surprise is that Prime Minister Maliki who relies on al-Sadr and his party for support, has yet to intervene on behalf of the Deputy Health Minister. You may remember last November when Maliki sided with al-Sadr and demanded that the US remove a blockade of Sadr City. It seems, at this moment anyway, that perhaps Maliki was earnest when he declared a crackdown on militia violence. Then again The Guardian is reporting that Maliki was with the Health Minister when he heard the news of the arrest. According to the Health Minister, Maliki condemned the raid as illegal and a violation of Iraq's sovereignty. Whether Maliki was putting on a show for the Health Minister's benefit is anybody's guess, but the fact that the DPM of Health remains in custody today is promising.

I should also take this opportunity to stress that the Health Ministry is one of several corrupt ministries responsible for wasting billions of US dollars. A seemingly simple solution to this would be to channel funds through the provincial directorates instead of these national ministries. Read more about this idea here.

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