Qassim Abdul-Zahra

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s security forces continue to gear up for a long-awaited operation to retake the Islamic State-held city of Mosul. But they will be doing so without the minister of defense who has presided over most of the military’s successes against IS.

Khaled al-Obeidi was abruptly dismissed by a parliamentary no-confidence vote Thursday after weeks of political wrangling over dueling allegations of corruption with parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri. The allegations of corruption were quickly exploited by a handful of Iraq’s powerful political blocs looking to weaken Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi by removing one of his key Sunni allies.

Neither al-Jabouri’s nor al-Obeidi’s allegations of corruption have been publicly proven.

Al-Obeidi’s removal came just over a month after the minister of interior’s resignation was accepted, leaving Iraq without two key security officials as the country prepares for what is expected to be the most complicated fight yet in the anti-IS campaign. Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban submitted his resignation in early July amid mounting anger following a massive truck bombing claimed by IS in central Baghdad that killed more than 300 people.

So far al-Abadi has kept largely quiet on al-Obeidi’s dismissal. His office told the Associated Press that it will not affect ongoing military campaigns.

On the ground, operations in advance of an assault on Mosul have continued uninterrupted by the shake up, according to Ministry of Defense spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool and a senior Ministry of Defense official. Rasool said logistics, command and control are not reliant on the defense minister, but rather controlled by the Joint Special Operations command.

“The sacking the defense minister is a political issue and not a military one,” he said.

Just moments before the no-confidence vote Thursday, al-Abadi announced that a town south of Mosul neighboring a key air base had been “liberated,” by Iraqi ground forces backed by coalition airstrikes. Al-Abadi said the retaking of Qaraya marked an “important step” on the road to Mosul. While progress south of Mosul has been slow, Iraqi forces have not suffered any significant territorial setbacks in recent months.

Late Saturday, al-Abadi announced another victory against IS. In a statement he said Iraqi forces had retaken the Khaldiya area in Anbar province between Ramadi and Fallujah, a pocket of desert territory used by the militant group to move supplies, weapons and fighters through Anbar.

Al-Obeidi’s dismissal also concentrates a significant amount of power in the hands of the prime minister. Al-Abadi’s predecessor Nouri al-Maliki left the defense and interior portfolios vacant and ran those ministries himself.