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article imageOp-Ed: As new prime minister nominated, Iraq political strife continues

By Ken Hanly     Aug 12, 2014 in Politics
Baghdad - Dr. Hayder Abadi was named by the Iraqi president as the nominee for prime minister to replace Nouri al-Maliki the present prime minister. Al-Maliki objects to the nomination even though Abadi is a member of the Dawa Party along with al-Maliki.
Ironically, both Iran and the United States back the nomination of Dr. Abadi since both see al-Maliki as a leader who has divided the country and as hindering any attempts to bring back some degree of unity to the country. Both countries no doubt see this as a prerequisite to defeating IS. Abadi is current Finance Committee chair in the Iraqi parliament and has been an MP for some time. During the Saddam era he fled to the UK where he lived for decades but returned after the US-led occupation of Iraq.
An even greater irony in this situation is that Abadi's nomination is supported by the firebrand anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. However, Al Sadr has also seen al-Maliki as a divisive figure. Al Sadr is a nationalist who at times reaches out to the Sunnis. Al Sadr said: "I think that this nomination will be an important start in order to end the crisis that the people are undergoing such as security and service problems". No doubt the Al Sadr bloc in parliament will be given a significant role in any new government Abadi proposes.
Abadi has the support of important foreign players in Iraq as well as the Kurds and most Sunnis internally and also major Shia groups. Yet Maliki sees himself as the natural choice since he was leader of the coalition that won the most seats in the last election. But even his own Dawa party is split with Abadi himself being from the party. Al-Maliki still has strong support and he still is the present prime minister. Thousands of people attended a rally in Baghdad to protest the appointment of Abadi.
Maliki also has at his disposal troops loyal to him. After the appointment announcement tanks surrounded the Green Zone. The US embassy and central government offices are there. Troops also locked down the presidential palace. On TV in the evening Maliki gave a speech denouncing the president Fouad Massoum and he also threatened legal action. Maliki had been putting pressure on Massoum to nominate him.
Maliki often portrays any moves against him as foreign plotting and interference in Iraqi politics. Of course, Maliki is correct up to a point and the US in particular is not shy about who it supports and even threatens Maliki if he interferes with policies the US supports. Iran no doubt uses similar pressure but does no advertise it for all the world to hear. However as the Global Cop the US carries along a megaphone, in this case John Kerry, who praised the nomination of Abadi and then said: "The government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining stability and calm in Iraq.Our hope is that Mr Maliki will not stir those waters."
Kerry also said:We stand absolutely squarely behind President Masoum (who) has the responsibility for upholding the constitution of Iraq”. Al Maliki claims the nomination to be unconstitutional.
Al Maliki is no pushover as an opponent as can be seen by his reactions. He is still prime minister as well and Abadi will need to pull in many from Dawa and the State of Law to his side to be successful. However, there are no doubt many enticements being offered to MP's to abandon Maliki. A group of Maliki's allies said that Abadi had no legitimacy. Khalaf Abdul-Samad a member of the Dawa party claimed that Abadi only "represents himself". Of course this is untrue as he is obviously the choice of many foreign players, Sunnis, Kurds, and even many Shias. Nevertheless forming a government in Iraq has never been easy. Abadi will need considerable skill to form a new government and convince more in the main Shia parties to join him. Perhaps before that happens Al-Maliki could stage a coup using his control of forces loyal to him. According to US spokesperson Harfe this would not be a coup since after all Al-Maliki is still the prime minister!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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