MS Risk Blog

Iraqi Parliament Selects New Prime Minister

Posted on in Iran, Iraq title_rule

On 11 August, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was effectively deposed. Early in the day, the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of mostly Shi’a political parties, nominated deputy parliament speaker Dr. Hadier al-Abadi to become the new Prime minister. Shortly after newly elected President Fouad Massoum asked officially gave al-Abdadi his first responsibility as prime minister: to form a new government within the next 30 days. Nouri al-Maliki has declared that he will fight the decision, stating that Abadi’s nomination has no legitimacy. He called the move “dangerous violation” of the constitution, and vowed to “fix this mistake.” Under the Iraqi constitution, the president must appoint the chosen nominee of the largest parliamentary bloc. Al-Abadi comes from the same political party as Maliki. Immediately prior to the decision, Maliki had ordered his elite army units into the streets of Baghdad in a show of force. However, a senior government official said commanders of military forces that Maliki deployed around Baghdad had pledged loyalty to President Fouad Masoum, and agreed to to respect his decision to ask Abadi to form a new government. On 12 August, a statement appeared on Maliki’s official website ordering security forces not intervene in the conflict over who will be the next prime minister. Rather, they should remain focused on defending the country. Maliki has been widely derided for implementing pro-Shi’a sectarian regulations that have widely disenfranchised and alienated Sunni Muslims in Iraq during his eight-year tenure. It is believed that his sectarian policies spurred the actions of ISIS, the terrorist organisation that has taken over vast swaths of Iraqi land and Syria in recent months. Despite Maliki’s claims that the ouster was illegitimate, Iraqi media channels have already widely welcomed al-Abdadi, with some pro-Sunni stations criticising his refusal to step-down for the sake of the nation. Beyond Iraq, the appointment of al-Abadi has been met with welcome by many among the international community. Jordanian media has issued congratulations to the new Prime Minister. EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton called Abadi’s appointment a “positive step”. US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Washington is prepared to “fully support a new and inclusive Iraqi government”, urging Abadi to quickly form a fully functional cabinet: “We are prepared to consider additional political, economic and security options as Iraq’s government starts to build a new government.” In Iran, a nation that was once considered an ally by al-Maliki, the decision to remove him from office has been regarded as a positive one. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, has offered his congratulations to al-Abadi and the Iraqi people. Shamkhani is a close ally of Iranian President Rouhani, and a representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Iranian recognition of Abadi appears to eliminate Maliki’s main avenue of support of regaining power. Iran perceives ISIS as a threat to their national security. The Iranian government believes that in order to quell the spread of the terror group, Iraq must have a unity government, which Maliki has openly opposed. Abadi, a British-educated electrical engineer in his mid 60s, also served as an intermediary between diplomats and Western journalists in Iraq. He was exiled to England during the reign of Saddam Hussein when the Dawa party which he represented was banned from the country. He is perceived as a considerably more moderate and unifying figure than his predecessor. In order to prove his ability to form a unity government, he must reintroduce Sunni and Kurdish officials into senior positions in the Iraqi government and military. Under Maliki’s regime, all senior positions were held by Shi’a officials. He has little time to not only implement a unity government, but to also raise morale in the nation, as Sunni Muslims and other denominations will want to see immediate change, and the Kurds are pushing ever harder for an autonomous state. As one writer put it, the threat to Iraq is “existential, not political.”

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