Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki was politically outmaneuvered after Iraqi President Fuad Masoum took the decision to task Haider Al-Abadi—a member of Maliki’s own Islamic Da’wa Party and a close aide—to form the next government, a former ally told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The latest attempt to resolve Iraq’s protracted political crisis over the formation a new government came as the US carried out airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), although US Secretary of State John Kerry ruled out the reintroduction of US combat forces into the country on Tuesday.
The US will explore more “political, economic and security options” as Iraq moves forward under its new prime minister, Kerry said, adding that the Obama administration “fully support[s] a new and inclusive Iraqi government.”
“What we’re really looking for here is a way to support Iraq, support their forces with either training or equipment or assistance of one kind or another that can help them to stand on their own two feet and defend their nation. That’s the goal.” Kerry said during a visit to Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday.
Prime Minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi had been a close ally of Maliki. He has also served in a number of senior posts under the outgoing prime minister, including as minister of communications and, most recently, deputy speaker of parliament. The more moderate members of the Islamic Da’wa Party—itself a member of the Shi’ite-led Iraqi National Alliance—have backed Abadi over Maliki for the premiership.
Maliki, speaking on Monday, condemned Masoum’s decision to ask Abadi to form a new government, describing it as a “dangerous violation” and “mistake” during a Baghdad press conference.
MP Izzat Shahbandar, a former member of Maliki’s Islamic Da’wa Party and current head of the “Loyal to the Homeland” electoral coalition, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The Iraqi National Alliance is responsible for this situation and the political crisis that is facing the country which has brought us to the brink of military coups, because it is divided against itself.”
“We must recognize the truth that nobody wants to acknowledge; the rule of political Islam in Iraq has failed. The Iraqi treasury is suffering from a lack of reserves, and the government is under threat of being unable to pay the salaries and pensions of more than six million civil servants over the next two months,” he added.
“Instead of addressing the political, security and economic crises that Iraq is suffering from, they are carrying out coups and counter-coups against one another,” Shahbandar said.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, an Iraqi politician with close ties to the Shi’ite seminaries in Najaf claimed that the Iraqi National Alliance went behind Maliki’s back to secure Abadi as prime minister-designate. The source added that acting foreign minister Hussein Al-Shahristani—appointed by Maliki just weeks ago—had signed a deal backing Abadi.
“Pressure exerted by the religious authority, including the highest-ranking Shi’ite authority Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, has paid off,” the source added.