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Iraq PM-designate facing tough task to form cabinet - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iraq's Prime Minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi speaks during a news conference in Baghdad on August 25, 2014. (Reuters/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud)

Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi speaks during a news conference in Baghdad on August 25, 2014. (Reuters/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraq’s various political parties are pursuing a dangerous policy of brinkmanship over the formation of a new government with Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi facing a September 11 deadline to announce a new cabinet.

Discussions are ongoing over the formation of a new government despite talks between the Sunni Iraqi Forces Alliance and the Shi’ite-led National Alliance collapsing last week. Abadi is a member of outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Mailki’s ruling State of Law coalition, itself a member of the Iraqi National Alliance—along with other leading Shi’ite parties including Ammar Al-Hakim’s Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrist Movement.

A leading member of the Iraqi National Alliance, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said Iraq’s political parties were placing their own partisan interests ahead of the national interest.

“Abadi inherited a number of complex issues from his predecessor Nuri Al-Maliki which are difficult to resolve. This requires real willingness on the part of all political, sectarian and nationalist parties to unite their efforts to resolve,” the Shi’ite official said.

He added: “Maliki took over a country that was made up of 18 governorates but is leaving a country that has just 15 governorates after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over Mosul, the Kurds took control of Kirkuk, and the rebels have effectively taken over Anbar province.”

The high-level Iraqi National Alliance official said that Iraq’s Sunnis and Kurds—disenfranchised under the Maliki administration—are now demanding a large share of government and it will be difficult to balance this with the other groups in Iraq. “The Sunnis and Kurds are unwilling to retract demands which they view as legitimate,” he said.

“Abadi cannot ignore any component of this nation; he is facing US and international pressure on one hand, as well as domestic pressure on the other. He cannot follow Maliki’s approach of offering incentives to one party at the expense of another . . . and make promises which will not be met, because the political parties have now learned their lesson.”

Prime Minister-designate Abadi has until September 11 to form a new government, and has been meeting with all sides to discuss ministerial portfolios. Abadi has pledged to form a “national unity” government which encompasses all Iraqi political parties, seeking to resolve the political situation in Baghdad before launching a security crackdown against advancing ISIS forces.