December 21, 2014
Iraq president names new PM but Maliki hangs tough
Iraq's president named a new prime minister to replace Nuri al-Maliki today, urging him to form a broad government that can stem communal bloodshed, but it was unclear whether Maliki would bow to US and Iranian pressure to step aside.
A Shi'ite Muslim blamed by erstwhile allies in Washington and Tehran as well as Baghdad for driving the alienated Sunni minority into revolt, Maliki deployed loyal militias and special forces in the capital today after making a defiant speech accusing the head of state of abusing the constitution.
Militants from the Islamic State, who routed Maliki's army in the north in June, made new gains over Kurdish forces despite three days of US air strikes and Baghdad, long braced for the Sunni fighters to attack the city, was now tensing for possible clashes between Maliki and rivals within the Shi'ite majority.
There was no immediate reaction from Maliki to the naming of Haider al-Abadi as prime minister. However, Maliki's son-in-law, a close political ally, told Reuters that he would seek to overturn the nomination in the courts.
President Fouad Masoum asked Abadi, a leader of Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party, to lead an administration that can win the support of a parliament elected in April. In remarks broadcast on television, Masoum, an ethnic Kurd, urged him to "form a broader-based government" over the next month.
Abadi himself, who spent decades in exile in Britain during the rule of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, urged national unity against the "barbaric" Islamic State, which has driven tens of thousands from their homes as it swept Baghdad's troops from the north and west to consolidate a "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria.
"We all have to cooperate to stand against this terrorist campaign launched on Iraq and to stop all terrorist groups," he said in broadcast remarks after meeting Masoum.
Maliki, 60, who emerged from obscurity to become prime minister in 2006 under US occupation, may not go quietly.
"We will not stay silent," his son-in-law Hussein al-Maliki said. "The nomination is illegal and a breach of the constitution. We will go to the federal court to object."