The Middle East Channel

U.S. Pushes for New Iraqi Government as Maliki Refuses to Step Down

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has refused to step down after the new president, Fouad Massoum, nominated Deputy Speaker of Parliament Haider al-Abadi, a member of Maliki’s Dawa party, as his replacement. Maliki called Abadi’s nomination a violation of the constitution and said, "My nomination is still valid and we will correct this mistake for ...

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has refused to step down after the new president, Fouad Massoum, nominated Deputy Speaker of Parliament Haider al-Abadi, a member of Maliki’s Dawa party, as his replacement. Maliki called Abadi’s nomination a violation of the constitution and said, "My nomination is still valid and we will correct this mistake for sure." U.S. President Barack Obama praised Abadi’s nomination saying it was a "promising step forward" and urged him to form an inclusive cabinet. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that once Iraq starts to build a new government, the United States will consider providing additional military, economic, and political assistance to the country. Abadi has 30 days to form a government. Meanwhile, the Iraqi military is conducting relief efforts in the Sinjar mountains, dropping supplies and carrying-out small scale evacuations, though thousands of members of the minority Yazidi community who fled an Islamic State offensive remain stranded, starving, and dehydrated. Britain has additionally conducted aid drops, though several members of parliament are calling for Britain to join the United States in launching airstrikes against Islamic State militants.

Syria-Lebanon

Lebanese General Jean Kahwaji said that radical Islamist militants who attacked the town of Arsal near the border with Syria in early August still pose a "great threat" to Lebanon. Kahwaji said the fighters, who included Islamic State militants, were working to "cause Sunni-Shitte strife" and had planned to advance into nearby Shiite villages. Meanwhile, activists reported Islamic State forces regained control of three villages near the border with Iraq after a tribal uprising expelled the militants earlier this month.

Headlines

Arguments and Analysis

Fighting the Islamic State in Iraq‘ (Julien Barnes-Dacey, European Council on Foreign Relations)

"For the moment, however, the prospect of significant political reform in Baghdad remain slim at best, despite the concerted pressure of Iraq’s religious establishment, Iran and Western powers. Across eight years of rule Maliki has cemented control of the state’s security institutions around his office and with his bloc having won the most seats at the last elections he is now refusing to leave, a position that is now allegedly being backed by Iraq’s federal court.

In this context not only do US military strikes risk little impact in combatting IS – Maliki’s ongoing stay in power will ensure that Sunnis do not switch sides – but they actually risk making the situation worse if viewed as US complicity with Maliki, particularly if they take the pressure off him to stand down, further fuelling IS’ mobilising drive. It is for this reason that President Obama has to date committed to very narrow objectives and limited military action, wanting to keep Maliki’s feet close to the fire. The longer the political crisis endures over a new government, however, and with IS’ advance continuing unabated, the greater the pressure Obama will face to escalate US military action regardless of the status of the prime ministership. Already the US is directly arming Kurdish forces, which could itself further complicate deal-making in Baghdad and US ambitions to preserve the political unity of the Iraqi state."

Erdogan is the victor but he is not yet almighty‘ (Sinan Ulgen, Financial Times)

"But this set-up is only temporary. A more permanent configuration will emerge after the 2015 parliamentary elections. Mr Erdogan’s ultimate objective is for his Justice and Development (AK) party to win a constitutional majority at these critical polls.

Then a presidential system can be introduced and he can become the omnipotent executive president. As a result, in his first year as president, he will focus much more on domestic politics with the aim of sustaining and even increasing the AK party’s popularity. He will have to accomplish a delicate balancing act to overcome the current constitutional restrictions on the bipartisanship of the presidency. The constitution, for instance, requires the president-elect to resign from his party to ensure impartiality."

Would arming Syria’s rebels have stopped the Islamic State?‘ (Marc Lynch, The Washington Post)

"Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton made news this weekend by suggesting that the rise of the Islamic State might have been prevented had the Obama administration moved to more aggressively arm Syrian rebels in 2012. Variants of this narrative have been repeated so often by so many different people in so many venues that it’s easy to forget how implausible this policy option really was."

— Mary Casey

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