Nouri Maliki has officially resigned his post as Iraq Prime Minister on Iraqi state television. Haider al-Abadi was then asked, by Iraq’s president, to form the next government.
Mr. Maliki said:
I announce before you today, to ease the movement of the political process and the formation of the new government, the withdrawal of my candidacy in favour of brother Doctor Haider al-Abadi.
Al-Abadi was an Iraqi exile between 1980 and 2003. He resided in the United Kingdom, unlike Ahmed Chalabi before him who resided in the United States. And we know what happened to Chalabi. Yes, he was in office for less than 12 months; though not as either Prime Minister or President.
However, its not just the American government which backs al-Abadi. He also has the support of his own Islamic Dawa Party, Iraq’s Shia clerics and Iran.
From the various news pieces published recently, it’s hard to see the arguments as to why Haider al-Abadi is a better alternative to Nouri Maliki.
Did Nouri Maliki lose the support of the Americans and Iraqis because he wasn’t tough enough on the Islamic State (IS) jihadists and other Sunni militants? Or did he lose it because he prolonged and accentuated the Shia hegemony over the Sunnis in the Iraq government and beyond?
In terms of the former possibility, Nouri Maliki did once say that he didn’t want to be the responsible for shedding a single drop of blood in Iraq. Nonetheless, that might have had more to do with the lack of loyalty of the Iraqi army (as well as the limited numbers of the Shia militias) than any true pacifism on Maliki’s part.
As for the latter possibility, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice has said that that Haider al-Abadi’s appointment is a “major step” towards uniting Iraq.
President Obama has himself said:
[Haider al-Abadi] still has a challenging task in putting a government together, but we are modestly hopeful that the… situation is moving in the right direction.
Since Haider al-Abadi is the spokesman for an explicitly religious (Shia) party, the Islamic Dawa Party (da’wah means the proselytising or preaching of Islam), it’s hard to see how sectarian tensions – both inside and outside of government – will lessen. The IDP is also very closed linked to Shia Iran. (Tthis, when you think about it, is hardly a surprise.)
The Islamic Dawa Party was created to “promote Islamic values and ethics, political awareness, combat secularism, and create an Islamic state in Iraq”.
Furthermore, according to Roger Shanahan, the Party states:
- Absolute sovereignty belongs to Allah.
- Islamic injunctions are the basis of legislation. The legislative authority may enact any law not repugnant to Islam.
- The people, as vice-regents of Allah, are entrusted with legislative and executive powers.
- The jurist holding religious authority represents Islam. By confirming legislative and executive actions, he gives them legality.
In other words, there’s no separation of state and religion (or Shia Islam) within the Islamic Dawa Party’s political ideology.