Aug 11, 2014
Iraq moved closer to turning the page on Nuri al-Maliki’s controversial reign Monday when his own clan spurned him for another prime minister to save the country from breakup.
The much-awaited political breakthrough in Baghdad came as Kurdish troops backed by US warplanes battled to turn the tide on two months of jihadist expansion in the north.
“The country is in your hands,” President Fuad Masum told Haidar al-Abadi after accepting his nomination by parliament’s Shiite bloc, in a move immediately welcomed by the United States.
Abadi, long considered a close Maliki ally, has 30 days to form a government, whose breadth the international community has stressed would determine Iraq’s ability to stop sectarian bloodshed.
Maliki, who has been in power since 2006, did not immediately react to the rebuke. While he could still seek to challenge the decision, he looked more isolated than ever.
His last appearance was when he gave a midnight address vowing to sue the president for failing to nominate him, in what looked like a desperate move by a beleaguered leader making his last stand.
Simultaneously, special forces and armored vehicles deployed across strategic locations in Baghdad.
The UN’s top envoy in Iraq called on the security forces to “refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority.”
Washington had warned its erstwhile ally Maliki to “not stir those waters” and promptly welcomed Abadi’s nomination as a “key milestone”.
According to the White House, Abadi told US Vice President Joe Biden he intended “to move expeditiously to form a broad-based, inclusive government capable of countering the threat” posed by the Islamic State.
The jihadist group, which had already been controlling parts of Syria, launched an offensive on June 9, swiftly taking over the main northern city of Mosul before sweeping across much of the Sunni heartland.
Kurdish peshmerga initially fared better than federal troops but jihadist fighters carried out fresh attacks earlier this month, bringing them within striking distance of autonomous Kurdistan.
The threat to Kurdistan, where some US personnel is based, was one of the reasons Obama gave for sending drones and fighter jets, a potential game changer in the two-month-old conflict.
Obama’s other justification was what he said was the risk of an impending genocide against the Yazidi minority, many of whose members were trapped on a barren mountain for days after fleeing a jihadist attack.
US intervention appeared to make some impact on both fronts, with the Kurds reclaiming two towns on Thursday and more than 20,000 stranded Yazidis escaping their mountain death trap.
– Arming Kurds –
Their flight led to biblical scenes of traumatized civilians flocking back to Kurdistan after surviving with little food and water on Mount Sinjar, which legend holds as the final resting place of Noah’s Ark.
Several thousand were still thought to be hiding in the mountain however as the area remained far from safe on Monday.
Stretched thin along a 1,000-kilometer front, the peshmerga were defeated in Jalawla, a long way southeast from the US bombing’s targets, in a two-day battle that left 10 dead in their ranks.
Western powers were ramping up a coordinated effort to provide the Kurds with more arms to fight the Islamic State, which in late June proclaimed a “caliphate” straddling Iraq and Syria.
“We’re working with the government of Iraq to increasingly and very quickly get urgently needed arms to the Kurds,” a State Department spokeswoman said.
France also called for a European-wide mobilization to supply the autonomous region in northern Iraq with more weapons.
Western powers have also provided aid, air-dropping survival kits directly on Mount Sinjar or supporting the huge relief effort to cope with the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.
Many had come to see Maliki as partly responsible for the violence because the June offensive exposed the weakness of the armed forces and the support IS found in some areas revealed the level of disaffection felt among Sunnis.
People in a Sunni neighborhood of the city of Baquba gathered in the street and fired shots in the air to celebrate Maliki’s political defeat.
Abadi, a Shiite politician considered close to Maliki, was born in Baghdad in 1952 and returned from British exile in 2003 when US-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein.
“Up until recently, he’s been a Maliki surrogate. I have never seen much daylight between the two of them,” said Kirk Sowell, the Amman-based publisher of the Inside Iraqi Politics newsletter.
Maliki’s eight years in power
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 11, 2014 – Here are the main dates of the eight years in power of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq, whose president on Monday appointed Haidar al-Abadi as his successor:
– April 22: Newly-re-elected President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, announces that he asked Maliki, a Shiite, to form the next government, replacing Ibrahim Jaafari, who was contested by Sunnis and Kurds.
– May 21: A national unity cabinet is sworn in, dominated by Maliki’s United Iraqi Alliance which won most seats in parliamentary election.
– October 11: Parliament approves a law allowing the country’s 18 provinces to hold referendums to merge themselves into larger federal regions with a measure of self-government.
The law was opposed by some in the minority Sunni community, who feared that their group would be left only with a rump territory in the barren west and center of the country.
– August 14, 2007: At least 400 are killed in the most deadly attacks since the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein in the US-led invasion of 2003, targeting members of the ancient Kurdish-speaking Yazidi religious sect in the northern province of Nineveh. Al-Qaeda is blamed.
In spite of the deployment of some 155,000 US soldiers, since the blowing up of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad, on February 22, 2006, Iraq goes through a bloody sectarian war that costs tens of thousands of lives up until 2008.
– March 7: Parliamentary elections marred by sectarianism. Shiites vote for Maliki’s State of Law Alliance and the United Iraqi Alliance, while Sunnis vote for the secular Iraqiya bloc of Iyad Allawi. Neither side has enough seats to form a government.
– November: Political leaders announce a deal on the ethnic and sectarian make-up of the three main posts — president, prime minister, and speaker of parliament. Talabani is re-elected president and Maliki named prime minister.
– December 20: A government of national unity is set up, and completed in February, with Maliki holding the three vacant security porfolios on an interim basis.
– February 3: The start of protests calling for improved public services, more jobs and less corruption and for broader political reforms.
– December 18: US troops complete their withdrawal, ending nearly nine years of occupation, leaving country mired in a political crisis.
A day later an arrest warrant is issued for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who takes refuge in Kurdistan. Iraqiya bloc briefly boycotts the cabinet.
– December 23: The start of major protests, particularly in the Sunni province of Anbar, demanding Maliki’s ouster and accusing him of monopolizing power and discriminating against Sunnis.
– April 23: Start of a week of clashes in Hawijah in northern Iraq between security forces and anti-government protesters allegedly infiltrated by militants that leave more than 240 dead.
According to the NGO Iraq Body Count, 2013 was the deadliest year since 2008, with 9,475 civilians killed.
– January 2-4: Iraq loses control of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in Anbar province to Al-Qaeda-linked fighters, after security forces cleared an anti-government protest camp in December.
– April 30: Maliki wins the most seats in the first general election since US troops departed, but his State of Law alliance falls short of an overall majority.
– June 10: Hundreds of Sunni Arab militants, led by radical jihadists, seize Iraq’s second biggest city Mosul as government forces take flight. They go on to seize broad swathes of territory in the north and the west. On August 8, US jets strike jihadist positions.
– August 11: President Fuad Masum tasks Abadi with forming a government, moments after he was selected as nominee for prime minister by the National Alliance bloc.
Source: Space War.