The past several months have been an extremely turbulent time for Iraq. ISIS militants began a major offensive in Northern Iraq in June, capturing the major cities of Mosul and Tikrit, routing the Iraqi military, and shocking the world. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has suffered internal turmoil and has attempted to form a government following the April 30 Parliamentary elections.
According to Iraq’s constitution, the President must give the largest party in Parliament the first chance of forming the new government and cobble together a majority coalition in the 328 seat Iraqi Parliament. Although Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition did emerge with a plurality—more votes than any other party—in the 2014 election, President Fuad Masum chose another politician from that party: Haider al-Abadi, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
This is a momentous and fortuitous development for Iraq. Maliki has long been a divisive figure in Iraq, accused of alienating the large Sunni and Kurdish minorities in favor of the Shiite majority. His relationship with the United States and other outside powers deteriorated over the years, and there is widespread support in the international community to replace him. The smoldering resentment towards Maliki burst into a conflagration when ISIS militants sent the Iraqi military reeling in northern Iraq; the results spoke to the corruption of the government and its incompetence in winning the broad backing of Iraqis—especially Sunnis, the sect which ISIS belongs to. Additionally, the Prime Minister has refused to form a unity government to combat the extremist threat—the sort formed in Great Britain after the Nazi invasion of France. As a result, the US, along with many other countries, has sought a government more effective at representing and governing the people of Iraq.
Luckily enough, the President of Iraq has also observed Maliki’s corroding influence on Iraq’s strength. So, on August 11th, he decided to give Haider al-Abadi the first chance to craft a governing coalition. Since al-Abadi is both a member of the plurality party—the State of Law Alliance—and a Shiite, this choice is acceptable to the majority sect. He is also a palatable alternative for the Sunnis and Kurds, a potential departure from Maliki’s isolating ways. The international community has greatly supported this move, with such opposing polities as the US, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the European Union declaring their favor. Prospects for the successful formation of a government look very good.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Maliki has not been idle. Calling the President’s move unconstitutional, he originally vowed to fight the decision in the courts. On August 10th, Maliki also appeared to threaten a pre-emptive military coup to preserve his power, but has since backed off from that position. Despite maintaining at first that he would sue the President’s decision, state television reported on August 14th that Maliki would give up his Prime Minister-ship and remove his lawsuit, paving the way for a smooth transition.
This recent development in Iraq has the potential to change the course of the conflict—especially with regard to the ISIS militants. There is hope that al-Abadi will be better able to forge a government that can appeal to all the people of Iraq. Despite the tempest which has battered Iraq this past year, the removal of Maliki, contemporaneous with American airstrikes blunting ISIS’ offensive, provides a ray of hope for the Iraqis attempting to weather the storm.
Institute for the Study of War Iraq Iraq Updates. Final 2014 Iraqi National Election Results by Major Political Groups. Web. 13 August 2014. http://iswiraq.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/final-2014-iraqi-national-elections.html.
Labott, Elise. What Hand will al-Maliki Play in Iraq? CNN News. Web. 13 August 2014. http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/12/politics/iraq-crisis-analysis/index.html.
Morris, Loveday. Iraqi Prime Minister names Haider al-Abadi new prime minister, defying Maliki. The Washington Post. Web. 13 August 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iraqs-political-situation-dire-as-maliki-digs-in/2014/08/11/1c70942a-213a-11e4-958c-268a320a60ce_story.html.
Salama, Vivian and Yacoub, Sameer. UN Says Iraq Humanitarian Crisis at Highest Level. Yahoo News. Web. 13 August 2014. http://news.yahoo.com/tensions-high-iraq-support-pm-grows-094441860.html.
Voorhees, Josh. Iraq’s Maliki Thinks he can ignore the Country’s Constitution. After All, He’s Done It Before. Slate News Web. 13 August 2014.
Yacoub, Sameer and Abdul-Zahira, Qassim. Officials: Iraq’s al-Maliki to back new PM. Yahoo News. 13 August 2014. http://news.yahoo.com/un-says-iraq-humanitarian-crisis-highest-level-072135558.html.
Image Credit: Hadi Mizban, Associated Press (AP)