Iraq's PM al-Maliki, is surrounded by Iraqi lawmakers from the 'State of Law' bloc as he announces that he is stepping down.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, following two consecutive terms in office, has moved aside as a result of a political checkmate move by President Masum as he could no longer declare a state of emergency or dissolve Parliament, to prolong his term without the backing of Parliament and the President, who had appointed Abadi as the PM designate.
President Masum, supported by the newly elected speaker Salim al Jibouri, and the head of the National Alliance Ibrahim al Jafari now have their man in the driving seat. Maliki had no option but to concede to Abadi on the 14th August, appeared on TV, with Abadi on his right amongst key leaders of the State of Law bloc, in a show of unity, that his party still united and intact.
Iraq is facing increasingly insurmountable challenges to remain a viable state owing to the violent incursion of the transnational Jihadist group known as "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL). ISIL's actions as widely publicized in the media are proving themselves worthy of the descendants of the barbarous ideology and violent tactics of Genghis Khan who also occupied if not destroyed major cities in Iraq in ancient times.
Dr. Abadi has the mammoth task of attempting to bring about Shia political harmony and has to regain the confidence of alienated Sunni groups and the Kurds in an attempt to bring about some political cohesion. The dire situation in Iraq finds itself requires a seasoned and astute politician capable of uniting a diverse range of ethnic and religious factions.
Abadi's nomination has received unprecedented international support from across the globe including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United Nations, and the Arab League. This widespread endorsement has sent an implicit yet unequivocal message to all factions inside Iraq to support Abadi and form an inclusive government on time as regional and international powers begin to increase cooperation to tackle ISIL's expansion across the region.
Who is Haider al-Abadi?
Dr. Abadi is a moderate Islamist and a leading member of the Islamic Dawa Party. A former political dissident he spent a long period in political exile in the United Kingdom fighting the dictatorship of Saddam Hussain. He comes from the reputable Karada district in Baghdad and is a descendant of a prominent Arabian tribe of Abada and hails from a prominent middle-class professional family. A well-educated technocrat with a PhD from Manchester University, Abadi cut his political teeth post regime change in 2003 by chairing many of the key and often politically sensitive committees in parliament, including the Economic Committee (2006-2010) and the Finance Committee (2010-2014) where he successfully demonstrated his ability to reach out to all political factions and agree common accords.
As a member of the 'State of Law' political bloc, his views might be interpreted as being more centralist rather than federalist, but this reflects the fact that most Iraqis are still struggling to come to terms with a fledgling constitutional federal system post 2005.
Nevertheless, based on my experience with him over the past 24 years in both, a personal and professional capacity, I have found him to possess in-depth knowledge of the complex socioeconomic and political fabric of Iraq as well as being a shrewd and pragmatic political operator.
Furthermore, he is a 'people's person' who relates well with laymen, the clergy, intellectuals, policy makers and businessmen on a wide range of issues. I have personally witnessed his natural ability to navigate to the crux of a matter and reach consensus between conflicting views or interests. If Abadi is sworn in to office, he will need all of these skills and more to overcome the challenges Iraq faces.
Iraq's immediate priority is to secure its cities, main arteries and borders by reforming and improving counter insurgency tactics and better equip the Iraqi Security Forces in conjunction with regional and global powers to help defeat ISIL.
Two months ago, Grand Ayatollah Sistani in a move widely perceived as being in Iraq's national interest, called upon all Iraqis to unite and defend their land against the threat posed by ISIL. He clearly understood the critical danger posed by extremism to Iraq's sovereignty as well as threatening regional and global security.
Unfortunately, little ground has been reclaimed against ISIL owing in part, to the crisis in leadership as exemplified in the uncoordinated role of a weakened Federal Army and Kurdish Peshmerga in their attempts to secure Iraq's cities and their terrorized populations. Moreover, since the 10th June onslaught by ISIL, around 500,000 displaced people, mostly women and children, are now in desperate need for humanitarian relief and protection which require a coordinated effort between the Federal Government of Iraq (FGI), Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the United Nations and neighbouring countries.
However, the recent U.S. airstrikes coupled with the establishment of a joint operations' room in Erbil between the FGI and KRG are all positive developments that should set the cornerstone of strategic cooperation to defeat ISIL.
The Way Forward
Abadi's mammoth task if sworn in as Prime Minister includes:
- The restoration and redeployment of Iraq's Security Forces in concert with the support of volunteers and in cooperation with the Kurdish Peshmerga to recapture territory ceded to ISIL;
- Attending to the urgent and desperate needs of the displaced people including the long suffering minorities whose plight is symbolic of the struggle faced by all Iraqis;
- Ratifying critical legislation such as the Federal Budget, Supreme Federal Court Law, Revenue sharing law and Hydrocarbon law to further develop Iraq's judiciary and economy; and
- Prioritizing national reconciliation to ensure the effectiveness of Iraq's democratic processes and to heal Iraq's damaged social fabric.
Iraq might have run out of time due to the politicking over the position of Prime Minister as the country's survival and future is far from certain. Abadi, has a large and urgent portfolio to deal with, now needs the immediate and absolute support both nationally and internationally, to make mission impossible, possible.
The next few weeks will test the intentions and commitments of all political partners to keep Iraq undivided. If the Sunni groups and the Kurds start to table challenging demands and unconstitutional conditions to join an inclusive government then I am afraid not even the seculars of the Shia leaders will be able to keep Iraq in one piece.
The Cradle of Civilizations must now stand united both internally and with key regional players to support its nascent democracy which continues to grind painstakingly forward. It can ill afford disunity as its future has already being endangered by unconsciously incompetent politicians clinging onto power. Abadi could be the right man for the job but only time will tell whether he has just been handed a poisoned chalice.