News / Middle East

Obama Praises Selection of Iraqi PM-designate

  • Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and display placards bearing a picture of embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 11, 2014.
  • An Iraqi soldier stands guard amid tight security measures by Iraqi security forces during a pro-government demonstration to show support for embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 11, 2014.
  • Iraqi Christians, who fled violence brought by Islamic State militants in the village of Qaraqosh, seek refuge inside a church building in Irbil, north of Baghdad, Aug. 11, 2014.
  • Iraqi Christian children, who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqosh, sit on a mattress at their makeshift shelter in an abandoned building in Irbil, north of Baghdad, Aug. 11, 2014.
  • Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, Aug. 10, 2014.
  • Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect jump onto a truck as they make their way toward the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate, Aug. 10, 2014.
  • In this photo provided Aug. 11 by the French Army, airport employees unload humanitarian freight from a French Air Force plane at Irbil airport in Iraqi Kurdistan, Aug. 10. 2014.
  • Tech. Sgt. Lynn Morelly, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, watches bundles of halal meals parachute to the ground during a humanitarian airdrop mission, over the vicinity of Sinjar, Iraq, Aug. 9, 2014. (U.S. Air Force)
  • Staff Sgt. Daniel Leavindofske, 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron ramp team chief and Senior Airman David Babcock, air transportation journeyman, assist with loading bundles of halal meals on to a C-17 Globemaster III for a humanitarian airdrop mission in the vicinity of Sinjar, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force)
Developments in Iraq - Monday, August 11
VOA News

President Barack Obama expressed support for the selection of a new candidate to replace Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki even as the longtime leader resisted efforts to unseat him, setting up a fierce power struggle as the government fights a rapidly advancing Sunni insurgency.

Iraqi President Fouad Massoum picked Haider al-Abadi, the deputy speaker of parliament, to lead the Baghdad government as it faces the onslaught of Islamic State militants who have overrun much of the country's northern and western territory.

Obama telephoned Abadi - a Shi'ite from Maliki's Dawa party - to offer congratulations, urging him to form an inclusive government that would secure representation for all of Iraq's major sects, including Sunnis and the Kurds.

The U.S. president called Abadi's nomination a "promising step forward" in this effort and in battling Islamic State insurgents who threaten the country’s stability.

President Barack Obama speaks about Iraq developments while vacationing in Chilmark, Massachusetts, Aug. 11, 2014.President Barack Obama speaks about Iraq developments while vacationing in Chilmark, Massachusetts, Aug. 11, 2014.
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President Barack Obama speaks about Iraq developments while vacationing in Chilmark, Massachusetts, Aug. 11, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks about Iraq developments while vacationing in Chilmark, Massachusetts, Aug. 11, 2014.

"This new Iraqi leadership has a difficult task," Obama said, citing the challenge of regaining the confidence of Iraqis and the international community.

"We stand ready to partner with Iraq" and its new government, Obama said from Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, "and build on today's progress."

He urged those working to form a new administration to come together peacefully with a goal of eliminating the threat of Sunni extremists.

Incumbent Prime Minister Maliki is resisting an end to his eight-year rule. Seeking a third term, he has defied calls from Sunnis, Kurds and some fellow Shi'ites to step aside for a less polarizing figure.

US Arms Kurdish Forces

Meanwhile, American officials said the United States has begun directly arming Kurdish peshmerga fighters who are battling the militants in what would be a deepening of the U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

The officials, who were not authorized to discuss the U.S. arms by name and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the weapons were supplied by the Central Intelligence Agency but that the Pentagon may soon begin arming the Kurdish fighters.

A Kurdish goverment official said the U.S. lethal aid is still not enough to battle the militants, even though peshmerga and other Kurdish forces were recently supplemented with similar munitions from Baghdad.

President Obama said Monday that U.S. aircraft remain in position to strike at extremists seeking to carve out a caliphate in the vast regions now under their control.

Obama, who had authorized airstrikes on the Islamic militants last week, said the U.S. had "stepped up" military advice to Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

The president noted the U.S. had continued airdrops of humanitarian supplies to the Iraqi religious minorities, especially Yazidis, trapped on Mount Sinjar. He also thanked the United Kingdom, France and other countries for providing aid.

Maliki resists move to replace him

Soon after Monday's nomination of Abadi, Maliki appeared on TV with members of his political bloc who insisted that they would not accept the nomination and that Maliki remained their choice for prime minister.

The designated prime minnister, Abadi, has 30 days to form a government.

He voiced optimism that the country eventually can defeat the Islamic State insurgents who are seeking to install an Islamic caliphate throughout the vast lands they have overtaken.

"I have confidence that, with the people and political blocs, we would be able to overcome this barbaric and savage attack on the Iraqi people and provide a good environment for the Iraqi people to live in,'' Abadi said.

Iraqis had been anticipating Abadi's nomination for weeks. The presence of key Shi'ite leaders at the ceremony inside Baghdad's Green Zone indicated strong support from other Shi'ites.

Haider al-Abadi, left, has been nominated as Iraq’s prime minister. He’s shown with Salim al-Jabouri, speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives in Baghdad, on July 15, 2014.Haider al-Abadi, left, has been nominated as Iraq’s prime minister. He’s shown with Salim al-Jabouri, speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives in Baghdad, on July 15, 2014.
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Haider al-Abadi, left, has been nominated as Iraq’s prime minister. He’s shown with Salim al-Jabouri, speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives in Baghdad, on July 15, 2014.
Haider al-Abadi, left, has been nominated as Iraq’s prime minister. He’s shown with Salim al-Jabouri, speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives in Baghdad, on July 15, 2014.

But high political drama preceded his appointment, as Iraqi media reported that security forces loyal to Maliki had deployed across Baghdad and surrounded the Green Zone.

Asharqiya TV reported that the president's security guards were on high alert to protect his residence as he nominated Abadi. Some Iraqi journalists had speculated that Maliki would attempt to stop the nomination.

In an address on Iraqi TV overnight, Maliki accused the Iraqi president of violating the constitution by delaying the nomination of a new prime minister. He appealed to Iraqi's Supreme Court to force Massoum to name his political bloc to form the new government because it had the most seats in parliament.

Al Arabiya TV reported that three out of eight Supreme Court judges had ruled in Maliki's favor in rapid consultation by telephone. However, the ruling was moot because Abadi is in fact a member of Maliki's alliance.

A parliamentary session to discuss a new Iraqi government has been postponed until August 19.

Critics said Maliki alienated Sunnis, prompting them to support Islamic State militants who have seized a large chunk of northern Iraq and have threatened to march on Baghdad, posing the biggest threat to Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

US, UN support

Abadi served as head of the Iraqi's finance committee, a political adviser to the prime minister and minister of communications. He was educated at the University of Manchester in England.

Ahead of the court ruling, the United States and United Nations expressed support for Massoum and the selection of a prime minister who will lead an inclusive new Iraqi government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking Monday from Australia, where he and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have arrived for a meeting in Sydney Tuesday, said Iraqis "need to know that there will be little international support of any kind whatsoever for anything that deviates from the legitimate constitutional process that is in place and being worked on now."

U.S. and Kurdish forces are attempting to blunt an offensive by Islamic State fighers that threatens to overrun Irbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region. 

Hagel said three days of American airstrikes against Islamic State forces have been "very effective."

However, Reuters reported Monday that the militants continued to make gains against the Kurds. The news agency also said Baghdad was bracing for potential conflict between supporters of Maliki and rvals within the Shi'ite majority.

United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon also commended the Iraqi president for the movement toward forming a new government.

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special representative for Iraq, said Monday the president is acting in line with the constitution and called on Iraqi security forces to refrain from actions that could be seen at interfering in the political process.

The United States will "continue to support the Iraqi security forces in every way that we can as they request assistance there," Hagel said, "and we will again build partnerships as we are now, recognizing the threat not just to the United States but to the civilized world."

The U.S. defense chief said Australia, Britain and France are working with the U.S. to supply humanitarian aid for the thousands of displaced Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities trapped in the area, many of them atop Mount Sinjar.

US consulate staff temporarily withdrawn

The U.S. Agency for International Development said Monday it is sending a disaster-assistance responsse team to Iraq to expedite life-saving assistance to those caught in the violence.

The United States has started providing weapons directly to Kurdish forces in Iraq, who say they have been able to retake two towns from Islamic State militants.

The International Organization for Migration says the number of internally displaced people in Iraq now totals more than 1 million.

Analysts weigh in on Maliki

U.S. officials and many Western analysts said Maliki, a Shi'ite, has failed to unify the divided country since taking office. They described him as increasingly unacceptable to Iraq's Sunni Muslims, to Kurds and to many of his fellow Shi'ites.

RAND Corp. analyst Patrick Johnston said the court case is another sign that Maliki is more interested in maintaining his own position than confronting the challenges facing his country.

"It’s just the most brash and brazen form of misbehavior and political conflict that we’ve seen from Prime Minister Maliki, the corruption, the negligence in terms of developing the security services, as we’ve seen the Islamic State [militants] go on the offensive and take over large chunks of the country," Johnston said.

"Maliki has been primarily focused on keeping his own job and his grasp on power," Johnston added.

Paul Sullivan, a Middle East expert at Georgetown University, told VOA he doubted Abadi would have accepted the nomination without “significant support from some of the powerful people in power centers of the Shia community.”

He questioned whether Maliki would agree to go quietly "and reasonably move forward on other things or go to battle on this, either politically or physically," Sullivan said. "He doesn't seem to be willing to back down on this.”

Sullivan said he thought many in Maliki's own party "have turned on him," but he worries that Abadi belongs to the conservative Shi'ite Da'awa Party, which many Sunnis don't look upon favorably.

VOA's Edward Yeranian contributed to this report. Material also was provided by Reuters, AP and AFP

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Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Mrs. Bennet Meyer from: USA
August 11, 2014 5:21 PM
Destabilize the whole area, with funneled money from the USA, and the help of the WARMONGERS, like the Bushes, Clintons, and George Soros and Zbignew Brezinsky. Fund the "enemy", then blame it on "terror". WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!

by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, Texas
August 11, 2014 1:52 PM
Premier Maliki should step down facilitating the pathway for al Abadi not to form govt. and lead only but the very national chaos that has developed during the Maliki administration, for quelling that too. While a consensusnal govt. does come up in the National Assembly, along with the President, the newly elected Iraqi premier should endeavor to harmonize the Shihas, the Sunnis and the Kurds in a national reconciliation process. ....... As per the august statement of the top Shiha Iraqi cleric - the politicians are selfish... that proves in vast extent in case
of Noori al Maliki while he does still desire for a third term premiership, during whose last two terms, the very establishments of the disintegration of Iraq had started, culminating in formation of the state of ISIL. Premier Maliki had failed to integrating Iraq on the community lines but fomented the seeds of sectaniarism. And, the current situation in Iraq
is the proof......... the Kurds had almost declared an independent state. But seeing the marauding onslaughts of the ISIL militia; as the Kurd defense miserably failed to withstand and defend, the very intention of their independent statehood changed; and, they become the ally for Baghdad. Unless our president would've authorized air-strikes, the ISIL could've overrun the Iraq' Kurdish area presently. So, our air-strikes play a deterrent to the further ISIL advancements toward the Kurdish area now......... The NATO, the EU and my state- the United States are not desabilizing the world order. That we do endeavor to establish in this world on democratic lines. In this consequence, the state of Iraq got berefted its dictator Saddam Hussain. And, the Arab Spring signifies the very mentality, ardour of the peoples in some nation states how they should lead their democracies; thereby, getting rid of the dictatorial regimes. The civil war in Syria is also in this direction. After the Cold War phase, while the mankind moves through the current world transition ...... after the unfortunate junks of the Cold War phase are cleansed, there' certainly the chances for a world order, there's no slightest polemics over that. In the cross-roads of mankind, statespersons do emerge who do guide mankind toward a safer world. That time is in anvil.

by: Larry Diamond from: USA
August 11, 2014 10:12 AM
The objective of the EU, NATO, UN, and the reprehensible USA, is to DESTABLIZE the whole region, so they can bring in the New World Order.

by: meanbill from: USA
August 11, 2014 9:56 AM
Is al-Maliki the problem in Iraq, (or), is it the US, EU, and NATO countries continuing interference in trying to impose the Sunni Muslim minority as de facto rulers of Iraq again, (for Obama's wishes)..... (because), the US, EU, and NATO countries haven't been right on anything yet, (or made the correct decisions), on any of the countries they have politically interfered in, like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and now Ukraine, (and now tell me), why would any intelligent person, trust them as advisers on anything now?.....

WHY did the US withhold the new modern fighter planes and apache attack helicopters that Iraq bought in 2012 from al-Maliki and his Shia Muslim led government?...... ALL the violence, destruction, killings and wars going on now, has been caused by the US, EU, and NATO countries interference, (and), on one hand they give bad advice to al-Maliki, while supplying arms to the enemies of Iraq and Syria?
In Response

by: Baldur Dasche from: Botswana
August 11, 2014 8:15 PM
Maliki hasn't looked good to America since they were looking for a 'leader' who would hang Saddam for them. Since them he hasn't been the 'first' choice for anything.

Bushco was on his way to Baghdad to drop the pink slip - twice. He was upstaged, both times, by world events that precluded upsetting the Iraq row boat.

Obama started making 'Putin pictures' with Maliki before he found Putin wasn't as photogenic as he'd hoped.

by: Dr. Marvin Belchgas from: USA
August 11, 2014 9:52 AM
As so-called "president" Obama jets off to Martha's Vineyard to play rounds of much needed golf and relaxation, his first agenda was to bomb northern Iraq. The CIA funds ISIS and the so-called "war on terror" is an absolute joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by: Abu Obeida from: Lebanon
August 11, 2014 8:54 AM
Iraq is a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran IRGC. Just like Lebanon. I must tell you America that since ISIL started slaughtering the Shia ul shytan, the Iranians have fled Lebanon... there is not one Iranian in Beirut today. I live four blocks away from the center of Hezbollah in Beirut. we used to see hundreds of filthy Iranians here every day. Today not one Iranian is left. they all run away.
In Response

by: nemesis from: Canada
August 11, 2014 7:35 PM
With an attitude like yours why would they stay
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