News / Middle East

Shi'ite Coalition Close to Nominating PM, Maliki Remains Defiant

FILE - Members of Iraqi special operations forces are seen in Baghdad, Iraq.FILE - Members of Iraqi special operations forces are seen in Baghdad, Iraq.
FILE - Members of Iraqi special operations forces are seen in Baghdad, Iraq.
FILE - Members of Iraqi special operations forces are seen in Baghdad, Iraq.
VOA News

The deputy speaker of parliament, Haider al-Abadi, said in a tweet that a grouping of Shi'ite parties is close to nominating a new prime minister as pressure has risen on current PM Nouri al-Maliki to step down. 

Abadi's comments came after police sources said special forces and Shi'ite militias personally loyal to Maliki had been deployed in strategic areas of Baghdad after he made a defiant speech on television suggesting he would not cave in to pressure to drop his bid to stay in office following a parliamentary election held in April.

Abadi is seen as a possible successor to Maliki, who has been premier since 2006 but has alienated some allies, including the United States, who blame him for failing to forge consensus and so fuelling sectarian violence that is breaking Iraq apart.

In his tweet, Abadi said government forces were moving around the capital in anticipation of security breaches. Police set up checkpoints at major intersections, some with armored vehicles, and many roads were closed.

Maliki accused Iraqi President Fouad Masoum, from the ethnic Kurdish minority, of violating the constitution by missing a deadline for him to ask the biggest political bloc in the new legislature to nominate a prime minister and form a government.

The U.S. State Department said the United States is "closely monitoring" the unfolding events and "fully supports" President Massoum, who was elected president by parliament late last month.

Spokeswoman Marie Harf also said U.S. officials have been in contact with Iraqi leaders. She voiced "support for a process" to select a prime minister, and said Washington "stands ready to support a new and inclusive government."  

Serving in a caretaker capacity since the inconclusive election in April, Maliki has defied calls by Sunnis, Kurds, some fellow Shi'ites, regional power broker Iran and Iraq's top cleric to step aside for a less polarizing figure.

Critics accuse Maliki of pursuing a sectarian agenda which has sidelined minority Sunni Muslims and prompted some of them to support Islamic State militants, whose latest sweep through northern Iraq has alarmed the Baghdad government and its Western allies, prompting U.S. air strikes in recent days.

“Maliki knows it is very difficult to gain a third term and is playing a high-stakes game to try and ensure his authority and influence continue into the new government, despite who may officially become prime minister,” said Kamran Bokhari, a Middle East specialist at analysis firm Stratfor.

Maliki under fire

Washington seems to be losing patience with Maliki, who has placed Shi'ite political loyalists in key positions in the army and military and drawn comparisons with executed former dictator Saddam Hussein, the man he plotted against from exile for years.

President Obama has urged Iraqi politicians to form a more inclusive government that can counter the growing threat from the Islamic State.

But Maliki, an unknown when he first took office in 2006 with help from the United States, is digging in.

“Now we can see unprecedented deployment of army commandos and special elite forces deployed in Baghdad, especially sensitive areas close to the green zone and the entrances of the capital,” one of the police sources said. “These forces are now taking full responsibility of securing these areas of the capital.”

Iraq's Interior Ministry has told police to be on high alert in connection with Maliki's speech, a police official told Reuters.

More U.S. air strikes

The Islamic State has capitalized on the political deadlock and sectarian tensions, making fresh gains after arriving in the north of the country in June from Syria.

The group, which sees Iraq's majority Shi'ites as infidels who deserve to be killed, has ruthlessly moved through one town after another, using tanks and heavy weapons it seized from soldiers who have fled in their thousands.

Islamic State militants have killed hundreds of Iraq's minority Yazidis, burying some alive and taking women as slaves, an Iraqi government minister said on Sunday, as U.S. warplanes again bombed the insurgents.

Human rights minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani accused the Sunni Muslim militants - who have ordered the community they regard as “devil worshippers” to convert to Islam or die - of celebrating what he called a “a vicious atrocity.”

No independent confirmation was available of the killings. Thousands of Yazidis have taken refuge in the past week on the arid heights of Mount Sinjar, close to the Syrian border.

The bloodshed could increase pressure on Western powers to do more to help tens of thousands of people, including many from religious and ethnic minorities, who have fled the Islamic State's offensive.

The U.S. Central Command said drones and jet aircraft had hit Islamic State armed trucks and mortar positions near Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region which had been relatively stable throughout the past decade until insurgents swept across northwestern Iraq this summer.

That marked a third successive day of U.S. air strikes. Central Command said that they were aimed at protecting Kurdish peshmerga forces as they face off against the militants near Erbil, the site of a U.S. consulate and a U.S.-Iraqi joint military operations center.

The Islamists' advance in the past week has forced tens of thousands to flee, threatened Erbil and provoked the first U.S. attacks since Washington withdrew troops from Iraq in late 2011, nearly nine years after invading to oust Saddam Hussein.

Some material in this report was contributed by Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
August 11, 2014 11:09 AM
Maliki is and has always been an arrogant and defiant want to be dictator who thinks the US ousted Sadam for him to be seen as the best man for Iraq, he should be removed fro Iraq's politic for good for true democracy to flourish if not his presence will forever pollute Iraq's political transition.

by: John S from: New York
August 11, 2014 9:59 AM
Maliki defiant??? The arrogance is unbelievable. This puppet of Iran, who did not want Americans is now begging for help to save Iraq from Isis but refuses to believe that he is one of the causes for Isis to be so successful in getting rid of the Iraqi forces who deserted when attacked. He is the reason for the division between Sunnis and Shiite, thus, giving the opportunity for the Isis murderers to run amok in Iraq.

by: Randy Horton
August 11, 2014 9:17 AM
If we're continuing to intervene in Iraq, we should go all the way, like we did with Hawaii, and make it our 51st state, dissolve the government, and confiscate the oil industry as payment for our efforts.

by: Citizen West from: Saint Louis
August 11, 2014 7:51 AM
This is looking more and more like a Maliki problem.

Somebody in the know, best remind Malkiki what happens to Prime Ministers and Presidents in the hot spot that don't get out of the way.

President Diem comes to mind for those of you old enough to remember Vietnam.

by: joe from: UK
August 11, 2014 7:32 AM
I think the same old story is based on lies the same in 2003 ? where is the WMD ? never existed never found . yes we now there is dead people but do not said the 500 dead ? how did they came up with these number ? the ISIS we saw few dead and now its a thousand does anybody has a paper and pen with down the number ? its all PR , Propaganda yes there dead but too many ? massacre and all this come its the same 2003 WMD and how the Maliki Government killed many prisoner in their jail nobody done anything he is legitimate to killed them ? why UK and US drop food to Syrian People ? or Gaza People Thank you

by: meanbill from: USA
August 10, 2014 11:20 PM
THE WISE MAN said it;... A message to al-Maliki, "don't listen to those who give you advice, and also arm your enemies" (and remember), all the cities and towns controlled by the (ISIL) al-Baghdadi Sunni Muslim army, are cities and towns with overwhelming Sunni Muslim majorities, and they have sworn the (Bay'ah) oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi, to obey him and submit to him, and not make war on him, and to make Allah's word supreme in the world, and to restore the glory of the Sunni Muslim Caliphate of all Islam.....

STOP using your Russian war planes and attack helicopters to attack the (ISIL) Sunni Muslim army in the cities and towns, and START attacking all the gas stations in all the (ISIL) controlled cities and towns, and blow up every fuel tanker and the fuel depots, and pickup trucks on the highways, in the (ISIL) controlled territories..... The (ISIL) army needs gas more than weapons and food, or they'll die where their pickup trucks run out of gas.... (GAS is the Achilles heel of the (ISIL) army)...

REMEMBER, that the (ISIL) army controls thousands of miles of square miles of Syria and Iraq, and they need millions of gallons of gas for their pickup trucks and armored vehicles, and if you cut off their supplies of gas, the (ISIL) army will come to a complete stop, and the al-Baghdadi dream of a Sunni Muslim Caliphate, will die and rust in the sands of Iraq and Syria.... al-Maliki the magnificent would do it?.... and victory will be yours in months..... REALLY

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