Iran, US endorse Maliki successor Haider al-Abadi

posted at 9:21 am on August 12, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Iraq moved closer to ending its political crisis yesterday by finally selecting a new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi. The decision by President Fuad Masum won approval from the US yesterday as Barack Obama didn’t even bother to mention his predecessor in a short statement from his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. The wheels on the American bus weren’t the only ones that Nouri al-Maliki felt, either, as Iran endorsed Abadi as well:

Iraq’s new prime minister-designate won swift endorsements from both the United States and Iran on Tuesday as he called on political leaders to end crippling feuds that have let jihadists seize a third of the country.

Haider al-Abadi still faces a threat closer to home, where his Shi’ite party colleague Nuri al-Maliki has refused to step aside after eight years as premier that have alienated Iraq’s once dominant Sunni minority and irked Washington and Tehran. …

Underscoring the convergence of interest in Iraq that marks the normally hostile relationship between Washington and Iran, the head of Tehran’s National Security Council congratulated Abadi on his nomination. Like Western powers, Iran has been alarmed by the rise of Sunni militants across Syria and Iraq.

Abadi himself, long exiled in Britain, is seen as far less polarizing, sectarian figure than Maliki, who is also from the Shi’ite Islamic Dawa party. Abadi appears to have the blessing of Iraq’s powerful Shi’ite clergy.

That puts Maliki, currently holding out with his elite military in Baghdad, in a tight spot. Until now, Maliki appeared to have the backing of Iran and the majority of Shi’ites in Iraq, thanks to his distribution of the spoils of power and his friendliness with Tehran. Iran, though, sees ISIS as a major threat to their own position and have finally come to the conclusion that the only way to mitigate it is to have a viable Iraq as a buffer state, at least. That means working with Sunnis and Kurds, and Maliki clearly isn’t the man for that mission.

Speaking of the military in Baghdad, there are indications that Maliki may not enjoy their loyalty for much longer, either:

However, a senior government official said commanders of military forces that Maliki deployed around Baghdad on Monday had pledged loyalty to President Fouad Masoum and to respect the head of state’s decision to ask Abadi to form a new government.

The key for Abadi will be to allow the Sunnis and Kurds to once again occupy senior positions in the government and military. Maliki purged them from those positions over the last three years, which forced the Sunni tribal chiefs to throw in with ISIS and the Kurds to look for independence. It may be too late to keep the Kurds within a unitary state in Iraq, but the Sunni chiefs will soon tire of ISIS’ despotic and ghastly rule. Abadi will have a narrow window in which to get them back in the fold, but there should be a realistic chance of turning them once again.

The last time that happened, though, the US military was the guarantor of the alliance that defeated the then-AQI insurgency. There is no US military presence now to act as guarantor, so the Sunnis may have some …. trust issues with Baghdad, to say the least. And while the US is pledging cooperation with the Abadi government once the Cabinet positions have been filled, a new military presence is not on the table:

The United States will consider additional military, economic and political assistance to Iraq once a new inclusive government is formed, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday. …

“We are prepared to consider additional political, economic and security options as Iraq’s government starts to build a new government,” Kerry told a news conference together with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and their Australian counterparts.

Hagel said the United States was prepared to consider further military support in Iraq. Kerry ruled out U.S. combat troops on the ground.

“We would wait and see what future requests this new government will ask of us and we will consider it based on those requests,” Hagel said.

The “no boots on the ground” strategy will only work if Abadi can unite the Iraqi army and raise its morale exponentially within a very short period of time. Part of that will depend on whether Maliki now leaves quietly (perhaps with some pressure from Iran?), or decides to play dog-in-the-manger and pull Baghdad down on top of all heads. Even if Maliki leaves with his blessing for Abadi, restoring the Iraqi military into an effective fighting force on its own against ISIS seems like sheer fantasy without Western intervention. If we aren’t going to fight ISIS on the ground, we’d better start giving the Kurds the means to do it now, and on a much larger scale than presently seen.


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Iran supporting Iraq’s new “government.” You can now put that issue on the list as a future problem. One side, the other side, Shi’tes then Sunni’s, one coin, two sides, same problems.

Walter L. Newton on August 12, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Best laid plans…….

cmsinaz on August 12, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Maliki lost his only friend in this fight.

restoring the Iraqi military into an effective fighting force

Ain’t gonna happen.

Patriot Vet on August 12, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Iran is as boxed in as we are on this, aren’t they? I don’t think they want the most radical of radical Sunnis running the country on their border.

BKeyser on August 12, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Hagel said the United States was prepared to consider further military support in Iraq. Kerry ruled out U.S. combat troops on the ground.

Oh, goody! I assume this means giving the Iraqi military more top grade U.S. equipment to be abandoned and picked up by the jihadis, during their next retreat

butch on August 12, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Who was that dude who said he left Iraq as a stable, functioning nation after his predecessor effed it all up?

Bishop on August 12, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Dictators seem to be the only form of government that works in that region…

PatriotRider on August 12, 2014 at 9:41 AM

Maliki will soon have an accident; slipped in the shower, shot himself in the back of the head, and then fell onto a rope tied to a truck and got dragged through the streets.

Hell of an accident but these things happen.

Bishop on August 12, 2014 at 9:43 AM

I don’t have much confidence in the Iraqis’ ability to deal with this ISIS expansion.

I read somewhere that ISIS troops were starting to show up in Lebanon. If the Islamonazis move into Lebanon or Jordan, that could be a fatal mistake. I think the IDF would go into action if ISIS showed up on Israel’s border. It may be the Israelis who eventually do the world a favor by crippling this army of Islamonazis.

TarheelBen on August 12, 2014 at 9:44 AM

I am disappointed with myself over this whole ISIL – Iran – Syria issue.

I just don’t give a damn – and I know that is a mistake.

I keep trying to care about it – and I just am not there yet.

jake-the-goose on August 12, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Dueling images today:

Snuggles on vacation with his worthless brats.

A child about the same age as the brats holding up the severed head of a Syrian soldier.

If anybody thinks that the United States is showing leadership in this issue by endorsing Maliki’s successor, then they need to plan what exactly the strategy for curbing ISIS is when there has been little done or said that makes a bit of difference.

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2014 at 9:46 AM

Golly – this sounds like Iraq is a puppet government to the US… But it’s ok now ecasuse there’s a D afterthe Presidents name. The same president who let thousands of Iraqis did to score political points because he didn’t like the other democratically elected government…

Skywise on August 12, 2014 at 9:51 AM

Who was that dude who said he left Iraq as a stable, functioning nation after his predecessor effed it all up?

Bishop on August 12, 2014 at 9:39 AM

The same guy who likened ISIS to the junior varsity when, in reality they are more akin to the Harlem Globetrotters doing battle with a guy who makes 2 in 22 free throw attempts.

Hey Barry- The 2000s called. They just wanted to mock you about your foreign policy. The 2000s are mean like that.

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2014 at 9:53 AM

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2014 at 9:46 AM

I was thinking of the juxtaposition of the mini dog eaters against the Iraqi Christian father holding the headless corpse of his young daughter.

But hey, an airstrike deleted a single ISIS truck yesterday so there’s that.

Bishop on August 12, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Is what Maliki about to experience close enough to call him Diemed?

Steve Eggleston on August 12, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Between Obomba’s fecklessness and Maliki’s intransigence, Iraq seems doomed.

vnvet on August 12, 2014 at 9:57 AM

How’s this for timing?

Charles Lister is reporting that ISIS is making a move on Baghdad amid the political turmoil.

Katie over at Townhall has the report.

Conservative Mischief on August 12, 2014 at 9:58 AM

If Iran approves of him then he is not good…

mnjg on August 12, 2014 at 9:59 AM

How’s this for timing?

Charles Lister is reporting that ISIS is making a move on Baghdad amid the political turmoil.

Katie over at Townhall has the report.

Conservative Mischief on August 12, 2014 at 9:58 AM

Lister has pulled that back:

PT: So far, Islamic State reports of major offensive on #Baghdad seem to be exaggerated. #Iraq

Steve Eggleston on August 12, 2014 at 10:09 AM

A civil war inside a sectarian war.

Smart Diplomacy.

formwiz on August 12, 2014 at 10:33 AM

Meet the new boss…

Cleombrotus on August 12, 2014 at 10:40 AM

“All options are on the table”. “Prepared to consider”. “We’re not going back into Iraq”.

The last 85 times I checked, the Iraqi army doesn’t have enough bodies to both defend and attack. I doubt the Pashmerga are interested in or capable of spreading themselves thin enough to do the job either.

We’ll see.

Recon5 on August 12, 2014 at 10:42 AM

No grumpy Muslim can withstand inclusivity in a Muslim democracy. Have the moderate Sunnis promised not to “take over” again once they have access to power?

BL@KBIRD on August 12, 2014 at 11:02 AM

Meet the new boss…

Cleombrotus on August 12, 2014 at 10:40 AM

… same as the old boss.

Trust ‘issues,’ they say? I wonder if they can get even one Sunni tribal leader to get back on board this time.

I suppose it’s possible, considering there’s a sucker born every minute.

Some day, someone, somewhere in the State Department could look up and say, “You know, maybe we shouldn’t have tried to force them all to live together when they hate each other’s guts so much? Maybe that will just radicalize them?”

Nah. Too damned stupid. Two by four to the head isn’t enough.

fadetogray on August 12, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Uncanny how often Iran and the American president wind up agreeing. Awkward too.

Immolate on August 12, 2014 at 11:24 AM