BAGHDAD: Iraq moved closer to turning the page on Nouri Al Maliki’s controversial reign yesterday when his own clan spurned him for another prime minister to save the country from break-up.
The political breakthrough in Baghdad came as Kurdish troops backed by US warplanes battled to turn the tide on two months of jihadist expansion in the north.
“The country is in your hands,” President Fuad Masum told Haidar Al Abadi after accepting his nomination by parliament’s Shia bloc.
Al Abadi, considered an Al Maliki ally, has 30 days to form a government, whose breadth the international community has stressed would determine Iraq’s ability to stop sectarian bloodshed.
Surrounded by 30-odd loyalists from his coalition, Al Maliki contended that Al Abadi’s nomination was a violation of the constitution.
Al Maliki, who worked hand in glove with the US when it occupied Iraq, also accused Washington of involvement, saying it “stood (on) the side of violating the constitution.”
He can attempt to undermine Al Abadi’s efforts to build a cohesive government and can challenge the constitutionality of the nomination but he looked more isolated. An earlier televised appearance, in which Al Maliki vowed to sue the president for failing to nominate him, made clear he was not going to step down.
Meanwhile, special forces and armoured vehicles deployed across strategic locations in Baghdad. The UN’s top envoy in Iraq called on the forces to “refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority.” The US warned Al Maliki to “not stir those waters” and welcomed Al Abadi’s nomination as a “key milestone”.
US intervention appeared to make impact on both fronts, with the Kurds reclaiming two towns and more than 20,000 stranded Yazidis escaping their mountain death trap.
They were flocking back to Kurdistan after surviving with little food and water on Mount Sinjar. Several thousand were still thought to be hiding in the mountain however as the area remained far from safe.
The Pentagon said it had “no plans to expand the current air campaign”. Western powers were ramping up a coordinated effort to provide the Kurds with more arms to fight the Islamic State, which in late June proclaimed a “caliphate” straddling Iraq and Syria. See also page 5