Maliki spurned in government formation

Maliki spurned in government formation

A much-awaited political breakthrough in Baghdad that may finally sideline Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been welcomed by the US.
Iraq has moved closer to turning the page on Nuri al-Maliki’s controversial reign after his own clan spurned him for another prime minister to save the country from breakup.

The much-awaited political breakthrough in Baghdad on Monday 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 Shi’ite bloc, in a move immediately welcomed by the United States.

Abadi, long considered a close 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.

Maliki, who has been in power since 2006, did not immediately react to the rebuke.

His last appearance was when he gave a midnight address vowing to sue the president for failing to nominate him.

The UN’s top envoy in Iraq called on the security forces to “refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority.”

Washington had warned its erstwhile ally Maliki to “not stir those waters” and promptly welcomed Abadi’s nomination as a “key milestone”.

According to the White House, Abadi told US Vice President Joe Biden he intended “to move expeditiously to form a broad-based, inclusive government capable of countering the threat” posed by the Islamic State.

The jihadist group launched an offensive on June 9, swiftly taking over the main northern city of Mosul before sweeping across much of the Sunni heartland.

Kurdish peshmerga initially fared better than federal troops but jihadist fighters carried out fresh attacks earlier this month, bringing them within striking distance of autonomous Kurdistan.

The threat to Kurdistan, where some US personnel are based, was one reason US President Barack Obama gave for sending drones and fighter jets.

Obama’s other justification was what he said was the risk of an impending genocide against the Yazidi minority, many of whose members were trapped on a barren mountain for days after fleeing a jihadist attack.

US intervention appeared to make some impact, with the Kurds reclaiming two towns and more than 20,000 stranded Yazidis escaping their mountain death trap.

They flocked back to Kurdistan after surviving with little food and water on Mount Sinjar, which legend holds as the final resting place of Noah’s Ark.

Several thousand were still thought to be hiding in the mountain however as the area remained far from safe on Monday.

Western powers were ramping up efforts to provide the Kurds with more arms to fight the Islamic State, which in late June proclaimed a “caliphate” straddling Iraq and Syria.

“We’re working with the government of Iraq to increasingly and very quickly get urgently needed arms to the Kurds,” a State Department spokeswoman said.