Maliki's successor might be perceived as a more pleasant politician, but can he hold the country together?by Bartle Bull / August 15, 2014 / Leave a comment
Too little, too late? That is the question to be asked about Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Haider al Abadi as he works to form a new government within the 30 days allotted to him by the Iraqi constitution.
Now that the former Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has stepped down, it marks Iraq’s second peaceful, constitutional transfer of power from one legitimately elected civilian government to another. No other Arab country, and no Middle Eastern countries save Turkey and Israel, has achieved this even once.
A fair amount is known about Abadi, who is thought to be affable and modern in his outlook. He has been at the front of Iraq’s second rank of politicians since the post-Saddam days began over a decade ago. The 62-year-old son of a prominent Baghdad doctor and health official, two of his brothers were executed under Saddam for belonging to the Islamic Dawa party; he spent a productive exile in England, where he received a doctorate in engineering from the University of Manchester and then worked fairly successfully in the “rapid transit” (people movers, urban rail, and the like, apparently) field in London from the 1980’s until the early 2000’s. He returned to Iraq and served as Minister of Communications in 2003 and 2004, before being appointed as the chair of the Iraqi Parliament’s Finance Committee. Crucially, for today’s challenges, while in that role Abadi was the point man in a highly contentious and damaging struggle against the Kurds regarding allocations in the 2013 budget.
Unremarked in current coverage are three encouraging clues about his orientation towards Iran—traditionally Iraq’s biggest ally. Abadi has a reputation in Iraq for his British associations; the United States played an important role in persuading Abadi to start splitting Maliki’s party from within about a month ago, and Iran had little to do with his emergence. In line with all of this, Abadi has made it clear that the United States, not Iran, is his military provider-of-choice in the fight against the militant jihadist group Islamic State.
Almost all of Iraq’s top politicians, even the secular ones and those…