WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s prospects for remaining in office for a second term were dashed this week, as first, the mercurial cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose list won the most votes in Iraq’s May 12 elections, and then Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shia religious authority, rejected his candidacy.
In January, Time magazine, reflecting much of the Washington establishment, had named Abadi as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. On Thursday morning, Time ran an article headlined, “The End is Near for Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s US-Friendly Leader.”
Later that day, Iraq’s two biggest rival Shia blocs—Sadr’s list and the militia list headed by Hadi al-Amiri, who also leads the Badr Organization, an Iranian-backed militia that dates back to the 1980s—reached a deal that would deny the position of prime minister to Abadi, Arab News reported.
The deal would also deny the post to Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s previous Prime Minister, and Amiri himself.
“We are not going to hold on to power,” Abadi announced on Thursday night. “We are committed to constitutional procedures,” he continued, and “we respect the directions of the Marja’a (Sistani) and we respond positively to them.”
His statement fell short of a clear declaration of resignation, but he appeared to be paving the way for such a move.
At the State Department briefing that afternoon, Kurdistan 24 asked Spokesperson Heather Nauert, whether, given the rejection of Abadi by both Sistani and Sadr, it “might be a good idea, if he stepped aside.”
“That’s something that we wouldn’t get involved with in calling for at this time,” Nauert replied. “That would be an internal Iraqi matter that the Iraqis would have to figure out.”
Entifadh Qanbar, an Iraqi-American who heads the Future Foundation in Washington, suggested to Kurdistan 24 that Iraq’s next Prime Minister was likely to be Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Vice-President from 2005 to 2011 and a former Finance and Oil Minister.
Following the 1968 coup that brought the Baathists to power in Baghdad, he spent many years in exile in France. A Communist in the 1970s, Mahdi later adopted an Islamic ideology, along the lines promoted by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran.
According to Arab News, the compromise between the two Shia blocs is acceptable to both the US and Iran—a somewhat remarkable outcome, given the intense rivalry between the two countries.
Editing by Nadia Riva