BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – An increasingly isolated Nuri al-Maliki again protested his removal as Iraqi prime minister yesterday, as his own political party and his former sponsor in Iran publicly endorsed a successor who many in Baghdad hope can halt advancing Sunni jihadists.
Although abandoned by former backers in the United States and Iraq’s Shi’ite political and religious establishment, Maliki pressed his legal claim on power. Premier-designate Haider al-Abadi, meanwhile, held consultations on forming a coalition government that can unite warring factions after eight years that drove Sunnis to revolt over what they say was Maliki’s sectarian bias.
Shi’ite-led government forces and their allies among the ethnic Kurdish militias of northern Iraq were in action on the front lines against the Sunni fighters of the Islamic State as European Union states began to follow the U.S. lead and provide arms directly to the Kurds and step up efforts to help tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the advancing hard-line Islamists. Maliki has built up a network of commanders in the armed forces and Shi’ite militias who are loyal to him, but there was no sign that he was ready to resort to force against Abadi, a long-time associate in the Islamic Dawa Party.
In his continuing capacity as acting prime minister, Maliki said in a speech on state television that he was waiting for Iraq’s Supreme Court to rule on his complaint that, as leader of the biggest bloc in the parliament elected in April, it was he, not Abadi, whom the president should invite to form a government. A court ruling against Maliki could be a way out of the stand-off.
“The violation that occurred has no value,” Maliki said. “This government is continuing, and will not be changed except after the Federal Court issues its decision.”
In a blow to Maliki, his Dawa Party called on Iraqi politicians to work with Abadi to form a new government.
The United States, during whose occupation Maliki first rose to power, made clear again that it has had enough of him. The White House said it would be glad to see an Abadi government and urged Maliki to let the political process move forward.