Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Iraq: Update--al-Maliki's Days Numbered, Without al-Abadi, US Support Will Disappear

According to The Associated Press, former PM Nouri al-Maliki's days in power in Iraq appear numbered, as Tehran supports new PM and US infers withholding US air strike help in a Shi'ite-inclusive world.

al-Maliki is now viewed as even more isolated than he was on Monday (August 11), a day after Iraq's president appointed Haider al-Abadi as prime minister-designate to form a caretaker government, a move seen as a major step toward breaking the political deadlock that has paralyzed the country since April elections.

It also comes after Islamic extremists have swept across northern Iraq, prompting the US to launch airstrikes and directly arm Kurds who are battling IS militants.

US President Barack Obama has called the nomination of al-Abadi a positive step for Iraq, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he welcomed the formation of a new government "acceptable to all components of Iraqi society."

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah sent his congratulations. The official Saudi Press Agency said the King expressed his hope the new prime minister, president and parliament speaker would restore cohesion and unity among the Iraqi people.

Even Shi'ite powerhouse Iran rallied behind al-Abadi as a badly needed unifying figure in the face of the insurgency by the Sunni militants of IS. Top Iranian official Ali Shamkhani offered his congratulations to the veteran Iraqi politician, indicating that Tehran, with its considerable influence on the Shiite parties, is further shifting away from al-Maliki. 

COMMENT: US Secretary of State John Kerry urged al-Abadi to work quickly to form an inclusive government and said the US is prepared to offer it significant additional aid in the fight against IS militants.

An Iraqi military helicopter providing aid to civilians fleeing the militants crashed near the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq, killing the pilot, army spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi said in a statement. The helicopter crashed after too many civilians attempted to board it.

THE NEW YORK TIMES reported one of its reporters, Alissa J. Rubin, was in the helicopter and suffered an apparent concussion and broken wrists in the crash.

France and Britain stepped up support Tuesday for thousands of people fleeing the Islamic militants in northern Iraq, pledging more air drops, money and equipment to ease suffering and bolster fighters battling the Sunni insurgents.

Britain fast-tracked three million pounds ($5 million) in aid. The European Union said it wants to "bring vital assistance to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians trapped by the fighting" and was increasing its aid by 5 million euros ($7 million) for a total of about $23 million this year.