Monday, June 23, 2014

Nouri al-Maliki Commits to Formation of New Government in #Iraq

At the Wall Street Journal, "Iraqi Leader Commits to Steps on Forming New Government: No Word on Whether Prime Minister, Fallen From U.S. Favor, Will Seek a Third Term":

BAGHDAD—Secretary of State John Kerry said he received a commitment from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to begin the process of forming the next national government in Baghdad by July 1.

Mr. Kerry met with Iraq's leader for nearly two hours Monday to stress the need for a new Iraqi government to unify its Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities against the mounting threat posed by the al Qaeda-linked militia, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, that has gained control of large swaths of western Iraq in recent weeks.

The top U.S. diplomat, in an unannounced, one-day stop in Baghdad, also met with top Shiite and Kurdish leaders Monday to press the same point.

"The goal of today was to get clarity," Mr. Kerry said. "Prime Minister Maliki firmly, and on multiple occasions…affirmed his commitment to July 1 when the Parliament will convene."

The Iraqi leader didn't immediately comment on his conversation with Mr. Kerry.  Mr. Kerry said at a news conference that it isn't Washington's place to choose the next Iraqi leader. But senior U.S. officials privately have said that Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, should not serve a third term because his policies alienated Sunnis and Kurds during his eight years in office.

The Iraqi leader hasn't commented in recent days on his commitment to a third term or if he'd be willing to step aside.  Iraq held parliamentary election in April, and the results were ratified by the country's judiciary last week. Under the Iraqi constitution, parliament must convene and first elect a legislative speaker and national president, before then choosing a prime minister.

Mr. Maliki's party won a plurality of seats in Iraq's 328-seat party and will need to form alliances with Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties to win the prime minister a third term.

Mr. Kerry's meeting with Mr. Maliki at his private office took place as ISIS seized control of shared Iraqi border crossings with Syria and Jordan in recent days, and consolidated its control over major Iraqi cities, such as Mosul.

"This is clearly a moment when the stakes for Iraq's future couldn't be higher," Mr. Kerry told reporters following his day of meetings in Baghdad. "ISIS is not fighting, as it claims, on behalf of Sunnis. ISIS is fighting to divide Iraq. ISIS is fighting to destroy Iraq,"  Mr. Maliki's leadership also has been questioned by Iraq's most powerful Shiite voice, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who indicated Friday that Mr. Maliki should recast his approach or consider stepping down.

"The things that the Iraqis need to do to kind of pull their country together are really things that the next government needs to do," said a senior U.S. official traveling with Mr. Kerry in Baghdad Monday. "It's a little late for the outgoing government, when there's no parliament, to do things to kind of pull the country together."

Also at CNN, "Kerry assures Iraqis of U.S. support if they unite against militants."

ADDED: At the Hill, "Iraq gives US military advisers immunity."