By ISW Iraq Team and Lauren Squires
In the past 24 hours, the Iraqi political sphere shifted and remains on shaky grounds. Despite Haider al-Abadi’s appointment to prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki has not shown signs of stepping down. Though Maliki has not used overt force to regain political control, security forces remain postured for deployment. The US has expressed public support for Abadi. The next few days will prove pivotal to determine if a peaceful transition of power takes place.
Abadi accepted the National Alliance’s nomination for prime minister and a presidential decree was immediately issued to confirm his appointment. Abadi received votes from 127 members of the National Alliance to include almost half of Maliki’s State of Law Alliance (SLA) members. 38 votes were from Maliki’s Dawa Party while 12 others were from Mustaqilun [Independent] bloc of Hussein al-Shahristani, a bloc also under the SLA. The Badr Organization and the "internal" bloc of Dawa party abstained from voting, apparently abstaining in Maliki’s favor.
Maliki refuses to acknowledge Abadi’s appointment to premiership. Maliki insists the "SLA", which he represents, is entitled to the position. Maliki does not recognize the ability of SLA and the Dawa Party to act independently of his leadership. In an effort to overturn Abadi’s appointment to prime minister Maliki sent a letter to the federal court, the CoR speaker, the presidency, and all political blocs calling for them to disregard his nomination. Maliki argued that the SLA is registered under Maliki's name and therefore other SLA members cannot speak on its behalf. Maliki is the secretary general of the Dawa Party in which Abadi is a leader. Given Maliki’s senior position over Abadi, Maliki argues that Abadi’s appointment as prime minister is invalid because Abadi should have never left the party without first gaining Maliki’s approval.
On August 11, Maliki appeared in a video statement along with remaining 29 Dawa Party members who still support Maliki. Maliki reiterated his claim that Abadi’s appointment to premiership is a breach of the Iraqi constitution and he considered this appointment a “setback”. Maliki went on to explain his intent to “fix” it. Also in this statement, a leader in the Dawa Party, Khalaf Abdul-Samad, stated that Abadi signed the nomination without the Dawa Party members’ knowledge. Maliki's claim to the premiership rests upon the assertion that only he has official leadership of both the Dawa Party and the SLA, making any nomination without his approval invalid. Still, Maliki would almost certainly not agree to the nomination of any other individual as prime minister because he is the candidate who holds the most votes from the 2014 national election.
A brief ceremony was held to appoint Abadi as prime minister. The five main National Alliance leaders who signed the nomination were present, in addition to the President, the speaker of the CoR, and Abadi. The President’s presence at the ceremony prove that he, along with the Iraqi Shi'a anti-Maliki front have not been detained by security forces as of 1516 local time.
The attendees were:
* From Maliki's Dawa party and SLA, Haidar al-Abadi
* From the Mustaqilun bloc and SLA, Hussein al-Shahristani
* The leader of the NA, Ibrahim al-Jafari.
* Leader of Mowatin of ISCI, Baqir Jabur
* Sadrist leader, Dhia al-Assadi
* Leader in Fadhila
Shortly after Abadi’s appointment, Vice President Joe Biden congratulated Abadi on the position and promised US support for an inclusive Iraqi Government. Vice President Biden also spoke with the Iraqi president and discussed Abadi’s selection, praising President Fouad Masum for accomplishing this fundamental step towards forming an inclusive Iraqi government. He added that President Obama wants to improve cooperation with the new GoI and ISF to reverse ISIS gains. Deputy spokesperson for the US State Department, Marie Harf, stated that Washington supports Abadi’s appointment to PM and Fouad Masum as the president of Iraq. President Obama gave an audio statement expressing support for Iraq’s political developments, stating that he and VP Joe Biden had contacted Abadi and called for the formation of an inclusive government without mentioning Maliki. Leader of the Sadrist Trend, Moqtada al-Sadr spoke in expressed support for Abadi calling the appointment the “first building block” towards an optimistic outcome, and asked his “brothers” in PM Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party “not resort to violence and push things that are not in the public interest.”
The ISF and ISOF were reportedly heavily deployed around the Green Zone and in strategic areas in Baghdad yesterday, suggesting a possible military coup. As of 0030 on August 12, 2014 local time, there were no reports that these forces detained anti-Maliki officials to achieve political gains and secure a third term for Maliki. Maliki intends to overturn the decision to appoint Abadi as prime minister by appealing to the federal court. Reports indicated that the ISF blocked main streets in central Baghdad to secure a pro-Maliki demonstration but there were no further reports of demonstrations taking place in the capital. If ISF units did indeed block the streets in Baghdad to support pro-Maliki demonstrations, this would indicate these units remain loyal to Maliki. Maliki's use of ISF and ISOF units to maintain political gains remains a possibility. There were also reports that dozens of Maliki supporters from his tribe blocked the road between Basra and Maysan for half an hour in protest. Meanwhile, President Obama spoke in support of Abadi. The ISF and ISIS continue clashes in the provinces. ISIS reportedly took control of Jalula, which the Peshmerga had previously held.