After being the US-approved candidate for years, to the extent that even a defeat in the 2010 election ended with a US-imposed “consensus” government keeping him in power, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has finally fallen out of favor, and President Obama wants him gone.
US officials say that they have been urging the other parties in Iraq to form a new coalition government without Maliki, and that they believe Maliki would not be able to bring Sunnis into his coalition to fight ISIS.
Diplomats say that the call is also coming at the behest of key Sunni allies like Saudi Arabia, who don’t like Maliki and have been offering to help “stabilize” Iraq if the US gets him ousted.
Maliki has been centralizing power in his own hands for years, and has blamed the Saudis for the ISIS takeover of the west, dubbing it “genocide” on their part. He has given some lip-service to bringing Sunnis and Kurds into positions of power, but has so far not actually done anything.
Whether that’s going to prevent US military action or not remains to be seen, but there is at least some indication that US involvement might be more limited as they try to push Maliki out, before going in more heavily to back his successor.
Patrick Cockburn from the Independent is also reporting that even Iran’s leadership is “divided on whether or not to withdraw its support from Mr. Maliki and see Shia dominance and Iranian power in Iraq diluted.”
It’s virtually a foregone conclusion that whoever succeeds Maliki would be a Shi’ite as well, but the US seems to hope he would be less personally power-hungry, and he wouldn’t have the years of animosity with Sunni Arabs and Kurds fueling unrest.
With Maliki’s State of Law Party holding a large plurality, forming a coalition around them might also be a difficult task, and one that would depend on getting some consensus behind either Moqtada al-Sadr’s Ahrar Party, or Ammar al-Hakim’s Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.