Though President Obama insisted he isn’t “demanding” such a move, the White House has made it clear they want Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ousted in favor of a new prime minister who would be less despised by Sunni Arabs and Kurds.
Three candidates have stepped forward so far to try to claim the position of US-approved successor to the Maliki government, all of them Shi’ites from other factions.
Adel Abdul Mahdi, a former VP and top figure in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), is one of the candidates, and was close to getting the post in 2006. He is seen as favorable by the Kurdish political blocs, which could help him.
Former Badr Brigade commander Bayan Jabar is another possible SIIC candidate, and as a former Interior Minister has some claim to being the most militarily savvy choice. His Interior Ministry term saw widespread torture of prisoners, however, and would not be viewed favorably by Sunnis.
Finally, we have the notorious Ahmed Chalabi, from the Iraqi National Congress. One of the main architects of the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq, Chalabi is trying to position himself as the “moderate” choice, insisting he opposes the De-Ba’athification Laws that he was previously in charge of enforcing. His long history of harsh mistreatment of the Sunnis is likely to harm his credibility as a unifier, but his long history of support from the US and Iran might give him the inside track to being the “US-approved” ruler.