Iraq’s top religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani wants Iraq’s parliament to have an agreement on a new prime minister when it comes into session on Tuesday. There’s no sign that’s happened, but there seems to be growing consensus that whoever it is, it won’t be Maliki.
Current Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki has made a lot of enemies over the years, and Ammar al-Hakim, a top figure in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), says Maliki has two big obstacles to a third term: Shi’ites, and everyone else.
None of the other Shi’ite parties want anything to do with Maliki, and even his own State of Law Party has engaged in the talks on trying to choose his replacement.
Two front-runners seem to have emerged. The SIIC’s Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was a Vice President for years, seems to have the inside track, which the notorious Ahmed Chalabi, the lone MP from the Iraqi National Congress, has managed to insinuate himself into the discussions.
Bankrolled by the CIA, Chalabi was an architect of the false pretexts for the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and after years of the US distancing themselves, he’s found himself once again welcomed at the US Embassy in Baghdad, suggesting growing US openness to going back to the Chalabi well one more time.
Many Shi’ite factions are hoping to replace Maliki with a consensus builder who might drive a wedge in the Sunni insurgency. Chalabi seems in that regard a terrible choice, as a long-time head of the De-Ba’athification Commission who fought hard to keep many Sunni MPs out of parliament. It is hard to imagine a more divisive figure than Maliki in Iraq, but Chalabi must be a close second.