Iraq's Maliki Won't Budge Amid Calls For Unified Government

Amid International calls for a unified government to stymie violence in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vows to run for a third term.

Iraq's Maliki Won't Budge Amid Calls For Unified Government
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Iraqi leaders elected both a new president and new speaker in July as part of an effort to transform the country's government for the sake of stability. But the last and most powerful figure to be replaced — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — hasn't shown much sign of letting go, announcing that he plans to run for a third term.

The international community is continuing to push Iraq toward a new unity government. The new president, a Kurd, and new speaker, an Arab Sunni, are part of an Iraqi political system meant to represent each of Iraq's three main demographics — Shias, Sunnis and Kurds.

But Maliki, part of Iraq's Shiite majority, has proven himself unable to facilitate an inclusive government. The Washington Post summed it up in a June article:

"His repeated refusal over long years to strike an urgently needed political accord with the Sunni minority, his construction of corrupt, ineffective and sectarian state institutions, and his heavy-handed military repression in those areas are the key factors in the long-developing disintegration of Iraq."

And while Maliki's leadership (or lack thereof) has caused rifts inside the Middle Eastern country, observers on the outside have taken notice.

"This current government in Iraq has never fulfilled the commitments it made to bring unity government together with the Sunnis, the Kurds and the Shia."

That was U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in June, shortly after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, took over the Iraqi city of Mosul. The United States has repeatedly called for a more inclusive government since then.

"There is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces."

The U.S. isn't the only one pressuring the country. France's foreign affairs minister arrived in Baghdad Sunday to call for a more unified government to fight ISIS. (Video via BFMTV)

And, in a statement Saturday, the United Nations called "for reason and wisdom to prevail" while urging "all leaders in Iraq to form a broad-based government that is acceptable to all components of Iraqi society."

So it's clear that folks want Maliki out, but who could replace him?

Micheal Knights from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote for BBC that it will probably be someone from Maliki's own Dawa Party. He mentions Tariq Najim as one possible candidate, calling him Maliki's "capbable old chief-of-staff."

Another possible candidate is former Iraqi vice president and Shia leader Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was only one vote away from becoming Iraq's prime minister in 2006. Considered a moderate, he was also the U.S's favored candidate. 

Bayan Jaber is another Shia some see as a potential candidate. But, as Al Jazeera points out, he's seen as a problematic choice due to his alleged involvement in the abuse and torture of prisoners during Iraq's 2007 sectarian crisis.

‚ÄčAs per the Iraqi constitutuion, the new president only has until August 10th to start the process of replacing Maliki. But with that unlikely to happen, the president will then be able choose his own PM candidate — something The Wall Street Journal warns could "throw the country into a constitutional crisis."

President Obama has said only once Iraqi leaders have formed a more inclusive and non-sectarian government will they be able to ask for greater U.S. involvement in combating ISIS.

This video contains images from Getty Images.