Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki Steps Aside, Backs Rival

Iraq's prime minister of eight years, Nouri al-Maliki, is stepping down and endorsing Haider al-Abadi as his successor.

Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki Steps Aside, Backs Rival
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​​Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki is giving up his post as prime minister — paving the way for a rare, peaceful transition of power. 

He’s stepping down and endorsing this man —  Haider al-Abadi. He’s a member of al-Maliki’s own party and was nominated to replace him by Iraq’s president. (Video via Euronews)

Maliki didn’t exactly go quietly. He'd held on to power for weeks, despite increasing pressure for him to step down from both the international community and within his own party.

But in a TV address Thursday, al-Maliki said his decision to back al-Abadi would “safeguard the high interests of the country.”  (Video via NBC

He’s had a tumultuous eight years as prime minister. Sunnis resented him for his authoritarian policies and accused him of pursuing a pro-Shiite agenda. Even many Shi’ites wanted him out. 

As Vox explains, Maliki was blamed for the rise of Sunni extremists. his increasingly authoritarian rule and oppression of Iraq's Sunni minority bears no small amount of responsibility for the current Islamic State (ISIS) crisis.” 

Al-Abadi now faces the difficult task of dealing with the militants' advance in northern Iraq while also forming a new, more inclusive, government. (Video via CBS)

… at least that’s the Obama administration’s hope.

OBAMA: “The United States stands ready to support a government that addresses the needs and grievances of all Iraqi people.”

While al-Abadi is seen as less divisive than al-Maliki, The Guardian notes restoring unity and stability won’t be easy for him: "National cohesion will take a lot longer to recreate than it did to lose." 

He has less than a month to select a new cabinet, which must be approved by the parliament before he can legally become prime minister. Al-Maliki will remain the caretaker prime minister until then. (Video via France 24)

This video contains images from Getty Images.