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Is Iraq's New Unity Government Strong Enough To Combat ISIS?

Iraq's parliament confirmed Haider al-Abadi as prime minister Monday, along with most of his cabinet. But journalists say the coalition is fragile.

Is Iraq's New Unity Government Strong Enough To Combat ISIS?
Getty Images / Muhannad Fala'ah

Iraq has a new prime minister and most of a new cabinet, hours before a constitutional deadline. But is the new coalition stable enough to push ISIS out of the country?

Iraq's parliament voted Monday to put Haider al-Abadi at the head of the new unity government. Abadi was appointed to become the next Prime Minister last month, replacing Nouri al-Maliki, who fought the appointment but eventually stepped aside.

The U.S. praised Abadi's appointment at the time, calling on him "to form a government that is representative of the Iraqi people and inclusive of Iraq’s religious and ethnic identities."

That's because his role, essentially, is to try to do what his fellow Shiite Malaki did not: unite Iraq's feuding factions and make sure no group feels shut out of the government.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY VIA MSNBC: "Now is the time for Iraq's leaders to govern their nation with the same vision and sense of purpose that helped to bring this new government together in the first place."

Ever since ISIS swept through northern Iraq, capturing the country's second-largest city in June, the U.S. has chastised Iraq's leaders for being unable to work together to combat the group. (Video via CBS)

PRESIDENT OBAMA VIA THE WHITE HOUSE: "We can't do it for them. ... So this should be a wake-up call. Iraq's leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people."

A major problem, according to U.S. analysts, is that the country's Sunni minority felt excluded by Malaki's Shiite-dominated government. 

The New York Times explains, "As Iraqi cities fell to ISIS this summer and the Iraqi military crumbled, some Sunnis chose to support the militants rather than fight for a government they loathed."

The thinking is that if Abadi is able to restore trust in Baghdad's government, those Sunnis will reject ISIS and weaken the group across the country. But journalists are skeptical that the new unity government really represents a new era in Iraqi politics.

Al Jazeera says, "Monday's vote was preceded by intense political bargaining and it remained uncertain until the last minute whether Kurdish MPs would back the government."

BBC'S JIM MUIR: "It's very fragile. The Kurds, for example, say they're in it for three months, and then if they haven't got a resolution of all their disputes with Baghdad, they may well pull out again."

Middle East-based journalist Jane Arraf characterized the new government as being formed just to meet Monday's deadline, and NBC's Richard Engel said his sources in Iraq were worried the new cabinet was just a reshuffle rather than a real change.

Even more concerning, at the end of Monday's vote, two of the most important posts when it comes to fighting ISIS were left vacant: the ministers of defense and the interior. Abadi has asked for an extra week to fill those spots.

This video includes images from Getty Images.