Reuters reports: In eight years in power, Iraq’s prime minister Nuri al-Maliki has never faced such a threat. Swathes of his country have fallen to Sunni insurgents. Rivals are seeking his downfall. Foreign sponsors in Washington and Tehran are wary or worse. Even friends are openly contemplating his demise.
Yet the virtuoso player of Iraq’s political game shows no sign of surrendering any time soon.
His opponents say Maliki is responsible for the vehemence of the insurgency because of policies that alienated Sunnis, pushing tribes to back a revolt by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which seized the main northern city Mosul on June 10 and has since marched virtually unopposed towards Baghdad.
Washington, while publicly saying it has no plan to pick Iraq’s rulers, has made clear it wants more inclusive leadership in Baghdad. Iran, which has widespread influence among Iraq’s Shi’ite parties, has played its cards close but has conspicuously avoided rallying around Maliki.
Even members of Maliki’s own bloc now concede that the combative 64-year-old Islamist may need to go, if rival Shi’ite groups as well as Sunnis and Kurds are to be assembled into a new ruling coalition.
“Iraq after June 10 is not the same as before. Everything has changed,” said a senior member of Maliki’s coalition on condition of anonymity. “Everything is on the table … If the others insist they will only go forward if Maliki is not prime minister, we are ready to discuss it.”
“Maliki will be included in this decision-making and the transition must be smooth. I think he has an open mind about it, and is weighing options. He understands it might come to that,” the senior ally said. A second member of Maliki’s coalition confirmed there was talk of replacing him from within. [Continue reading…]