Noah Feldman writes: Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, is taking severe steps to rid himself of his troublesome predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki. On the heels of a government shakeup, the latest move is a parliamentary report blaming Maliki and many of his political and military leaders for the fall of Mosul to Islamic State last summer. The report is going to be referred to a public prosecutor — which means Abadi may be plotting a criminal prosecution. Maliki is fighting back, issuing a public statement repudiating the report.
Given that Maliki had more domestic support than Abadi when the U.S., with grudging Iranian acquiescence, forced Maliki out of office, it’s no surprise that Abadi would like to consolidate his authority by purging Maliki completely.
But beyond an interest in the Byzantine manipulations of Iraqi politics, why should the rest of the world care about Abadi’s move or Maliki’s displacement?
The answer lies in the effects of the U.S.-Iran deal, which is now before Congress but is being treated by regional actors as a fait accompli. Abadi’s move on Maliki reflects, through a glass darkly, the realignment of regional politics in light of the Iran deal. Where once Maliki was perceived as pro-Iran by Iraqi Sunnis and the U.S., today Abadi is pursuing a new approach in which, he is betting, U.S. and Iranian interests will be closely aligned, and maintaining a multi-sectarian, unified Iraq is no longer an inviolable goal. And the Iranians, having abandoned Maliki to his fate, seem to be on board. [Continue reading…]