Vice President Joe Biden supported Iraqi President Fouad Massoum’s nomination of a new prime minister on Monday, an appointment that caused further political clashes spurred by the embattled current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
Early Monday, al-Maliki deployed forces across Baghdad after both the Iraqi government refused to re-nominate him for his position, and the United States warned him not to push for another term, The Washington Post reports. Multiple members of the State Department, in addition to Biden, have endorsed Masoum’s actions in the government turnover process.
Monday morning, Biden called Massoum to discuss the political situation and praise the Iraqi leader for his actions, also emphasizing the need to increase coordination between the new Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces to help stop the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS), according to a readout from the White House.
The Iraqi president named prominent Shiite politician Haider al-Abadi as the new prime minister, removing al-Maliki after eight years in office. Abadi is a member of Maliki’s ruling party, and currently serves as the deputy speaker of the parliament.
“Now the Iraqi people are in your hands,” Masoum told Abadi as they shook hands in a ceremony in Baghdad Monday, just after the Shiite politicians named Abadi as their candidate. The new candidate has been charged with forming the new government within the next 30 days.
President Massoum formally made the announcement later on Monday, which will likely lead to worsened tensions in the capital city of Baghdad, as Maliki insists on his right to form the government as he has held the largest coalition in Parliament.
U.S Secretary of State John Kerry issued the warning to al-Maliki while in Australia Monday, calling for a peaceful transition of power in the already violent country on the brink of genocide. The warning hinted to Maliki that he would loose international support if he held onto his political power.
“There should be no use of force,” Kerry said, “no introduction of troops or militias into this moment of democracy for Iraq.”
“We believe that the government-formation process is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq, and our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters,” Kerry added.
The State Department commented on the situation via Twitter stating that Massoum had acted in line with the constitution, and that all members of parliament should act swiftly to form an inclusive government for all Iraqis.
#Iraq President has acted in line with Constitution. All groups in Parliament should cooperate to swiftly form an inclusive government
— Nickolay E. MLADENOV (@nmladenov) August 11, 2014
Kerry and the State Department’s condemnation of Maliki comes the day after Iraqi special forces and army tanks surrounded the Green Zone, which holds the country’s government, as Maliki refused to give up power. On Sunday evening, Maliki gave a speech to the Iraqi people in which he stated he would tightly hold onto his seat at Prime Minister.
“This attitude represents a coup on the constitution and the political process in a country that is governed by a democratic and federal system,” al-Maliki said Sunday. “The deliberate violation of the constitution by the president will have grave consequences on the unity, the sovereignty, and the independence of Iraq and the entry of the political process into a dark tunnel.
The President, as well as the United States ignored Maliki’s allegations, as the country continues to fall into disarray under his leadership. The day of his speech, reports came out that troops loyal to Maliki encroached on the president’s palace. Hundreds of Maliki supporters took to the streets of Baghdad expressing their allegiance to the current Prime Minister, chanting “We are with you, al-Maliki!”
In his speech, Kerry iterated that the U.S would support the new Iraqi government, but the uncooperative actions of Maliki would cause the United States, as well as the international community, to stop supporting the Iraqi government in this time of national crisis.
“One thing all Iraqis need to know, that there will be little international support of any kind whatsoever for anything that deviates from the legitimate constitutional process that is in place and being worked on now,” Mr. Kerry said. “They need to finish that and give a new government an opportunity to be voted on, then move forward.”
Sunni militants continue to take the country’s northern and western areas by siege, as U.S. airdrops aid to civilian and bombs ISIS forces via airstrikes in support of the Kurds and Iraqis battling the terrorist organization.
On Saturday, Barack Obama said that airstrikes in Iraq will continue for as long as necessary to protect Iraqi civilians and American citizens stationed in Iraq, calling the operation a “long-term project.”
“I’m not going to give a particular timetable,” Obama said in a speech at the White House. “We are going to maintain vigilance.”