Home inContext Kerry Visits Baghdad, Meets New Iraqi PM

Kerry Visits Baghdad, Meets New Iraqi PM

Michael Johnson

The Iraqi parliament named Haider al-Abadi as the government’s new prime minister earlier this week. Lawmakers also approved a number of cabinet posts during a late night session on Monday, but left other positions vacant after sectarian infighting.

Al-Abadi, a Shiite, reassigned some Kurdish and Sunni politicians to new posts leading the foreign and oil ministries. There are 37 cabinet level positions in total. Politicians were unable to reach consensus over who should lead the powerful Interior and Defense ministries. Likewise, the Wall Street Journal reported that “there was no significant increase in the number or importance of positions offered to the main minority groups.” Al-Abadi remained confident that the spots could be filled within a week.

Shiite Sheikh Humam Hamoudi, left, Iraq’s new deputy speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, speaks with Iraq’s new prime minister Haider Al Abadi as they attend a parliamentary session on Monday. (Photo: Reuters)

Meanwhile, Sunni representatives felt reassured that the divisive outgoing Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, had given up power. He will become one of three vice presidents. Just last month, Maliki had deployed the army around Baghdad’s Green Zone to assert control over Parliament.

The U.S. praised Al-Abadi’s appointment as a “major milestone” saying it would lead to a more inclusive and representative government. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made an unscheduled visit to Baghdad on Wednesday to congratulate and discuss issues facing the new PM.

With Iraqi politicians appearing to step back from a sectarian crisis, the government will need to refocus on fighting IS militants in the rest of the country. The Obama administration says that greater political inclusiveness has been a precondition for expanded security cooperation against IS. Indeed, some Sunni rebels who opportunistically took up arms with the terrorist organization in Anbar, signaled that they may be willing to turn against the group if they are better represented in Baghdad. But, even with a broader coalition of support, the well-armed terrorists of IS can still hold territory or wage a violent insurgency.