Yes, Prime Minister of Iraq. But who is he as a man, a man our government did much to promote to his present position and continued to back through the G. W. Bush and Obama administrations, but now is commonly seen as the biggest stumbling block to any real effort to unify the country.
Today I read that the Iraqi Parliament, scheduled to meet tomorrow, Tuesday, has put off meeting until August 12. Basically it seems they have not found a way to move forward and select a Prime Minister. More deals and arm twisting seem in order.
Al-Malaki has asserted that they first must deal with the ISIS threat and then deal with national unity issues, but there is much opposition to his remaining PM, even within the Shia community.
While the ISIS campaign to conquer the country has stalled somewhat, much of that seems to be a matter of their just not having enough warriors – usually estimated at around 10,000 – to continue to expand their authority. Of course, they receive some military support from various Sunni tribes, and what seems tacit support from many more (all of which is impossible to sort out), but the government forces are holding their own better right now. Even taking back some territory.
However, none of that really addresses the basic issue of Iraq unity, which the Kurds are quite willing to do without, as both them and the Sunnis are fed up with unity meaning a centralized al-Malaki government marginalizing them into second class citizens, especially the Sunnis.
Given the centrality of al-Malaki’s role in what’s next and to help clarify how we got to this point, I recommend reading this editorial by Ali Khedery: Why we stuck with Malaki and lost Iraq in the Washington Post. From 2003 to 2009, Khedery ” was the longest continuously serving American official in Iraq, acting as a special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors and as a senior adviser to three heads of U.S. Central Command.”
In short, he’s been a veritable fly on the wall over years of key American diplomatic discussions on Iraq. Also, he knows al-Malaki well, even considering him a friend whom he backed early to become Prime Minister. By 2010, though, he came to see him as the biggest stumbling block when it comes to Iraqi unification. Khedery was part of the Bush administration that basically plucked al-Malaki from obscurity and boosted him to his present position, but then argued in 2010 with the Obama administration, albeit in vain, that they must find someone other than Malaki to back.
In short, Khedery, unlike so many other commentators, seems most interested in telling what happened rather than trying to score political points. He blames himself for helping the Bush administration promote al-Malaki to power and blames the Obama administration for continuing to back that unwise choice: “By looking the other way and unconditionally supporting and arming Maliki, President Obama has only lengthened and expanded the conflict that President Bush unwisely initiated.”
The editorial is quite long, so you might want to skim some of it, but it offers numerous interesting insights, such as the dominant role Iran has attained in shaping the politics of Iraq. The piece is an antidote to the spin from both parties blaming each other for the failed state that Iraq has become.