Iraqi PM designate readies cabinet to present to parliament

As Intelligence Chief Mustafa Al-Kadhimi prepares his cabinet, he appears to have broad support, and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units aren't blocking his way.

al-monitor Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the prime minister-designate, who has to form a new government in 30 days. Posted Apr. 9, 2020. Photo by Twitter/@Kirkuknow_DT.

Apr 18, 2020

Mustafa al-Kadhimi, director of Iraq's National Intelligence Service, is expected to present his cabinet to the Council of Representatives early next week. 

On April 9, Iraqi President Barham Salih designated Kadhimi to form a new government within 30 days. Kadhimi is the third PM-designate this year. Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi and Adnan al-Zurfi previously tried, and failed, to form governments.

Kadhimi appears to have broad backing among Iraq’s political factions — all of the major Shiite parties, as well as the key Kurdish and Sunni blocs support him — with no major political opposition so far.  

The Iranian Foreign Ministry announced its support for Kadhimi’s appointment on April 10. The United States, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Nations in Iraq have also signalled thier backing.

Most of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have either come out in favor of Kadhimi or remained quiet. Some of the PMUs have close ties to Iran. Those that have opposed Kadhimi, like the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, have so far not appeared to get any wider traction. Kataib Hezbollah previously accused Kadhimi, without evidence, of being involved in the US killing of Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani and PMU deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on Jan 3. A leading member of PMU’s Fatah bloc, Abbas Zameli, has since said the charge against Kadhimi is baseless.

Kataib Hezbollah, which has attacked and killed US personnel in Iraq, is more or less isolated in its opposition, especially given Iran's support for Kadhimi. 

The visit to Iraq of the new IRGC Quds Force chief, Esmail Ghaani, Soelimani's replacement, last month may have served to mitigate PMU or other opposition.

For example, Kataib al-Imam Ali, another PMU with reportedly close ties to Iran, soonafter announced its support for Kadhimi's nomination and also rejected the accusations against him.

Even Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the PMU Asaib Ahl al-Haq, said his faction would not prevent Kadhimi's nomination, despite past differences. And the appearance of Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Fatah bloc, next to Kadhimi at the designation meeting was a clear sign of unity.

US-Iran tensions will continue to play a role in Iraqi politics, and PMU factions linked to Iran will press for a reduction or withdrawal of US troops in Iraq. However, a broad consensus has developed among Iraq’s leaders to continue to cooperate with the US-led coalition against the Islamic State.

Kadhimi said his government would work with the United States in the upcoming “strategic dialogue” between the two countries, which will take place in June.

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