Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister for the past eight years, announced today he would relinquish his role to fellow Shiite and Dawa Party member Haider al-Abadi.
With Sunni-based terrorist group ISIS, also known as Islamic State, threatening the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq’s President Fouad Massoum asked al-Abadi to take over as prime minister Monday. The president and world powers have more confidence in al-Abadi to build a cooperative government to combat ISIS. Al-Maliki was known as a sectarian leader who alienated minority groups in Iraq.
Al-Maliki, who initially resisted calls to step down, said his decision was based on his desire to “safeguard the high interests of the country,” adding that he would not be the cause of any bloodshed.
“I will stay a combat soldier to defend Iraq and its people,” he added in the televised address late Thursday, with al-Abadi standing by his side.
President Barack Obama had earlier offered his support to al-Abadi. Western powers have become increasingly involved in Iraq in recent weeks. Through the summer, ISIS has swept through northern Iraq, terrorizing any groups not professing its extreme Sunni Muslim views. Last week, President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes on ISIS and announced humanitarian aid airdrops, saying the United States “must act now” because of the “ruthless campaign targeting Iraqis, mostly religious minorities.” On Wednesday, a team of U.S. military personnel visited a mountain site on Wednesday where thousands of Yazidi people had fled from ISIS. The Pentagon said the humanitarian situation among the refugees as not as dire as originally thought, thanks in part to airdrops of aid by the United States and its allies.