Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced today that he will step down and endorse his nominated successor, state television says.
Maliki, who has been under increasing pressure to step aside, will be succeeded by Haider al-Abadi, from the prime minister’s own Dawa Party, who was appointed on Monday and had begun the process of forming a Cabinet despite Maliki’s angry denunciations.
The White House commended the move. In a written statement, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said, “A wide range of leaders across the Iraqi political spectrum” have said they are committed to working with Abadi.
“These are encouraging developments that we hope can set Iraq on a new path and unite its people against the threat presented by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” the statement added.
The Guardian says: “Maliki had been struggling for weeks to stay for a third four-year term as prime minister amid an attempt by opponents to push him out, accusing him of monopolising power and pursuing a fiercely pro-Shiite agenda that has alienated the Sunni minority.”
Even so, Maliki pledged earlier this week not to use force to stay in power. Dawa Party spokesman Khalaf Abdul Samad said Wednesday that Maliki had told him he would in fact step down.
Maliki, whose formative political career was as a Shiite dissident under Saddam Hussein, became prime minister in 2006, taking the reins from the Iraqi Transitional Government set up after the U.S. invasion and Saddam’s ouster.
He worked closely with the U.S. but has gradually fallen out of favor with Washington, especially in recent months as Islamic militants have launched a push to capture large areas of the country.