On Monday, Iraq’s President Fouad Massoum named Haider al-Abadi to succeed the Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister after nearly eight years in office. Abadi is no newcomer to Iraqi politics. He’s been closely involved in the country’s administration since the United States invaded in 2003. Here’s what you need to know about the man who could help bring Iraq out of the abyss:
- Haider al-Abadi was born in Baghdad in 1952. His father, a Baghdad-based physician, and two brothers were executed by Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. A third brother was imprisoned for a decade. Abadi trained as an electrical engineer at Baghdad’s University of Technology before going on to earn a doctorate at the University of Manchester in England.
- He lived in England for several decades working as a consultant, according to his Facebook profile. He states his interests as vehicle technology and even patented a rapid transit system for electric vehicles.
- Abadi’s taste in literature and films also humanizes this man in the Baghdad shadows. He lists Shakespearean classics like The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet as two of his favorite books, as well as Our Philosophy by Shia cleric Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr — the father-in-law of influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. His movie preferences include the Mafia epic “The Godfather” and the action thriller “The Matrix.”
- He is a member of the Islamic Dawa Party, which itself is part of the Shiite State of Law Alliance that has governed Iraq since 2006. Apart from his current role as the deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, he is also spokesman for the Dawa party.
- His entry into Iraqi politics came in 2003 when he became Iraq’s Minister of Communications. The Pentagon’s Inspector General investigated him after improprieties emerged following sell-off of Iraq mobile phone licenses, according to Financial Times. A later review found that a Defense Department official may have been behind the possible discrepancies.
- He became a top adviser to former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Eshaikar al-Jafari in 2005, and was charged with the “general coordination” of the city of Tal Afar. In 2006, he was elected as a member of the Iraqi Parliament, representing Baghdad. His assignments included stints on the parliament’s finance and economic committees.
- Abadi was involved in one of Iraq’s last power struggles in 2006 when Jafari faced pressure from the U.S. to step down. He was a top aide to the prime minister at the time and vociferously supported his continued candidacy for prime minister. After a visit by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to coax Iraqis into forming a government, he told The New York Times the visit was “naked intervention,” stating that Rice and Straw “shouldn’t have come to Baghdad.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated that Moqtada al-Sadr is the son of Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr. He is his son-in-law.