With his country descending into further chaos every day as Islamic extremists threaten the future stability of Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced Thursday that he would step down.
His resignation paves the way for Haider al-Abadi to become Iraq’s next leader. Abadi was nominated earlier this week by Iraqi President Fouad Massoum to succeed Maliki, who in recent days had been fortifying positions in and around Baghdad with Iraqi Army tanks and troops in what many feared would result in a military coup.
Abadi is the deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament and a member of the Islamic Dawa Party.
The Obama administration has promised a wide range of assistance to Iraq—including broader efforts in the military, humanitarian and even economic realms—but has repeatedly insisted that those plans won’t advance until the Iraqi government becomes more inclusive than the one forged under Maliki’s watch.
President Barack Obama has also repeatedly said that there is no U.S. military solution to the problems in Iraq, namely the rapid advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters, who have taken large areas of Iraq, including Mosul, and have been threatening Baghdad for weeks.
“We have increased the delivery of military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIL on the front lines,” Obama said Thursday during brief remarks from his vacation in Nantucket, Mass. “Perhaps most importantly, we are urging Iraqis to come together to turn the tide against ISIL above all by seizing the enormous opportunity of forming a new inclusive government under the leadership of Prime Minister-designate [Haider al-Abadi].
“He still has a challenging task in putting a government together, but we are modestly hopeful that the Iraqi government situation is moving in the right direction,” Obama said.
Secretary of State John Kerry commended Maliki’s decision to step aside. “This milestone decision sets the stage for a historic and peaceful transition of power in Iraq,” he said. “We urge Mr. Abadi and all Iraqi leaders to move expeditiously to complete this process, which is essential to pulling the country together and consolidating the efforts of Iraq’s many diverse communities against the common threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”
Abadi has 26 days left to form a government, under the rules of the Iraqi constitution.