Middle EastWorld

Iraq PM-designate shouldering hopes home and abroad

BAGHDAD: Newly designated Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (center) walks out of the Parliament in Baghdad. —AFP

BAGHDAD: Adel Abdel Mahdi, the veteran tapped to become Iraq’s next prime minister, is seen as an independent capable of bringing together rivals on the country’s fractious political scene. A Shiite and native of Baghdad, the 76-year-old has been handed the difficult task of navigating Iraq’s tangled politics to form a government within 30 days. With a burly physique and a face framed by spectacles and a thin moustache, Abdel Mahdi is an economist by training who has served as oil minister. He will be able to call on years of experience as a regular on Iraq’s diplomatic scene for the balancing acts he is expected for perform. Abdel Mahdi has the blessing of both Iran and the United States, a required consensus in the country caught between its two major allies who are foes.

He also has good relations with many Kurdish leaders, a major advantage in normalizing ties with the autonomous region of Kurdistan whose people voted overwhelmingly to split from Iraq last year. The son of a minister of during Iraq’s monarchy, which met a bloody end in 1958, Abdel Mahdi joined the Baath party, which brought Saddam Hussein to power in the late 1970s. He became a leading opponent of the dictator, first as a communist and then as an Islamist, before fleeing Iraq, only to return after Saddam’s overthrow in the US-led invasion of 2003.

‘Heavy responsibility’
Abdel Mahdi later became a senior figure in the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, a Shiite movement close to Iran. A member of the interim authorities set up by the US military command who briefly served as finance minister, he became Iraqi vice president after the country’s first multiparty elections in 2005. While he was vice president, he was lightly wounded in 2007 when a bomb exploded inside the public works ministry. In 2014, he was appointed oil minister under Haider Al-Abadi, the man he is set to succeed as premier. He excelled in the role, deftly negotiating with Kurds over oil before resigning after two years.

A francophone who attended university in France, he also has an excellent command of English. Abdel Mahdi will have to deal with many figures whose paths he has already crossed as he seeks to hammer out a new government. Among them is Hadi Al-Ameri, the head of the Conquest Alliance close to Iran, former prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki and populist Shiite cleric Moqtadr Sadr. Responding to a message of congratulations from Abadi, he showed he was wary of the task ahead, referring to it as “a heavy responsibility”.- AFP

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