Oct 27, 2019

The unstable future of Iraq’s leadership

One of the most remarkable — and telling — parts of Iraqi President Barham Salih's interview with "Axios on HBO" was when he refused to predict whether Iraq’s prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, would still be in office in a week.

The big picture: Iraq has been reeling from anti-government protests, including one Friday and another in early October in which Iraqi security forces killed 149 people and wounded more than 3,000, according to an investigation by a government panel.

  • The demonstrators have been protesting against joblessness, poor public services and government corruption.
  • Per CNN, Mahdi has promised to reshuffle his cabinet and cut salaries across the board — including for Salih — but declared that "the resignation of the government today without providing a constitutional alternative would lead the country to chaos.''

In the interview — which took place on Monday, ahead of the Friday protests — Salih was clearly worried about what would happen and what the consequences could be for Mahdi.

When asked directly whether Mahdi would still be Iraq’s prime minister in a week, Salih dodged the question, saying only that “there is a lot of political support for him in Parliament about him staying on” and that he has promised a reform package.

  • Later, Salih acknowledged that he could not answer the question definitively.
  • “No, I can't,” he said. “These are important days. Let's hope that Friday's protests are handled properly — are handled in a way that will retain peace and stability in the country. I don't want to destabilize this situation any further, my friend.” 
  • When pushed, he finally said, “I do expect him to stay.”

Mahdi noted that Friday’s protest would be "quite a key test for the government and for the country" and that "there are measures to make sure that what happened the last time will not be repeated again."

  • Yet at least 60 protesters were killed around the country as the latest demonstrations continued into Saturday, per the New York Times.

Go deeper

Iraqi prime minister to resign after weeks of deadly protests

Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Photo: Thomas Koehler /Contributor/Getty Images

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has agreed to resign amid anti-government protests that have resulted more than 200 dead, reports Bloomberg.

Why it matters: Demonstrations over the past month have rocked the country, which had been in a state of relative stability for the past two years. Protestors have demanded Abdul-Mahdi to step down and called for a broad overhaul of the government, condemning unemployment, violence and corruption throughout the country.

Go deeperArrowOct 31, 2019

Iraqi president Barham Salih to America: “We need you”

In an interview with Jonathan Swan for "Axios on HBO," Iraqi President Barham Salih called for renewed dedication to the U.S.-Iraq alliance: "We have to be together in this. You need us, and we need you."

The big picture: The U.S. has maintained a presence in the Middle East for decades, and many countries from the area have developed policies based around America's influence.

Go deeperArrowOct 27, 2019

Exclusive: Iraq president reveals Trump fears; warns of war, ethnic cleansing

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Iraqi President Barham Salih — long known as a pro-American leader — says he is no longer sure he can rely on the U.S. as an ally and may be ready to "recalibrate" Iraq's relationship with other countries, including Iran and Russia.

Why it matters: In an extraordinarily candid interview with "Axios on HBO," Salih said he still values his country's alliance with the U.S. 16 years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He wants to keep that alliance — but made clear that the Trump administration's policies are making that difficult.

Go deeperArrowOct 27, 2019