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Shiite Iraqi Blocs in Crisis as Kazemi Proposed as Zurfi Replacement for PM

Shiite Iraqi Blocs in Crisis as Kazemi Proposed as Zurfi Replacement for PM

Tuesday, 7 April, 2020 - 06:15
Anti-government protests in Iraq last year. (AFP)
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa

Up until Sunday, discussions over nominating Iraq chief of intelligence, Mustafa al-Kazemi, to the position of premier were dismissed as speculation, significantly after several armed factions and Shiite blocs had accused him of complicity in the killing of Iranian top commander Qassem Soleimani in January.

Soleimani and head of the Kataib Hezbollah faction Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis were killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad in January.

Kazemi, who is perceived as close to Washington, appears no different than current Prime Minister-designate Adnan al-Zurfi, who is also “accused” of having the same close ties. Moreover, his name was not proposed during discussions among the seven-member Shiite committee that was tasked with nominating a premier. Their failure to reach an agreement on a candidate prompted President Barham Salih to name Zurfi.

Zurfi’s nomination has been flatly rejected by the Iran-aligned Fateh Shiite bloc, headed by Hadi al-Ameri.

Kazemi’s nomination does not appear to enjoy complete consensus among Shiite blocs, but that has not stopped some sides to urge Zurfi to step down from forming a new cabinet.

Zurfi has completely rejected the suggestion and stressed that parliament alone can decide whether his cabinet would be given the vote of confidence, an informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat. He has already completed his cabinet lineup and is awaiting parliament to convene where it will be rejected or approved, added the source.

Zurfi’s position has complicated the scene in Iraq as Shiite blocs have seemingly agreed on Kazemi. The parliament speakership now finds itself in complicated position on whether to call the legislature to session.

The shift towards Kazemi appears linked to the Fateh bloc as Zurfi has enjoyed varying approval among the majority of the Shiite blocs. Kazemi’s emergence on the scene, with the backing of the Fateh and the Hikma movement of Ammar al-Hakim, has shuffled the cards. The Hikma had not objected to Zurfi as much as it did the way in which he was nominated.

The Sairoon bloc, headed by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and the Nasr coalition, headed by former PM Haidar al-Abadi, reject Kazemi’s nomination.

Kazemi had allegedly demanded that he receive written Shiite consensus over his nomination.

Sairoon MP Burhan al-Maamouri told Asharq Al-Awsat that regardless of the candidate, the bloc “supports the formation of a government as soon as possible on condition that it be strong enough to take on the economic, security and health challenges confronted by Iraq.”

“Parliament will have the final word on this issue,” he stressed.

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