As a U.S. bombing campaign in northern Iraq enters its fifth day, Baghdad is in a state of political crisis. Eight years ago, Nouri al-Maliki rose to prime minister with the help of the United States. Now the United States has helped pick his replacement. But al-Maliki is refusing to go — deploying his forces around Baghdad and accusing critics of staging a coup. The political crisis is worsening as U.S. airstrikes continue on Islamic State militants in the north. President Obama authorized the strikes last week in what he called an effort to halt the militants’ advance on Erbil, where the U.S. has a consulate and military personnel, as well as to prevent a massacre of the Yazidi minority. U.S. officials have confirmed the CIA is also secretly sending arms and ammunition directly to Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga. We are joined by Spencer Ackerman, national security editor at The Guardian.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AARON MATÉ: We turn now to Iraq. As the U.S. continues airstrikes in the north for a fifth day, a political crisis is escalating in Baghdad. On Monday, Iraq’s president named a new U.S.-backed prime minister to end Nouri al-Maliki’s eight-year rule. Speaking from his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama praised the developments.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, Iraq took a promising step forward in this critical effort. Last month, the Iraqi people named a new president. Today, President Massoum named a new prime minister designate, Dr. Haider al-Abadi. Under the Iraqi Constitution, this is an important step towards forming a new government that can unite Iraq’s different communities. Earlier today, Vice President Biden and I called Dr. Abadi to congratulate him and to urge him to form a new Cabinet as quickly as possible, one that’s inclusive of all Iraqis and one that represents all Iraqis.
AMY GOODMAN: According to a report in The Daily Beast, the U.S. has been pushing behind the scenes for Haider al-Abadi to become the new prime minister to replace Maliki. Under Iraq’s Constitution, al-Abadi now has 30 days to form a new government. During that time, Maliki remains caretaker prime minister, but he appears to be refusing to step down. On Monday, Maliki accused Iraq’s president of staging a coup and deployed militias and special forces on the streets of Baghdad.
PRIME MINISTER NOURI AL-MALIKI: [translated] I tell all the fighters on the front lines, the volunteers and members of the armed forces, including the police and the army, who are worried about the violation of the Constitution and the attempt to circumvent it, to stay in your position and not to worry or be shaken by this constitutional violation. You are engaged in a sacred battle. And we are with you and behind you, so do not lose heart nor fall into despair, for you must win. I call on you to stay put and not to worry, because we will fix this mistake.
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