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World & Nation

Iraqi lawmakers approve new leaders to combat Islamic State

Haider Abadi
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi addresses lawmakers in Baghdad after they confirmed him as new government leader late Monday.
(Ali Abbas / European Pressphoto Agency)

Iraq’s parliament late Monday approved a new prime minister and Cabinet in response to international demands for a more inclusive government in Baghdad to fight Sunni militants waging violence across Iraq and Syria.

Lawmakers endorsed Shiite Haider Abadi as prime minister to succeed Nouri Maliki, whose Shiite-controlled leadership had so alienated Iraq’s Sunnis that many in the minority sect greeted the spring invasion of Islamic State extremists as liberators.

As Islamic State has committed atrocities across the land it has seized and proclaimed a caliphate, the United States, the Arab League and many other countries pushed for replacing Maliki and his government ministers to address the grievances of Iraq’s marginalized Sunnis.

Most of the senior government posts went to Shiites or officials of the Kurdish and Sunni communities who were already in the leadership. The key posts of defense and interior ministers have yet to be filled.

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Shiites Maliki and former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and former parliamentary speaker Osama Nujaifi, a Sunni, retained roles in the new leadership but in the largely ceremonial posts of vice president.

Secular Sunni Salih Mutlaq was named as one of three deputy prime ministers, as was former Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari of Kurdistan. Another Kurd, Rowsch Shaways, was appointed finance minister.

Adel Abdel Mehdi from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, was named oil minister, and former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari was named foreign minister. Both are Shiites.

In an address to the parliament after his confirmation, Abadi promised to “allow all people in Iraq to participate in liberating the cities and provinces which have been taken over by terrorist groups ... and to bring back security and stability.”

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Iraq’s Shiite-dominated army collapsed in the face of Islamic State’s onslaught, abandoning defensive positions and leaving the country’s No. 2 city, Mosul, and vital oil industry facilities for the extremists to overrun.

After the lawmakers approved the new leadership, President Obama called Abadi to congratulate him on his appointment, the White House said in a statement.

“The president applauded the efforts of Prime Minister Abadi and other Iraqi leaders in forming a new, broad-based government, and underscored the need for the United States and Iraq to continue working closely with the international community to build on recent actions to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State,” the statement said.

The 22-nation Arab League passed a resolution Monday pledging to join the international fight against Islamic State. While it did not endorse the U.S. military operation targeting the group, it left open the possibility of collaboration with a new approach to the security crisis that Obama is expected to unveil to Congress on Wednesday.

The Cairo-based league also backed a United Nations resolution issued last month calling on member countries to adopt measures to combat terrorism, including the coordinated use of military force.

Also Monday, at least 18 people were killed and more than 54 wounded in a double suicide attack as Islamic militants attempted to wrest control of the town of Duluiya, 55 miles north of Baghdad, according to local media outlets.

Islamic State fighters launched a fierce multi-pronged attack on a tribal council meeting in Duluiya, using five Humvees laden with explosives, a bulldozer, dozens of mortars, and booby-trapped boats, according to the Iraqi Sumariya news outlet. Militants have seized hardware and weapons from the Iraqi army, including many U.S.-made Humvee armored vehicles.

The attack Monday, which began at dawn, targeted Iraqi army and security forces, as well as fighters affiliated with the pro-government Jaboor tribe.

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The Islamic State confirmed the strike on its Twitter account, saying that this was “the most violent attack of its type by the soldiers of the Islamic State against the Awakenings of Al Jaboor and the Shiite militias.”

The Awakening was the name given to a movement of Sunni Muslim tribes that joined U.S. forces to fight Sunni militant groups, including the Islamic State’s precursor, the Islamic State of Iraq, in the latter years of the U.S. occupation. Sunni Islamic militants view the Awakening participants as traitors.

The current Iraqi government and U.S. officials are hopeful a revived Awakening movement will help roll back Islamic State advances in mostly Sunni areas of northern Iraq, overrun in June by militants.

Shiite militiamen have been instrumental in thwarting the Islamic State’s advance toward Baghdad.

Duluiya, a strategic town on the Tigris River, has been the site of repeated incursions by Islamic State, which briefly held the town last July before being ousted by pro-government forces.

The governor of Salahuddin province, Raed Ibrahim Jaboori, called for emergency assistance from the central government and the air force to thwart the militant threat.

Special correspondent Nabih Bulos in Irbil, Iraq, and Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut contributed to this report.

Follow @cjwilliamslat for the latest international news 24/7

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