December 6, 2019
Iran wants to name the next prime minister of Iraq.
Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Mohammed Kawtharany, a top official with Hezbollah in Lebanon, have flown to Baghdad for talks on a successor to Adel Abdul Mahdi, who resigned last week.
Soleimani personally directed Iraqi security forces’ deadly response to protests that began two months ago against government corruption and the failure of public services. More than 420 have been killed and at least 20,000 injured in the crackdown.
The US said Soleimani’s presence at the Baghdad talks showed that Iran was again “interfering in Iraq.”
“Soleimani is in Baghdad to push for a particular candidate to succeed Abdul Mahdi,” a top political source told the Agence France-Presse news agency on Tuesday. Kawtharany “is also playing a large role in persuading Shiite and Sunni political forces on this.”
However, Tehran may find it difficult to get its way in Baghdad. The talks to nominate a new prime minister were “difficult,” the source said, because “political blocs want to maintain their positions.”
As well as Iran, any successor to Abdul Mahdi would need the approval of divided Shiite factions, Kurdish authorities in the north, and the US.
Abdul Mahdi’s nomination as prime minister was the product of an uneasy alliance between Parliament’s two main blocs — Sairoon, led by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, and Fatah, which is linked to Iran-backed armed groups led by Hadi Al-Amiri.
Meanwhile, protests continued in the capital and the south. In Najaf, 35 protesters were injured when armed guards in civilian clothes fired shotguns and tear gas on crowds near a Shiite tomb.