Middle East Updates UN and U.S. Welcome New Iraq PM, as Maliki Supporters Cry Foul

Maliki aide: We won't stay silent over choice of al-Ibadi for new PM; U.S. begins directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces in Iraq; Turkey begins considering next government after Erdogan wins presidency.

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An F/A-18C Hornet coming from Iraq lands on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 in the Persian Gulf.
An F/A-18C Hornet coming from Iraq lands on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 in the Persian Gulf.Credit: AP

Haaretz's latest analyses on the Middle East: Change of Iraq guard: A new chance against Islamists (Zvi Bar'el) | Why the West intervenes in Iraq but not Syria (Zvi Bar'el) | Islamic State draws heat from Israel - but not for long (Amos Harel) | Islamic State may spell demise for Iraq's beautiful minorities (Ilene Prusher) | Erdogan’s victory in Turkey comes at a heavy price (Louis Fishman)

12:00 A.M. The Kuwaiti government said on Monday it had revoked the citizenship of 10 people, including a well-known Muslim cleric, in an escalating political crackdown.

The cabinet adopted last month what it called an "iron fist policy" against people it accuses of trying to undermine the country's stability, following protests sparked by the arrest of a prominent opposition politician.

In a statement carried by KUNA on Monday, the cabinet said it had reviewed data related to the naturalisation of the 10 and found they were ineligible for Kuwaiti citizenship.

"The council (of ministers) approved the draft decree to withdraw Kuwaiti citizenship from 10 people," it said without naming them or giving details of the reasons.

In messages on social media, activists identified one of them as Nabil Alawadhy, a well-known Sunni Muslim preacher and academic who had hosted a religious program on a private television channel.

In a brief comment on his Twitter account, Alawadhy said: "Whatever happens, may good come out of it." (Reuters)

8:46 P.M. Britain has proposed a UN resolution aimed at punishing recruitment and financing of fighters for the Islamic State militant group now controlling a swath of Syria and Iraq and all other terrorist groups associated with al-Qaida.

The early draft, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, demands that "all foreign terrorist fighters" withdraw immediately.
It expresses the Security Council's readiness to impose sanctions on those recruiting, supporting and fighting for terrorist groups.

The draft deplores the terrorist acts and extremist ideology of the Islamic State group and stresses that "widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, religion or belief may constitute a crime against humanity."

Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations are closed, said experts would discuss the draft on Monday. (AP)

8:26 P.M. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday welcomed what he described as "the forward movement toward government formation in Iraq" and praised the Iraqi president's decision to ask Haidar al-Abadi to form a new cabinet, the United Nations said.

"He encourages Dr. al-Abadi, Prime Minister-designate, to form a broad-based government acceptable to all components of Iraqi society," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

Dujarric said Ban worries that the increased political tensions coupled with the threat posed by the military offensive of Islamic State militants "could lead the country into even deeper crisis." (Reuters)

8:15 P.M. A journalists' rights group says a Turkish journalist has been killed in Iraq during clashes between Islamic militants and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and has demanded an investigation into the circumstances of her death.

Reporters without Borders said Monday that Leyla Yildizhan, who is Kurdish and uses the pseudonym Deniz Firat, was killed on Aug. 8 during fighting between the Iraqi Kurdish fighters and the Islamic State group.

It said the journalist, who worked for the Firat news agency and other Kurdish media, died from a mortar shell wound.

The group said "the work of journalists is crucial at wartime. Every effort must be made to guarantee their safety, along with the safety of all sectors of the civilian population." (Reuters)

6:57 P.M. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden commended Iraqi President Fouad Masoum in a phone call on Monday for selecting a new prime minister to replace Nouri al-Maliki and urged the timely creation of an inclusive government.

The two discussed the nomination of Haider al-Ibadi as prime minister, the White House said in a statement about the call.

"The Vice President commended Masoum for meeting this key milestone and reiterated President Obama's repeated calls for the timely creation of a new, more inclusive government that will be able to address the legitimate concerns of all Iraqis," the White House said.

"Vice President Biden also emphasized President Obama's desire to boost coordination with a new Iraqi government and Iraqi Security Forces to roll back gains by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant."

Biden also reiterated U.S. support for Masoum as the guarantor of the Iraqi constitution, the White House said. (Reuters)

6:42 P.M. taly's foreign minister said she had asked the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, for an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss support for Iraqi Kurds and the fighting in Libya and Gaza.

Italy holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini is Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's candidate to take the Ashton job. She made her comments in an interview with RAI state radio on Monday.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who visited Iraq on Sunday and met Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani, also wrote to Ashton urging an urgent EU meeting, in response to Kurdish appeals for humanitarian aid and arms, his ministry said in a statement.

During the same interview, Mogherini said Italy would support Iraqi Kurds fighting Islamists.

"I'm not talking about a military intervention, but an act of support for the military of the independent government of Iraqi Kurdistan," she said, calling stopping the advance of Islamic State militants an "absolute necessity".

The United States has carried out three days of air strikes against Islamic State militants, who have seized a swath of northern Iraq. International pressure is mounting on other countries to help out. (Reuters)

5:08 P.M. Iraq's new president on Monday snubbed the powerful incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and nominated the deputy parliament speaker to form the new government, raising fears of more infighting in the government as country faces the threat of Sunni militants in the north.

In a televised address Fouad Massoum gave Haider al-Ibadi, who was selected by a coalition of Shiite political parties, 30 days to form a new government and present it to parliament for approval.

The ceremony came hours after the embattled al-Maliki delivered a surprise speech at midnight accusing the country's Massoum of blocking his reappointment as prime minister and carrying out "a coup against the constitution and the political process."

Despite angrily insisting that he should be nominated for a third term, al-Maliki has lost some of his support with the main coalition of Shiite parties turning against him.

Al-Ibadi, who pledged to form a government to "protect the Iraqi people," was nominated for the post by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties that of which al-Maliki's State of Law is a part.

Critics say al-Maliki, a Shiite, contributed to the crisis facing the country by monopolizing power and pursuing a sectarian agenda that alienated the country's Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

Al-Ibadi's nomination came hours after al-Maliki deployed his elite security forces in the streets of Baghdad, partially closed two main streets — popular spots for pro and anti-government rallies — as hundreds of his supporters took to the streets, raising fears that he might use force to stay in power.

"We are with you, al-Maliki," they shouted, waving posters of the incumbent premier, singing and dancing. Read full article

5:06 P.M. A member of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's political bloc said on Monday "we will not stay silent" over the president's decision to ask Haider al-Ibadi to replace Maliki and form a new government.

"The nomination is illegal and a breach of the constitution. We will go to the federal court to object to the nomination," Hussein al-Maliki, Maliki's son-in-law, told Reuters.

Maliki has indicated he would seek a third term as prime minister, rejecting calls by Sunnis, Kurds, fellow Shi'ites and regional power broker Iran to step aside for a less polarising figure who can unite Iraqis against a raging Sunni insurgeny. (Reuters)

2:42 P.M. The Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces who have started to make gains against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, senior U.S. officials said Monday.

Previously, the U.S. had insisted on only selling arms to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, but the Kurdish peshmerga fighters had been losing ground to Islamic State militants in recent weeks.

The officials wouldn't say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn't the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations.

The move to directly aid the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State militants' gains in the north, and reflects the persistent administration view that the Iraqis must take the necessary steps to solve their own security problems.

A senior State Department official would only say that the Kurds are "getting arms from various sources. They are being rearmed." (AP) Read full article

11:59 A.M. Turkey's ruling party begins deliberations on the shape of the next government on Monday after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan secured his place in history by winning the nation's first direct presidential election.

Erdogan's victory in Sunday's vote takes him a step closer to the executive presidency he has long coveted for Turkey. But it is an outcome which his opponents fear will herald an increasingly authoritarian rule.

In the coming weeks, Erdogan will for the last time chair meetings of the ruling AK Party he founded and oversee the selection of a new party leader, likely to be a staunch loyalist and his future prime minister.

He will be inaugurated on Aug. 28. Read full article

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