The Obama administration is pressing for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down as the Shiite leader of the war-torn country because he’s alienated the Sunni minority, The Wall Street Journal
The U.S. government would like to see a coalition government formed in Iraq that does not include Maliki, who is partially to blame for the insurgency by Sunni militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Journal said, citing officials.
The administration want the country’s Sunni and Kurdish people represented in a new government along with the Shiites, which might help to quell the sectarian strife that has resulted in ISIS, an al-Qaida offshoot, recently capturing several Iraqi cities.
The Journal said that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwomen Dianne Feinstein told a congressional hearing Wednesday, "The Maliki government, candidly, has got to go if you want any reconciliation."
Secretary of State John Kerry said that Maliki’s ouster could help to stabilize the embattled Shiite-controlled country.
"If there is a clear successor, if the results of the election are respected, if people come together with the cohesiveness necessary to build a legitimate government that puts the reforms in place that people want that might wind up being very salutatory," Kerry told Yahoo News
White House spokesman Jay Carney was openly critical of Maliki on Wednesday, indicating that he’s punished and distanced himself from Sunni leaders instead of sharing government power with them.
"There’s no question that not enough has been done by the government, including the prime minister, to govern inclusively, and that that has contributed to the situation and the crisis that we have today in Iraq," he said.
"The Iraqi people will have to decide the makeup of the next coalition government and who is the prime minister. Whether it's the current prime minister or another leader, we will aggressively attempt to impress upon that leader the absolute necessity of rejecting sectarian governance."
Maliki has been condemned over the past five years by the Obama administration and key Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for imprisoning leading Sunni protesters and giving powerful cabinet posts to himself or associates.
"We believe that Maliki's sectarianism and exclusion of Sunnis has led to the insurgency we are seeing," a senior Arab official told the Journal. "He unfortunately managed to unite ISIS with the former Baathists and Saddam supporters."
As ISIS rebels bear down on Baghdad, Kerry and State Department officials have been consulting with Iraq's neighbors Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran in an attempt to find a solution to creating an inclusive government in the capital
And the department's Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk has recently been meeting with Iraqi politicians and religious leaders in Baghdad to help solve the country’s leadership crisis, U.S. officials told the Journal.
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