Iraq’s new PM al-Kadhimi took office after the parliament finally approved a new government

Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took office after the country’s parliament approved a new government on Wednesday following nearly six months of political wrangling.

Al-Kadhimi is viewed as pragmatic as well as having good relations with main players across Iraqi political spectrum.

The parliament approved 15 ministers out of a prospective 22-seat cabinet in a vote of confidence. Five candidates were rejected while voting on two ministers was postponed, leaving seven ministries still empty, including the key oil and foreign affairs positions.

Two previous nominees for the role of prime minister – Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi and Adnan al-Zurfi – failed to secure enough support among cabinet ministers.

This led to President Barham Salih appointing al-Kadhimi as prime minister-designate last month as the third candidate to form a cabinet, amidst a backdrop of anti-government protests.

The protests began in October 2019 after thousands of Iraqis took to the streets and called for the overhaul of what they said was the country’s political and corrupt ruling elite.

Heavy-handed responses by the government security forces, which killed hundreds of protesters, forced then Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign, although he remained in a caretaker role until Allawi was appointed in early February.

Before the voting session on the new cabinet on Wednesday, al-Kadhimi said his government would be a “solution-based, not a crisis government”. He promised early elections and rejected the use of Iraq as a battleground by other countries.

The prime minister also pledged to address the repercussions of the economic crisis by rationalising spending and negotiating to restore Iraq’s share of oil exports.

Who is Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s new prime minister?

In 2003, al-Kadhimi returned to Iraq and cofounded the Iraqi Media Network, running in parallel with his work as executive director of the Iraq Memory Foundation, an organisation founded for the purpose of documenting the crimes under Hussein’s Baath regime.

Al-Kadhimi also served as editor-in-chief of Iraq’s Newsweek magazine for three years from 2010. He is also an opinions writer as well as the editor of the Iraq section of the US-based Al-Monitor website. 

In June 2016, al-Khadhimi took over the role of director of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, in light of the intensification of the battles against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

Al-Kadhimi is widely viewed by associates and politicians as having a pragmatic mentality in addition to cultivating relations with all the main players across the Iraqi political spectrum: a good relationship with the US, and another that has recently reached out to the Iranians.