Iran-backed blocs reject new Iraqi premier-designate

Iran-backed blocs reject new Iraqi premier-designate
2 min read
22 March, 2020
Iraq's powerful Iran-aligned power blocs, many of whom disapproved of al-Zurfi's relations with the US, will now name a candidate to replace him.
Adnan al-Zurfi is formerly the governor of the Shia holy city of Najaf [Getty]
Leaders of Iraq's major Shia power blocs have refused to back the country's new Prime Minister-designate, Adnan Al-Zurfi, in a late Saturday meeting held behind closed doors, according to senior sources who spoke to The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site.

The meeting was the second in a week where political factions have come together to solidify their position on his appointment, and is likely to have a heavy impact on upcoming confidence vote in Zurfi's cabinet when it is put to Iraq's notoriously fractured parliament.

Formal support for Zurfi, who was appointed by Iraq's US administrator Paul Bremer as the governor of the Shia holy city of Najaf in 2004, was scarce among the ranks of Iraq's Iran-backed political factions, who are now likely to name a candidate to replace him.

Selected for the premiership by President Barham Salih, many see Zurfi, a dual Iraqi-American citizen, as a conduit for American national interests.

Read more: Former Najaf governor Adnan Zurfi named as Iraq’s new PM

On Thursday, David Schenker, Assistant US Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, appeared to endorse Zurfi:

''We are supportive [of] the politicians in Iraq who support Iraqi sovereignty,'' Schenker told reporters in a teleconference, according to Kurdistan 24.

''We are hoping that pro-Iran parties – that is, Iran and its allies – do not move to scuttle the nomination'', Schenker added.

Groups, such as the Fatah Alliance, have refused to recognise Zurfi's designation outright.

Representing the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a powerful Iran-backed militia group deeply embedded in the country’s state and security institutions, the umbrella Shia bloc described his nomination as unconstitutional.

''The president of the republic (Salih) shall endure full responsibility for the repercussions of this provocative step,'' a Fatah statement said, according to The Arab Weekly.

Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Sairoon also stand in Zurfi's way, since he fought against Sadr's Mahdi Army and its rebellion against US troops in 2004, while serving as Najaf governor.

Zurfi is a member of the Nasr coalition, which is led by ex-PM Haidar Al-Abadi, and a former member of the Dawa Party, a longtime opposition party to ex-dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iraq's protest movement also opposes Zurfi, whom they see as part of the same corrupt political class they have mobilised for months to overthrow, with protesters in Baghdad carrying portraits of him marked with an "X".

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