The 48 hours preceding the Aug. 11 appointment of Haider al-Abadi as Iraq’s prime minister-designate were decisive. Efforts to convince a defiant Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resign were at their peak, even if they passed in vain.
Maliki wasn’t ready to accept any compromise or other points of view. He was aware a substitute had been chosen, yet he wanted to fight until the last possible moment. He believed that each vote he had gained in the election deserved its own battle. Maliki was desperate to keep his reign alive, while his friends and foes struggled to make him quit.
An Iraqi source close to Ayatollah Ali Sistani told Al-Monitor: “Around 10 days before the designation, an envoy representing the Iranian leadership visited Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf. The envoy heard a clear stance from Sistani: Nouri al-Maliki shouldn’t continue as a prime minister. … Sistani won’t say this in public, but he had to tell it to the Iranians, because he thought the crisis in the country needed a solution and that the deadlock would complicate efforts to reach an agreement.”
According to Al-Monitor’s sources in Tehran and Baghdad, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after learning of Sistani’s position, asked his aides to facilitate the change, calling on them to play a role in convincing Maliki to withdraw.
“There were several alternatives for Maliki, one was him being appointed vice president. He refused. He was obstinate on the prime minister position and gave all those who tried [to talk] with him reasons for him not to accept. His main challenge was that he’s the leader of the bloc that won the election, and the constitution gives him the right to form the new government.”
As the negotiations continued, one of the historical leaders of the Dawa Party traveled to Tehran, possessing what he believed was a solution for the dilemma. The leader carried the name Haider al-Abadi with him, along with a brief on the man and his stances. Until that moment, Abadi was an outsider in a race that included several tough names, such as Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Ibrahim Jaafari, Ahmad Chalabi, Qusay al-Suhail and Tarek Najem.