Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's eight-year controversial rule is moving closer to an end as President Fuad Masum on Monday named a new prime minister, a decision lauded by UN and Washington but resisted by Maliki.
PM-designate Haidar al-Abadi will have 30 days to form a new government, which is expected to be more inclusive and more capable of mobilizing the nation to confront the militant Islamic State (IS) group.
But the power transfer is certain to be difficult, as outgoing Maliki rejected the nomination as a dangerous violation of the country's constitution, calling it a "coup" that will have "grave consequences on the unity, the sovereignty and the independence of Iraq."
Maliki confirmed that his bloc has filed a lawsuit to the court and that it has all the required evidence to prove that his party -- the State of the Law coalition -- is the largest bloc in the first session of the parliament and therefore was entitled to nominate a candidate for the premiership.
"The external collaboration was disclosed when we rejected the constitutional violation. The American administration stood at the side of those who violated the constitution," Maliki said, accusing his political rivals of collaborating with the United States.
Maliki's remarks came after the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden phoned Abadi and conveyed congratulations from President Barack Obama's administration to the new leadership.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday also welcomed what he described as "the forward movement toward government formation in Iraq," and called on all political leaders to remain calm during the political tension.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Ban commended Iraqi President Masum for having charged Abadi with the formation of a new government, and encouraged the PM-designate to "form a broad-based government acceptable to all components of Iraqi society."
Regional experts and analysts have long been accusing Maliki's Shi'ite -dominant government of being unfair and not inclusive of the Sunni minority, stoking sectarian tensions in the deeply divided nation.
On the battleground where IS fighters have overrun large swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq, U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft have carried out 15 airstrikes on IS targets since Obama authorized the move Thursday.
While confirming that U.S. airstrikes have temporarily slowed the Islamist fighters' momentum, William Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Staff, said Monday that the strikes are "unlikely to affect ISIL(the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, former name of the Islamic State)'s overall capabilities or its operations in other areas of Iraq and Syria."
To better assist the Kurdish forces defending against IS fighters in the country's north, the United States has also begun directly providing weapons to the Kurds, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf confirmed. Previously, Washington only sold arms to the government in Baghdad.
Mayville said that at the moment, Washington has no plans to expand the air campaign beyond the current self-defense activities.
"Our current operations in Iraq are limited in scope to protect U.S. citizens and facilities, to protect U.S. aircraft supporting humanitarian assistance, and to assist in the breakup of ISIL forces that have laid siege to the Sinjar Mountain," Mayville said. BAGHDAD/WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (Xinhua)