Iraq Leader Commits to Steps on Forming New Government

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from The Wall Street Journal,

No Word on Whether Prime Minister Maliki, Fallen From U.S. Favor, Will Seek a Third Term.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

Secretary of State John Kerry said he received a commitment from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to begin the process of forming the next national government in Baghdad by July 1.

Mr. Kerry met with Iraq’s leader for nearly two hours Monday to stress the need for a new Iraqi government to unify its Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities against the mounting threat posed by the al Qaeda-linked militia, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, that has gained control of large swaths of western Iraq in recent weeks.

The top U.S. diplomat, in an unannounced, one-day stop in Baghdad, also met with top Shiite and Kurdish leaders Monday to press the same point.

“The goal of today was to get clarity,” Mr. Kerry said. “Prime Minister Maliki firmly, and on multiple occasions…affirmed his commitment to July 1 when the Parliament will convene.”

The Iraqi leader didn’t immediately comment on his conversation with Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Kerry said at a news conference that it isn’t Washington’s place to choose the next Iraqi leader. But senior U.S. officials privately have said that Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, should not serve a third term because his policies alienated Sunnis and Kurds during his eight years in office.

Mr. Kerry also met Monday with senior Iraqi politicians who will play leading roles in forming the new Iraqi government.

Among them were Ammar al-Hakim, chief of one of Iraq’s largest Shiite parties, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, and a potential kingmaker in the deliberations over a new government.

The top U.S. diplomat also met with the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Osama Al Nujaifi, who’s one of the highest-ranking Sunni officials in Iraq.

The two men discussed the growing threat ISIS poses to both Iraq and the wider region.

“These are difficult times for Iraq and the world if we don’t cooperate,” Mr. Nujaifi told Mr. Kerry ahead of their meeting.

Mr. Kerry responded, “I’m here obviously to convey to you President Obama’s and the American people’s commitment to help Iraq. We have two tracks as you know: one is the security situation and the other is the political situation. And we need to work them in parallel.”

As Mr. Kerry visited Baghdad on Monday, the U.S. government was beefing up its military support for the Iraqi government.

Mr. Kerry stressed that President Barack Obama maintained the right to strike ISIS targets at any time now that American military assets have been moved back into the region. These include U.S. aircraft carriers now stationed in the Persian Gulf.

“President Obama has not declared that he will wait,” Mr. Kerry said.

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