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POLITICS: PennAve

Obama backs new Iraqi leadership

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Politics,Barack Obama,Iraq,National Security,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Nouri al Maliki

President Obama joined the campaign to pressure Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down and allow the formation of a new government with a new leader.

In a brief televised statement, Obama didn’t mention al Maliki by name, but he said he and Vice President Joe Biden called newly tapped Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi to urge him to form a more inclusive cabinet.

“Today Iraq took a promising step forward,” Obama said Monday while vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. “... I urge all Iraqi political leaders to work peacefully through the political process in the days ahead."

The new Iraqi leadership, Obama said, has a difficult task.

"It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively and by taking steps to demonstrate its resolve," he said, noting that the United States stands ready to support a government that "addresses the needs and grievances of all Iraqi people."

Iraqi President Fouad Massoum named Abadi to the prime minister post Monday. Both leaders are Shiites and are members of the same political party as al-Maliki, who is refusing to give up his claim to power.

Digging in his heels, al-Maliki argues that Massoum doesn't have the power to name the top leader and has lodged a legal complaint with the country's highest court. The move adds another element of uncertainty to the country's tumultuous political process just as the U.S. comes to its aid to help battle the Islamic State in the north and hold the fracturing country together.

Obama acknowledged that the past days and weeks have been difficult for Iraq and there will undoubtedly be more turmoil to come. Although he said there is no American solution to the problem, he pledged that the U.S. will help the country fight the Islamic State if a new, more inclusive government can be formed.

"The United States stands ready to support a government that addresses the needs and grievances of all Iraqi people," he said. "We are also ready to work with other countries in the region to deal with the humanitarian crisis and counter-terrorism challenge in Iraq. Mobilizing that support will be easier once this new government is in place."

Over the past few days, Obama said American forces have successfully completed targeted airstrikes to "prevent terrorist forces from advancing on the city of Irbil." Obama said humanitarian efforts have continued to members of a minority sect trapped on a mountain and that a U.S. disaster-response team is now involved in the mission.

He said aircraft remain "positioned to strike terrorist forces" around the mountain that threaten the safety of the people on it.

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Susan Crabtree

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner

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