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Adel Abdul Mahdi

Iraq Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's two main backers agreed 30 October 2019 to work to remove him from office as protests against his government gained momentum in Baghdad and much of the Shia south only to be met with violence. Populist Shia Muslim leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who leads parliament's largest bloc, had asked Abdul Mahdi to call an early election. When the premier refused, he called on his main political rival Hadi al-Amiri to help remove him. Al-Amiri, who leads a parliamentary alliance of Iran-backed Shia militia that holds the second-largest number of seats in parliament behind al-Sadr's alliance, issued a statement agreeing to help remove the prime minister.

Amid the spiralling political crisis, Abdul Mahdi has said he could not call an election unilaterally and that parliament must vote with an absolute majority to dissolve itself. Protests calling for economic reform and removal of the country's political elite continued against official corruption, mass unemployment and failing public services.

Abdul Mahdi took office in October 2018 after weeks of political deadlock in which al-Sadr and al-Amiri failed to secure enough votes to form a government. They appointed Abdul Mahdi as a compromise candidate to lead a fragile coalition government. Adel Abdul Mahdi / Adil Abd Al-Mahdi is an independent who previously served as vice president, oil minister, and finance minister. A francophone Islamist and free-marketeer, he belonged to the Shia-led list that won a majority of seats in the Iraqi parliament in 2005. He was previously a leading figure within Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). He fled Iraq in the 1960s after being condemned to death for his political activities, and has spent time in France, Lebanon and Iran.

Newly elected Iraqi President Barham Salih named independent Shia candidate Adel Abdul Mahdi as prime minister-designate, ending months of deadlock after an inconclusive national election in May. A former vice president, oil minister and finance minister, Abdul Mahdi had 30 days to form a cabinet and present it to parliament for approval. He faces the daunting tasks of rebuilding much of the country after four years of war with the armed group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), healing its ethnic and sectarian tensions, and balancing foreign relations with Iraq's two major allies - Iran and its rival, the US.

Abdul Mahdi was nominated by two rival blocs, one led by Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr and outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and the other by pro-Iranian political bloc leader Hadi al-Amiri and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Both blocs claimed to hold a parliamentary majority but the dispute has been rendered irrelevant by their choice of the same man to be prime minister.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi was born in 1942 in the area Alaptowin, central Baghdad. Descended from the family lived in the upper bourgeoisie Almentvk (Nasiriyah now), and the origin of Kut, where he is still known to the family home there. His father was a minister during the reign of King Faisal I, was also a deputy in the Senate representative of the Iraqi Mentvk (Nasiriyah), which won him the title of Almentvki.

Abdul-Mahdi influenced in his youth with ideas of Arab nationalism and his childhood friendships with Ahmed Chalabi and Iyad Allawi, as he completed his secondary education in "Baghdad College" in Adhamiya. He was an active member of the Baath party in the early 1960s, but by the late 1960s he broke with the party and fled the country fearing that his life was in danger.

In 1968 he left for France, where he completed a fellowship and stayed there in 1972. He studied political science and economics in Paris. In Paris he embraced Maoism, a popular ideology at that time, in the first of several ideological shifts that made him highly controversial for many Iraqis.

In 1972 he went to Syria and then to Lebanon, where he remained until the time of the Israeli invasion, at which time he left again to go to France. During the late 1970s and 1980s he traveled to Iran. There, he was attracted to the ideas of the Iranian Revolution, and in his third ideological incarnation, advocated for a moderate form of the clerical rule by Iraq. While in Iran, he also developed close ties with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (known then as SCIRI, later as ISCI). Abdul Mahdi joined SCIRI and became its representative in northern Iraq in the mid-1990s, developing strong ties with the Kurdish leadership.

Along with many other SCIRI members, following the fall of Saddam Hussein Abdul Mahdi returned to Iraq in 2003, and became minister of finance under Ayad al-Allawi. He played a key role in convincing members of the Paris Club to write off 80 percent of Iraq’s debt.

In 2005 he was a top contender for the prime minister post, but as part of a deal struck between the Shi’i parties and the Kurds, he was instead appointed vice-president, with Ibrahim Jaafari becoming prime minister. On 16 February 2005 the race for Iraq's new prime minister tightened after one of two top Shi'ite candidates dropped out of the contest. The party representing Interim Finance Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi says it withdrew his name to preserve unity in the United Iraqi Alliance. The Shi'ite group won 48 percent of the vote in last month's election for a national assembly.

Mahdi's candidacy to head the Iraqi Transitional Government (ITG) was withdrawn, when SCIRI decided it would be best not to have to take responsibility for a short-term government. This left Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a former London-based opposition figure, was the likely front-runner. Dawa leader Ja'afari, on the other hand, was persistent in his pursuit of the position ad it became clear that there would be no viable alternative to Ja'afari.

The United Iraqi Coalition's (UIC) nominee to head the government final contest was set between Adil Abdul Mahdi, the politician well known for his wisdom and struggle against the dictator's regime for three decades, and Ibrahim al- Ja'fari, who exhibited the same qualities and who emerged as the winner at the end.

In a 26 March 2008 article in government financed independent Al-Sabah newspaper (Iraq's most widely read), SCIRI leader Adil Abd al-Mahdi noted that he would not accept the Prime Minister nomination without "a full and clear mandate from the Unified Iraqi Coalition and other blocs" but firmly skewered the Prime Minister's competence. The Deputy President needs to get Shia Islamist Coalition leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim on board.

By September 2008 Al-Mahdi stated "We have made great progress on security, but now we need to make progress on the economy. The money is there, but we lack strategies for different sectors." In the energy sector, the lack of an overall strategy has created delays. "That is why it took so long to issue big contracts in the oil and electricity sector," he noted. "We are very late, including some contracts pending since 2006."

On 27 October 2009 a bomb blast at a government building in Baghdad killed at least six people, but the apparent target of the attack, Iraq's Shi'ite vice president, escaped serious injury. Iraqi officials reported several bomb attacks in Baghdad, the most serious targeting the public works ministry, where Iraq's Shi'ite vice president was giving a speech. Iraqi police say the explosives were apparently smuggled inside the government building in Baghdad's Mansour District. Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi was later taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries.

He was a leading contender for the position of prime minister in 2010. In 2014, he was among the seven names circulated within the Iraqi political center, and with local and foreign press, as a candidate for the presidency of the new Iraqi government.

He remained a member of ISCI, an Shia Islamist party, but defined himself as secular. He was a proponent of federalism, and an advocate of the free market. He supported de-Baathification and had a lifetime friendship with Ahmed Chalabi, but also had close ties with Iyad Allawi, whose Iraqiya coalition became one of the main targets of de-Baathification. He was seen as having close relations with not only the Americans and the French, but the Iranians as well.

In his views, the unification of the Shi’a would help unite and strengthen all Iraqis. In line with the ISCI position, he maintained that not only should State of Law and the INA be incorporated into the government, but also Allawi’s Iraqya and the Kurdish alliance. Abdul Mahdi’s frequent ideological switches as well as his ambiguous positions left many Iraqis skeptical. His response to accusations of inconsistency and duplicity was that it was natural for a person not to maintain a single position during fifty years of political engagement.

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Page last modified: 31-10-2019 16:44:28 ZULU