Mustafa Kadhemi was sworn-in into office as the new Iraq’s premier after breaking months of political halt, taking the reins amid a staggering economic crisis, a health pandemic, and the potential clamoring of new protests.
Observing social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Iraq, lawmakers gathered at parliament in masks and gloves around 9:00 pm local time, but the vote was delayed for hours to make last-minute edits to ministerial posts.
Kadhemi soon received a congratulatory call from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who announced a 120-day waiver extension on US sanctions to let Iraq buy gas from neighboring Iran.
The waiver is “a display of our desire to help provide the right conditions for success,” the State Department said.
Kadhemi’s nomination came after weeks of lobbying deeply divided political parties, including those close to neighbouring Iran who had been wary of his ties to the United States.
One hardline faction had accused Kadhemi of conspiring with Washington over the January drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis outside Baghdad airport.
MPs approved 15 ministers out of a prospective 22-seat cabinet, with seven ministries — including the key oil and foreign affairs positions — still empty as political parties squabble over shares.
Kadhemi, the 53-year-old former head of the respected National Intelligence Service (INIS), was nominated by President Barham Saleh on April 9 — the third attempt to replace outgoing premier Adel Abdel Mahdi.
Abdel Mahdi, 77, resigned late last year following months of protests decrying rampant corruption, unemployment and a political class seen as beholden to neighboring Iran. He was the first premier in Iraq to step down since after the demise of Saddam Hussein. Read Here