Mideast powers endorse new Iraqi prime minister-designate

Pentagon broadens air campaign on the Islamic State; car bombs kill twelve in Baghdad; UN, Vatican call for greater mobilization against terrorist group.

 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia joined an international chorus of praise for Iraq’s nomination of a prime minister on Tuesday, spurning current premier Nouri al-Maliki, who is refusing to leave his post.
The encirclement leaves Maliki with few allies, as his party colleague, Haider al-Abadi, prepares to form a new unity government.
Iran’s state-run news agency reported that the head of its National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, congratulated Abadi on his appointment.
Iran wields significant influence within Iraqi political circles, in particular within Maliki’s Shi’ite Dawa Party.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the naming of a new prime minister was a “positive and important development,” and wished Abadi success in his new post.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah prayed to God that Abadi might “restore cohesion” to the fractured state of Iraqi politics.
Maliki also lost support from the once-loyal Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, which has provided security for the veteran leader in the past.
Al-Haq leaders endorsed Abadi’s nomination on Tuesday.
Abadi was elected deputy speaker of Iraq’s parliament only weeks ago, and beforehand served in communications for his party.
Hoping for a smooth transition, US President Barack Obama called on Abadi to form the new coalition “as quickly as possible” on Monday afternoon.
The White House seeks a new Iraqi government that can help it confront the fast-moving advance of the Islamic State through eastern Syria and northern Iraq.
The extremist Sunni army continued its military operations this week, targeting the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional forces fighting to protect Iraqi citizens seeking to escape religious persecution.
Aiding the Kurds, the American navy and air force broadened its air campaign against the Islamist group over the last 48 hours.
US warplanes struck checkpoints, mortar positions, vehicle convoys and US-made humvees operated by the Islamic State at the base of Mount Sinjar, a refuge for fleeing religious minorities, for the first time, possibly clearing a path of escape for those perched on the mountaintop.
Men and women of the Yazidi faith, an ancient ethno- religious minority, face slaughter at the hands of the Islamic State unless they choose to convert to Sunni Islam.
The Obama administration fears that without international protection, Islamic State would commit genocide against the Yazidis.
The US military conducted a fifth airdrop of aid overnight to those stranded on Sinjar without food, water or shelter, a population estimated in the tens of thousands.
In total, the US has now delivered 85,000 ready-to-eat meals and 20,000 gallons of fresh drinking water.
The United Kingdom has committed its own cargo planes to the delivery of aid, and fighter jets to accompany them.
Germany on Tuesday suggested it might be willing to provide the Iraqi government with military equipment in its fight against the terrorist group.
But United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon suggested he was unsatisfied with the pace of the international response. He called the Yazidi crisis harrowing, and urged more haste from the global community.
The Vatican also renewed its condemnation of Islamic State on Tuesday, calling on leaders in the Muslim world to speak out against the brutality.
Egypt’s chief religious authority did just that, according to MENA, the country’s state-run news media, in a first from the grand mufti, Shawqi Allam.
“An extremist and bloody group such as this poses a danger to Islam and Muslims, tarnishing its image as well as shedding blood and spreading corruption,” said Allam, Egypt’s most influential Muslim cleric.
Car bombings in Baghdad killed 12 people throughout the day, though it was not immediately clear who was responsible, or why the acts occurred.
Reuters contributed to this report.