May 6, 2020

Iraq Chooses New Prime Minister, an Ex-Security Chief Backed by U.S.


BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Parliament chose an American-backed former intelligence chief as the new prime minister early Thursday morning, giving the country its first real government in more than five months as it confronts an array of potentially crippling crises.

The prime minister, Mustafa Khadimi, 53, who has both strong ties to the Americans and a reputation for pragmatism, was seen as acceptable to Iran, the other major foreign power competing for influence in Iraq.

Mr. Khadimi is Iraq’s first real prime minister since the last one resigned and became a caretaker in November in the face of persistent antigovernment protests.

He has already promised to take a new approach to the social unrest, meeting protesters and consulting with them rather than backing the previous government’s sporadic efforts to crush them militarily and the rest of the time ignore them.

But the protest movement that arose over government corruption and persistent joblessness last fall is no longer even the government’s most pressing crisis. Oil and gas revenues, the government’s main source of income, are historically low. The coronavirus has frozen the economy.

And simmering tensions between the United States and Iran have played out in skirmishes on Iraqi soil that could turn into a wider war.

Plummeting energy prices have nearly halved Iraq’s operating revenue, making it likely that in the next few weeks Mr. Khadimi will have to either cut salaries for government workers or drastically reduce their numbers. Either way, with the government as the country’s largest employer, the decision would have dramatic consequences.

It will also fall to Mr. Khadimi and his advisers to decide when and how to reopen the economy and lift the curfews imposed to curtail the coronavirus that have locked down the country and silenced its cities.



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