Iraqi government: Mustafa al-Kazimi, the man of the last chance

Mustafa al-Kazimi (d) has now succeeded in forming a government. Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office / Handout via REUTERS

Text by: Oriane Verdier

The Iraqi president on Thursday (April 9th) entrusted intelligence chief Moustafa al-Kazimi with the delicate task of forming a government. Since the resignation of Abdel Mahdi more than four months ago, the Prime Ministers have succeeded, but none has managed to find the support of the majority of the Parliament.


Read more

Iraqi intelligence chief Moustafa al-Kazimi has accepted his president's mission to form a government within 30 days. Since the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi four months ago, this is the third time that the ceremony has been repeated. The former governor of Najaf, Adnane Zorfi, was the last to take up the challenge. He only lasted three weeks before being pushed out by a large part of the political scene. This Thursday, Mustafa al-Kazimi was surrounded by several political figures, absent the previous times, as a message of unity behind a man who must succeed where two others have failed.

A fine negotiator

Moustafa al-Kazimi, 53, has been head of the intelligence services for four years. At the end of the war against the Islamic State organization, his name had already circulated for the post of Prime Minister after the legislative elections of 2018. It then seemed natural to entrust the reconstruction to the one who had worked hard for the victory against the group terrorist. Deemed too close to the United States, his candidacy supported by the great Ayatollah Ali Sistani had however been rejected by Tehran and his Iraqi supporters.

Since then, this fine negotiator, former lawyer and journalist, has been able to forge new ties. A few weeks ago, he was accused by the most radical pro-Iranian factions of having participated in the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani , orchestrated by the United States last January. Charges dismissed by Tehran. In recent days, meetings for the appointment of Mustafa al-Kazimi have multiplied. Among the participants was the successor of Qassem Soleimani himself, General Ismael Qaani, now head of al-Quds forces and external operations of the Islamic Republic.

The man of compromise

While his predecessor Adnane Zorfi was still struggling to propose a government, the pro-Iran Shiite factions of the Iraqi Parliament therefore unilaterally decided to choose Mustafa al-Kazimi as future Prime Minister. Last Sunday, the chief of information was already supported by a third of the seats of deputies. Three days later, the main Kurdish and Sunni Arab parties publicly supported him.

Iraq has always been at the heart of wars of influence. A Prime Minister with multiple allies could therefore be a solution to appease in particular the tensions between Tehran and Washington on Iraqi soil. The two great powers are not alone in Mustafa al-Kazimi's contact list. He is also very close to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and, as chief of intelligence, he has multiplied meetings with the various members of the international coalition at war with the Islamic State organization.

A major challenge

Mustafa al-Kazimi, on the other hand, risks not getting the same support from the street. Like his two predecessors, he is a product of the system that the protesters have rejected since last October. The repression of this movement left hundreds of people dead and thousands injured. Today, the spread of the coronavirus epidemic has forced Iraqis to leave the streets to get cloistered at home, but anger continues to mount, fueled in particular by the inability of the authorities to organize a correct health response. The country has been hit hard by the recent drop in oil prices and many Iraqis, confined, are deprived of income.

For now, it is the former resigning Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi who is trying to hold the bar in the management of the serious health, political and economic crisis facing the country.

Although Mustafa al-Kazimi seems to be more supported than these predecessors, Iraqi political life is often marked by reversals and unforeseen events. Some also bet on his failure in the 30 days allocated to him. In this case, Adel Abdel Mahdi could ultimately remain in power until the next legislative elections scheduled for 2022.

Newsletter With the Daily Newsletter, find the headlines directly in your mailbox


Follow all international news by downloading the RFI application


  • Iraq