Ex-spy chief Kadhemi becomes Iraq PM
BAGHDAD, May 7: Iraq's former spy chief Mustafa Kadhemi took office as prime minister Thursday facing a staggering economic crisis, a pandemic and the spectre of renewed protests after breaking months of political deadlock.
Parliament approved the new government overnight after last-minute changes to the cabinet line-up, nearly a month after the ex-head of the National Intelligence Service (INIS) was nominated by President Barham Saleh.
It was the third attempt to replace outgoing premier Adel Abdel Mahdi. The nomination of 53-year-old Kadhemi followed weeks of lobbying of 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.
But on Thursday morning, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted a congratulatory message to the new premier, saying: "Iran always stands with the Iraqi people and their choice of administration."
Kadhemi appeared to have brought Iran-aligned factions on board, with endorsements from both Soleimani's successor as Quds Force chief Ismail Qaani, and from Mohammed Kawtharani, the pointman on Iraqi affairs for powerful Iran-backed Lebanese movement Hezbollah.
Kadhemi had already received a call from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who announced a 120-day waiver extension on US sanctions to let Iraq buy gas from neighbouring Iran.
The waiver is "a display of our desire to help provide the right conditions for success," the State Department said. -AFP