Iraqis named a president and a prime minister designate Tuesday, capping five months of halting negotiations that played out amid widening popular unrest and an intensifying rivalry between the United States and Iran for influence over Iraq’s leadership. Within an hour of Iraq’s parliament electing veteran Kurdish politician Barham Salih as president, he announced that he had asked former oil minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to form the next government. The selection of the men showed how the sectarian loyalties in Iraq’s Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab communities that have prevailed since the U.S. invasion in 2003 are breaking down, giving way to more-pragmatic coalitions that cut across sectarian lines.
Salih, 58, was chosen as president, a largely ceremonial post, after trouncing his Kurdish rival by a vote of 219 to 22, signaling overwhelming support among the legislature’s Arab majority for Salih’s brand of conciliatory politics.
Abdul Mahdi, 76, a Shiite with no recent party affiliation, will hold the vast majority of executive power, and his selection represents a compromise by the top finishers in May’s election, Iraqi and American officials said.
But the vote left no clear winner in the ongoing tussle between Iran and the United States to place their allies in Iraq’s key political posts as Washington seeks to isolate Tehran economically and politically.