Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, December 3, 2014.
Philippe Wojazer / Courtesy Reuters

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, once an obscure parliamentarian who had been exiled to the United Kingdom under former President Saddam Hussein, recently emerged from the shadows of the Dawa party to lead his country out of the most threatening security and political crisis it has seen since 2003. He was formally appointed to office on September 8, inheriting a country that was essentially in ruins. A third of Iraq had fallen to the Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), including Mosul, the country’s second-largest city; the Kurds had moved to take oil-rich Kirkuk and threatened to secede; and the Shia were bracing for further ISIS advances.

Although Abadi was an untested leader, his initial appointment solicited broad domestic and international approval because of his promise, as a Shia, to balance the conflicting interests of Iraq’s ethno-sectarian groups: Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds. Abadi also had

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  • MUHAMED H. ALMALIKY is a research fellow at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs where he specializes in post-2003 Iraqi politics, as well as security and foreign policy.
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