Who is Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq's prime minister-designate?

Who is Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq's prime minister-designate?
The veteran Iraqi politician, who has served as finance minister and oil minister, has been tapped to succeed Haider al-Abadi.
3 min read
04 October, 2018
Adel Abdul Mahdi was vice president after the country's first multiparty elections in 2005 [Getty]
Adel Abdul Mahdi, the veteran tapped to become Iraq's next prime minister, is seen as an independent capable of bringing together rivals on the country's fractious political scene.

A native of Baghdad, the 76-year-old has been handed the difficult task of navigating Iraq's tangled politics to form a government within 30 days.

Mahdi becomes the first elected prime minister in post-Saddam Iraq not to hail from the Shia Islamist Dawa party.

With a burly physique and a face framed by spectacles and a thin moustache, Abdul Mahdi is an economist by training who has served as oil minister.

He will be able to call on years of experience as a regular on Iraq's diplomatic scene for the balancing acts he is expected for perform.

Abdul Mahdi has the blessing of both Iran and the United States, a required consensus in the country caught between its two major allies who are foes.

He also has good relations with many Kurdish leaders, a major advantage in normalising ties with the autonomous region of Kurdistan whose people voted overwhelmingly to split from Iraq last year.

The son of a minister of during Iraq's monarchy, which met a bloody end in 1958, Abdul Mahdi joined the Baath party, which brought Saddam Hussein to power in the late 1970s. 

He became a leading opponent of the dictator, first as a communist and then as an Islamist, before fleeing Iraq, only to return after Saddam's overthrow in the US-led invasion of 2003.

'Heavy responsibility'

Abdul Mahdi later became a senior figure in the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, a Shia movement close to Iran.

A member of the interim authorities set up by the US military command who briefly served as finance minister, he became Iraqi vice president after the country's first multiparty elections in 2005.

While he was vice president, he was lightly wounded in 2007 when a bomb exploded inside the public works ministry.

In 2014, he was appointed oil minister under Haider al-Abadi, the man he is set to succeed as premier. He excelled in the role, with Iraq being OPEC's second-biggest producer, deftly negotiating with Kurds over oil before resigning after two years.

A francophone who attended university in France, he also has an excellent command of English.

Abdul Mahdi will have to deal with many figures whose paths he has already crossed as he seeks to hammer out a new government.

Among them is Hadi al-Ameri, the head of the Conquest Alliance close to Iran, former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and populist Shia cleric Muqtadr al-Sadr.

Responding to a message of congratulations from Abadi, he showed he was wary of the task ahead, referring to it as "a heavy responsibility".

According to the Iraqi constitution, the prime minister-designate has 30 days to form a cabinet and present it to parliament for approval.

The Iraq Report is a weekly feature at The New Arab.
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