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Iraqi Parliament Chooses Mustafa Al-Kadhimi To Be Prime Minister

NOEL KING, HOST:

In Baghdad today, Parliament approved a new Iraqi prime minister and Cabinet after almost six months of a caretaker government. NPR's Jane Arraf has the story from Amman, Jordan.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq's new prime minister, was the third candidate to try to form a government. That's how difficult it is to reach consensus in a system where Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political blocs compete for power and both Iran and the U.S. hold influence. Kadhimi is 53, and until his turn came to try to head a government, he was Iraq's intelligence chief. Before that, he was a journalist who returned from exile in London to Iraq after the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Iraqi political analyst Farhad Alaaldin, speaking from Baghdad, says Kadhimi will have a lot to tackle.

FARHAD ALAALDIN: First and foremost is dealing with the COVID consequences and how to treat this crisis, in terms of the health side of it as well as the financial aspect of it. And due to the oil price fall, Iraq is facing a large revenue shortage.

ARRAF: Iraq and the U.S. will open talks next month to discuss the future of U.S. forces in the country after the controversial U.S. killing of an Iranian commander in Baghdad in January. The U.S. has backed Kadhimi. Secretary of State Pompeo called him to congratulate him. Kadhimi has also pledged to oversee early elections and to fight corruption, a key demand of antigovernment protesters. He's met with protest leaders. The previous prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, was forced to resign after hundreds of unarmed protesters were killed by security forces.

Jane Arraf, NPR News, Amman, Jordan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.