The new Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, is a discreet figure who spent much of his life in exile in Britain before returning to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Al-Abadi was born in Baghdad in 1952. He joined the Islamic Dawa Party, the political bloc of former Prime Minister al-Maliki, at the age of 15. His father, Jawad al-Abadi, was a doctor and hospital director in Baghdad who later become inspector general at the Department of Health of Iraq. After the Baathists took power, Abadi and his family came into conflict with the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein who was toppled after the invasion in 2003.
Al-Abadi studied electrical engineering in Baghdad. In the late 1970s, he moved to the U.K. to complete a Ph.D. at the University of Manchester. In the U.K., al-Abadi became an outspoken critic of the Hussein regime.
In 1982, the Baathists executed two of his brothers. He canceled his Iraqi passport in 1983, and his father who died in exile was buried in London.
According to the biography of al-Abadi, posted on his Facebook page, al-Abadi worked in the U.K. as a "technology expert [on] rapid transit." He opened a small business in 1997, and received a grant from the Department of Trade and Industry for technological innovation.
Al-Abadi also opened a cafe popular with Iraqi exiles in London. After returning to Iraq in 2003, he became a senior advisor to al-Maliki in the first post-invasion Iraqi government. He held a series of senior positions, including Minister of Communications and most recently, deputy speaker of Parliament. In 2005, he served as advisor to the Prime Minister of Iraq in the first elected government, and he was elected as a member of the Iraqi parliament in 2005 as well, chairing the parliamentary committee on economy, investment and reconstruction.
The name of al-Abadi was on the table as a candidate for the prime ministry during the formation of the Iraqi government in 2006. Yet, previous Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was replaced by Nouri al-Maliki. In 2008, al-Abadi remained steadfast in his support for Iraq's sovereignty, and signaled that he was not pleased with the U.S. presence in the country. In 2009, al-Abadi was identified by the Middle East Economic Digest as a key person to oversee the reconstruction of Iraq. He has become an active member of the advisory committee of oil in Iraq. It was one of the Iraqi politicians to support prosecutions against the infamous Blackwater, a U.S. military contractor deployed in Baghdad for providing security, which was held responsible for the murder of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007. Al-Abadi was again tipped as a possible prime minister during the difficult negotiations between Iraqi political blocs in the following weeks of the 2010 elections to choose a successor to incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Abadi was re-elected as a member of the Iraqi Parliament representing Baghdad at the general election held on March 7, 2010. In 2013, he chaired the Finance Committee.
After months of political deadlock, the moderate faction Dawa supported the candidacy of al-Abadi as prime minister on Monday. Al-Abadi's first policy will be stopping the disintegration of Iraq, and to stem the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which has seized large parts of the Northern and Western Iraq. In an interview in June with The Huffington Post, al-Abadi said the ISIS militants' seizure was a real catastrophe, not only for Iraq, but for the entire region, and for the West too. He said that the Iraqi government was able to defend Baghdad, but it needs external help, even from Iran if necessary. A moderate, al-Abadi is likely to enjoy the support of Kurds and Sunnis, who have been accusing al-Maliki of pursuing a sectarian agenda, and excluding them from power.
Al-Abadi seems to be a more humble figure, compared to al-Maliki. But his appointment gives hope for a new era in Iraq that is exhausted by sectarian conflict.
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