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Maliki urges military commanders not intervene in Iraq political battle

August 12, 2014 at 6:17 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: In Iraq today, an aid helicopter on a mission to help stranded members of the Yazidi religious minority crashed. Meanwhile, the man chosen to succeed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gained critical international support.

On the streets of Baghdad today, Iraqis tried to keep track of the political battle over who will be their prime minister. The incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, was warning military commanders not to intervene. Instead, the Shiite leader urged them to focus on defending Iraq against the Islamic State group and its Sunni allies.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through interpreter): What I am scared of is that al-Qaida gangs, the Islamic State group and insurgents might try to make use of the current tension. Therefore, I would like you to draw your attention to carefully checking all the convoys and the armed men, because there are those who will take advantage.

GWEN IFILL: Maliki, who has condemned the new president’s choice of Haider al-Abadi to succeed him as prime minister, is a deeply divisive figure. Even though Abadi and Maliki share a political party, he has shown no sign he will step aside.

Yesterday, he deployed loyal troops in Baghdad, but few others are rallying to Maliki’s cause. Many in Baghdad reacted favorably today to the naming of Abadi.

ABU MAZIN (through interpreter): We hope that the new prime minister will provide us with the security and stability and all humanitarian necessities.

GWEN IFILL: And international leaders have also praised the selection of the new prime minister-designate. A representative of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Khamenei, said: “Iran supports the legal process that has taken its course. Iran favors a cohesive, integrated and secure Iraq.”

On the military front, the U.S. again struck Islamic State fighters in Northern Iraq. This time, a drone destroyed a mortar position threatening Kurdish forces.

And Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Australia, said more U.S. support is possible.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We are prepared to consider additional political, economic and security options, as Iraq starts to build a new government, and very much calculated to try to help stabilize the security situation, to expand economic development, and to strengthen the democratic institutions.

GWEN IFILL: For now, much of the effort involves airdrops of food and water to members of the Yazidi religious minority. Thousands of them have fled the Islamist forces, taking refuge on Mount Sinjar. Some Yazidis have been evacuated through rescues by helicopter like this one, mobbed by refugees yesterday.

On a similar mission today, the overloaded helicopter crashed, killing the pilot. New York Times journalist Alissa Rubin and several others on board were hurt.