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This is what happened when I met Haider al-Abadi

6 16 0
02.05.2019

There are some Middle East politicians that have always reminded me of animals. Assad senior was always the ruthless Lion of Damascus. Even the Egyptians called Hosni Mubarak "La Vache Qui Rit" from the famous French cheese of the grinning cow.

But it took a while before Haider al-Abadi could secure a place in my Aesop’s fables. Iraq’s previous prime minister – and quite possibly its next – came bounding from his chair, tubby, cheerful and pretty over-confident, I thought. And then I got it: he’s the family cat who has just opened the canary’s cage and eaten it – and he doesn’t care the slightest what anyone thinks about that.

The canary is Isis or Barack Obama, or Donald Trump or Mohammed bin Salman – or any Iraqi politician. It’s oil and the economy and, I fear, it’s also Mosul.

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An imperial pussycat, perhaps, but Abadi has sharp claws and evidently thinks he will return to power when his successor, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, fails. Not a cruel cat, perhaps, but a pitiless one.

So here he is, presciently talking to me shortly before Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reappeared on his grim videotape to threaten the world. “Daesh finished? As a state yes, they cannot go back to that. But not as a terrorist organisation... I have to give you a warning. They are badly wounded – and they realise their dream has gone. So they will do whatever it takes to restore it. I think they are looking for some spectacular operations here or there. They are planning very hard…. The other thing is that we have not accounted for all of their leadership. We don’t know where some of their leaders are. That’s another danger. My worry as an Iraqi is that many of these leaders are Iraqis. So we have to be very, very vigilant.”

Ouch. Well, Abadi sure got that one right.

He was Iraqi prime minister for just over four years, from 2014 to 2018, which straddled the Obama-Trump transition. Realising, of course, that he won’t have to deal with Obama again but may very well have to go on talking to Trump, Obama gets a lot of stick but Trump not much at all. And the whole story, predictably, still embraces........

© Independent