Iraq’s President Barham Salah named a new candidate for interim prime minister. He is the ex-governor of Najaf Adnan Zurfi who is currently a parliamentarian for the Nasr block led by former premier Haidar al-Abadi. He is already earning opposition from some sectors, which means there will be plenty more negotiations behind closed doors before he can even name a cabinet and a new government.
Adnan Zurfi has a long history in Iraqi opposition politics and the post-Saddam order. He was born in Najaf in 1966, and received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in religious studies. In 1983 he joined the Dawa Party and was arrested in 1988 and jailed at the Abu Ghraib prison. During the 1991 uprising he was able to escape and ended up immigrating to the United States where he became a citizen. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq he returned to his home and formed the Wafa Movement. In 2004, he was appointed the governor of Najaf by the Coalition Provisional Authority and opposed Moqtada al-Sadr’s revolts there. In 2006 he went to work at the Interior Ministry in intelligence. In 2009 he was elected governor of Najaf after forming an alliance with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list, and again in 2013. That angered the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) that formerly ran the governorate. They accused him of corruption and carrying out assassinations of his opponents. (1) In 2015, he asked for parliament to dismiss the Najaf council resulting in the Sadrists and ISCI to join together and voting him out instead. In 2018 he won a seat in parliament with the Nasr list which he leads in the legislature. While no longer a member of the Dawa Party he has kept his contacts with it and aligned with it in order to win the Najaf governorship and his seat in parliament. He was also friendly with the Americans when he returned to the country leading to his first stint at running Najaf.
Zurfi’s immediate task is to win over the ruling parties so that he can get a cabinet through parliament. The seven major Shiite parties formed a committee with the encouragement of Iran to pick a new PM, but the Fatah list led by Badr’s Hadi Amiri rejected his nomination. On the other hand, it appears that the Kurds are willing to give him a chance. Zurfi has an advantage over his predecessor Mohammed Allawi who was an independent. He gave up on trying to be premier when he tried to form a non-partisan cabinet. Zurfi can learn a lesson by not pushing that matter and allowing the ruling parties to pick his ministers. Before he can even do that though he has to win over Fatah otherwise he might end up another failure.
1. Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 44,” 8/16/12
Al-Aalem, “Officially .. Adnan Al-Zurfi as Prime Minister, who is he?” 3/17/20
Dri, Karwan Faidhi, “Iraq’s president tasks Adnan al-Zurfi with forming new government: state media,” Rudaw, 3/17/20
Gebeily, Maya, “Iraq’s PM-designate Adnan Zurfi, Shiite moderate with US ties,” Agence France Presse, 3/17/20
Kazimi, Nibras, “An Initial Look at the Registrants for Provincial Election,” Talisman Gate, 6/12/08
Al-Mada, “Blocks Hakim and al-Sadr and the Dawa Party organize indoors ally in Najaf to lead the new government,” 6/8/13
- “Shiite forces are trying to unite by choosing a candidate for prime minister and his ministerial staff,” 3/11/20
- “State of Law lose half its seats in Maysan, Najaf and seeks to circumvent the win Douai and the Zurfi,” 4/22/13
NINA, “The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan welcomes al-Zurfi’s mandate to form the government,” 3/17/20
Shafaaq News, “Najaf provincial council dismiss al-Zurfi from office,” 7/13/15
Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 44,” 8/16/12
Visser, Reidar, “Mixed Outcome for Maliki as Muthanna and Najaf Elect New Governors,” Historiae, 5/1/09