* Kerry warns Maliki not to "stir waters" on new government
* Maliki remains defiant, "we will fix the mistake"
* Special forces loyal to Maliki deployed in Baghdad
* Obama congratulates new prime minister-designate
(Updates with Obama comment, Pentagon statement on airstrikes,
U.S. arming Kurds; U.N.'s Ban comments)
By Michael Georgy and Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD, Aug 11 Iraq's president named a new
prime minister to end Nuri al-Maliki's eight-year rule on
Monday, but the veteran leader refused to go after deploying
militias and special forces on the streets, creating a dangerous
political showdown in Baghdad.
Washington, which helped install Maliki following its 2003
invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, congratulated Haidar
al-Abadi, a former Maliki lieutenant who was named by President
Fouad Masoum to replace him.
Maliki said in a televised speech the president's decision
to name a replacement for him was a "dangerous violation" of the
constitution and, flanked by political allies, he vowed "we will
fix the mistake."
Maliki's son-in-law, Hussein al-Maliki, called the move
"illegal" and said it would be overturned in court. "We will not
stay silent," he said.
Washington delivered a stern warning to Maliki not to "stir
the waters" by using force to cling to power.
A Shi'ite Muslim Islamist, Maliki is blamed by his erstwhile
allies in Washington and Tehran for driving the alienated Sunni
minority into a revolt that threatens to destroy the country.
Leaders of Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish communities have demanded he
go, and many fellow Shi'ites have turned against him.
U.S. President Barack Obama said the naming of a new prime
minister was an important stride for Iraq towards rebuffing
Islamic State militants, who have overrun large swathes of
Obama said he spoke with Abadi to congratulate him and to
urge him to quickly form a new cabinet that is broadly
representative of Iraq's different ethnic and religious
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also praised the naming
of Abadi and urged him to seek a broad-based government
acceptable to all components of Iraqi society, the United
The new political crisis comes just days after Washington
launched its first military action in Iraq since pulling its
troops out in 2011. U.S. warplanes have bombed Sunni insurgents
from the Islamic State, who have marched through northern and
western Iraq since June.
Washington says it is taking limited action to protect a
Kurdish autonomous region and prevent what Obama called a
potential "genocide" of religious minorities targeted by the
The Pentagon said U.S. airstrikes conducted since Friday
have slowed the operational tempo of the Islamic State but are
unlikely to substantially weaken the group.
U.S. aircraft on Monday hit four Islamic State checkpoints
and destroyed several of the group's vehicles near Mount Sinjar,
where thousands of people of the Yazidi religious sect have
taken refuge, the Pentagon said.
Washington is also directly supplying weapons to Kurdish
fighters, U.S. officials said. The weapons were supplied by the
Central Intelligence Agency but the Pentagon may soon start
arming the Kurds, the officials said. They declined to specify
when the supply program began or what sort of arms it included.
NEW GAINS FOR ISLAMIC STATE
Islamic State fighters made new gains against Kurdish forces
despite four days of U.S. airstrikes, while Baghdad, long braced
for the Sunni fighters to attack, was now tensing for possible
clashes between Maliki and rivals within the Shi'ite majority.
President Masoum asked Abadi to form a government that could
win the support of all groups in a parliament elected in April.
In remarks broadcast on television, Masoum, a Kurd, urged Abadi
to "form a broader-based government" over the next month.
Abadi urged national unity against the "barbaric" Islamic
State, which has driven tens of thousands from their homes as it
swept aside Baghdad's troops to consolidate a "caliphate" in
Iraq and Syria.
"We all have to cooperate to stand against this terrorist
campaign launched on Iraq and to stop all terrorist groups," he
said in broadcast remarks after meeting Masoum.
As police and elite armed units, many equipped and trained
by the United States, locked down the capital's streets, U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry aimed a stark warning at Maliki
against fighting to hold on to power.
"There should be no use of force, no introduction of troops
or militias in this moment of democracy for Iraq," Kerry said.
"The government formation process is critical in terms of
sustaining stability and calm in Iraq and our hope is that Mr.
Maliki will not stir those waters.
"There will be little international support of any kind
whatsoever for anything that deviates from the legitimate
constitution process that is in place and being worked on now."
Under Iraq's post-Saddam governing system, designed to avert
conflict by giving all groups a stake, the speaker of parliament
is a Sunni and the largely ceremonial president a Kurd. Most
authority is wielded by the prime minister, a Shi'ite.
Maliki's opponents accuse him of abusing the system by
keeping key security posts in his own hands instead of sharing
them with other groups, alienating Sunnis in particular by
ordering the arrest of their political leaders. Islamic State
fighters were able to exploit that resentment to win support
from other Sunni armed groups.
Maliki's Shi'ite State of Law bloc emerged as the biggest
group in parliament in the April election, but does not have
enough seats to rule without support from Sunnis, Kurds and
other Shi'ite blocs, nearly all of which demand he go.
He has nevertheless stayed on in a caretaker capacity while
arguing that the constitution requires his bloc to be given the
first opportunity to form a government. He has used courts
before to keep power: in the previous election in 2010, when
State of Law was second, a court let him form a cabinet.
A U.S. official insisted Washington had not been involved in
the selection of Abadi but said "everybody is pretty relieved
that they have chosen somebody and that it was not Maliki".
Maliki also appears to have alienated his supporters in
Iran, the regional Shi'ite power, which has sent military
advisers to help organise the battle against the Islamic State.
Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric, Ali Sistani, all but
ordered Maliki to leave power on Friday, declaring that
politicians who cling to power were making a "grave mistake".
Obama says a more inclusive government in Baghdad is a
pre-condition for more aggressive U.S. military support against
the Islamic State. He has rejected calls in some quarters for a
return of U.S. ground troops, apart from several hundred
military advisers sent in June.
The Islamic State, which sees Shi'ites as heretics who
deserve to be killed, has ruthlessly moved through one town
after another, using tanks and heavy weapons it seized from
soldiers who have fled in the thousands.
On Monday, police said the fighters had seized the town of
Jalawla, 115 km (70 miles) northeast of Baghdad, after driving
out the forces of the autonomous Kurdish regional government.
On Sunday, a government minister said Islamic State
militants had killed hundreds of people from the small,
Kurdish-speaking Yazidi religious sect, burying some alive and
taking women as slaves. No confirmation was available for the
Thousands of Yazidis have taken refuge in the past week on
the arid heights of Mount Sinjar, close to the Syrian border.
The Islamic State considers the Yazidis, who follow an ancient
faith derived from Zoroastrianism, to be "devil worshippers".
A U.N. official said on Monday that thousands of Yazidis
have been able to escape in the past three days with help from
Kurdish security forces and others. But the official said many
are still trapped on the mountain.
The bloodshed could increase pressure on Western powers to
do more to help those who have fled the Islamic State's
offensive. They have already dropped supplies and U.S. aircraft
have been bombing the militants since Friday.
(Reporting by Michael Georgy Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Alastair
Macdonald, Peter Graff and Eric Beech; Editing by David Stamp
and Ken Wills)