New Iraqi leader faces factions, ISIS terrorists - Tucson News Now

New Iraqi leader faces factions, ISIS terrorists

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The Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani praised al-Maliki's decision to step aside during Friday prayers and called for the nation to unite behind the new leader. (Source: CBS) The Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani praised al-Maliki's decision to step aside during Friday prayers and called for the nation to unite behind the new leader. (Source: CBS)

WASHINGTON, DC (CBS) - Iraq's political leaders are coming together to try and unite behind one leader. This would be the country's first democratic transition of power since U.S. forces withdrew at the end of 2011. The move comes as a terrorist army is still threatening to divide the country.

Standing beside his successor, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he will not fight to stay in office.

Maliki may have realized it was time to let go when he lost the support of Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The ayatollah sent a letter to each member of Maliki's party saying there needed to be a quick transition.

Sistani praised al-Maliki's decision during Friday prayers and called for the nation to unite behind the Prime Minister Designate Haider al-Abadi.

The White House also commended Maliki for stepping down. Now al-Abadi has to try and unite Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis in a new government.

"He still has a challenging task in putting a government together. But we are modestly hopeful that the Iraqi government situation is moving in the right direction," President Barack Obama said.

The Obama administration says Iraq needs a political unity to face the Sunni fighters controlling several Iraqi cities.

Officials say U.S. bombing runs on the militant positions near Erbil have allowed Kurdish forces to regroup.

"They've gotten more arms. They've gotten more weapons, and they've been able to push back against ISIL," said Marie Harf, a U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson.

And the Pentagon says it could expand the scope of U.S. airstrikes if needed.

Copyright 2014 CBS. All rights reserved.

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