Iraq’s next prime minister: What you need to know

Haider al-Ibadi has plenty on his plate. The next prime minister of Iraq, according to the country's president, with support from the U.S, he first has to make sure incumbent Nouri al-Maliki exits his seat.

Jean-Philippe Ksiazek | AFP | Getty Images

Then he faces the task of quelling the militant group Islamic State, which has killed thousands of Iraqis this year and caused chaos on a rampage through the country. The U.S. has begun aiding the government through airstrikes targeted at specific areas under attack, such as Irbil and Mount Sinjar, where thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority took refuge.

Even if the jihadist threat recedes, there will remain the task of reconciling a deeply divided state, with the country's Kurds likely to push for a separate state. And the divisions between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Muslims seem to have deepened further.

Here's a glimpse of al-Ibadi:


Al-Ibadi, who was nominated as prime minister-designate by Iraq's parliament earlier this week,speaks English fluently. He started his parliamentary career as minister for communications in 2003 and has the seal of U.S. approval. Born in 1952, and exiled under Saddam Hussein, he has spent more of his adult life in the U.K. than in his home country. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester and has run his own technology company in London. His father died in exile, and family members who remained in the country under Saddam Hussein are believed to have died.

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He's got experience in Iraqi government

The highest office he has attained so far is deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, but he has been spoken of as prime minister before. He has also worked as an adviser to Iraq's first post-Saddam prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and has been chairman of the Economy, Investment and Reconstruction Committee and the Finance Committee. He was minister of communications from 2003-04.

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He thinks Iraq could take military aid from Iran

Earlier in the sectarian conflict dominating Iraq, al-Ibadi caused consternation in an interview with The Huffington Post when he said the government would "take any assistance, even from Iran" in fighting the Islamic State—if the U.S. didn't help out with airstrikes. This may have just been an effort to secure U.S. assistance, but if serious, it would mark a big break with tradition.

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How different is he from al-Maliki?

They're currently colleagues in the Islamic Dawa Party, the Shiite party that gained the largest share of the vote in Iraq's last election. They're both exiles who returned to help set up Iraq's post-Saddam government. However, al-Ibadi is thought to be a more inclusive figure than al-Maliki, who was criticised for failing to bring Shiites together with members of the Sunni sect.

He is also believed to have more support from the educated Iraqi elite, whereas al-Maliki, who spent much of his exile in Damascus, is thought to have the support of the Iraqi army. This military backing may be key if there is a further struggle for power.

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—By CNBC's Catherine Boyle