State Dept.: Al-Maliki's moves not a coup

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s decision to deploy special forces loyal to him around Baghdad does not amount to a coup, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday.

“That seems a strange word to use,” Harf said when a reporter asked if the United States would describe the deployment on Sunday as part of a coup.

Al-Maliki “is still the prime minister,” Harf added. “So by definition, coup would not be it.”

Harf said she couldn’t speak for al-Maliki and his intentions for the deployment, but added that the Iraqi government does face a security challenge from militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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Reports on Sunday said al-Maliki deployed the special forces around Baghdad after he signaled in a speech he would remain prime minister for a third term.

Al-Maliki accused Iraqi President Fouad Massoum of engaging in a coup because he failed to name a new prime minister by Sunday’s deadline.

“This attitude represents a coup on the constitution and the political process in a country that is governed by a democratic and federal system,” al-Maliki said in a televised address, according to The Washington Times.

Secretary of State John Kerry later urged al-Maliki not to make it more difficult to form a new Iraqi government.

On Monday, Iraq’s president nominated Haider al-Abadi to be Iraq’s new prime minister. Vice President Biden called al-Abadi and congratulated him on the nomination. 

Harf stopped short of fully endorsing al-Abadi and said the U.S. “never supported any one person or one party here.” Al-Abadi now has 30 days to present a new government for approval.