Iraqi spy chief Mustafa Al Kadhimi rumoured to be prime ministerial contender

He is unaffiliated with any political party, boosting his chances of rising to the top position amid divisive protests

Mustafa Al Kadhimi has been head of Iraqi intelligence since mid-2016. Wikicommons 
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As Iraq's political crisis continues, various names are circulating in the country's media headlines and political circles about who could become the next prime minister.

One name that recently caught the attention of Iraqis is that of Mustafa Al Kadhimi, the director of the National Intelligence Service.

A close representative of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr said last week that there are three possible candidates for the prime ministerial post, among them Mr Al Kadhimi.

Mohammed Al Iraqi, who is known to be close to Mr Al Sadr, suggested Mr Al Kadhimi, Judge Rahim Al Aqili, the former head of Iraq's anti-corruption committee, and MP Faiq Al Shaikh Ali as likely contenders.

Since taking charge at the National Intelligence Service in June 2016, Mr Al Kadhimi has largely kept a low profile. He was a surprise choice to lead the intelligence service, with a background in journalism and advocacy.

He has overseen Iraq's intelligence efforts on the domestic and foreign fronts. His directorate was instrumental in the fight against ISIS and dislodging it from key Iraqi territories and was recently in the spotlight for its role in the killing of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.

Mr Al Kadhimi has good relations with the United States and regional powers, in addition to strong ties with many of the political players in Iraq, having been an active member of the opposition during the reign of Saddam Hussein.

One of the main contributing factors to his possible candidacy for the prime ministerial role is that he is unaffiliated with any political party.

"He has been able to build a balanced relationship away from partisan and sectarian politics, with all of Iraq's difference divisions," Jaber Al Jaberi, an MP, told The National.

“Al Kadhimi is accepted by most of the political parties in Iraq and has good relations with the region,” Mr Al Jaberi said.

However, he may not have the power to run the Cabinet because he is not linked to Iraq's political elite, Hisham Al Hashimi, an Iraqi researcher and security adviser to the government, told The National.

"Although Al Kadhimi is a veteran politician and bureaucrat, the ruling parties will seek to thwart him through opposition and discrepancy with his decisions," Mr Al Hashim said. "His popularity is good but not strong enough."

Mr Al Kadhimi was in exile because of his opposition to Saddam Hussein, and from 2003 to 2010 led the Iraq Memory Foundation, which was established to document the regime's crimes.

His heading of the foundation stemmed from a strong friendship with Kanan Makiya, a well-known opposition figure against Saddam who later discredited the political class that came to rule Iraq post-2003.

Mr Al Kadhimi has also worked as a journalist, and until 2016 wrote widely on the reforms needed in Iraq.

Born in Baghdad in 1967, Al Kadhimi has a law degree and published a number of books, including one entitled Humanitarian Concerns, which was selected in 2000 by the European Union as the best book written by a political refugee.