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Iraq - 'Abdul-Mahdi's Background.

Dr Abdul-Mahdi's predecessor as oil minister until August 2014 was also technocrat, 'Abdul Kareem al-Lu'aibi who had that post since December 2010. (Until then, Lu'aibi was deputy oil minister for the upstream. A moderate figure, Lu'aibi was on good terms with the KRG and was instrumental in Kurdistan's resumption of crude oil exports in February 2011 and in 2012. Under the Iraqi state budget for 2013, Kurdistan's crude exports were set to average 250,000 b/d. But the KRG in late 2012 stopped exporting oil through the federal system - consisting of a crude oil pipeline between Kirkuk and Turkey's Mediterranean terminal of Ceyhan. Instead, the KRG exported crude oil and condensate by trucks to Turkey - see that background in omt21IraqWhoMay20-13).

Originally, Abdul-Mahdi's family was Sunni Arab from the Muntafek region of Saudi Arabia. His great grand-father, Nasser al-Sa'doun, moved to a southern Iraqi area where he helped found the town of Nasseriya. Later, his grand-father moved to Najaf and became a Ja'fari Shi'ite. His father became a highly respected Ja'fari theologian, moved to the central Baghdad area of Karrada and, eventually, was appointed as a minister in the Hashemite government of Nuri al-Sa'id.

Adel was born in 1942 in Karrada. He attended high school at Baghdad College, an elite American Jesuit secondary school. In the 1960s, Adel joined the Communist "General Command" (Maoist) faction. He was imprisoned in 1969. He was released in that year after pledging to leave that group and join the Ba'th Party.

Later, Adel moved to France, where he received higher education as an economist with a doctorate degree. In the 1980s he joined the Shi'ite Islamist movement in France and, eventually, became a member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) then headed by Ayatullah Muhammad-Baqer al-Hakim - the latter belonging to one of the most prominent Ja'fari religious clans of Najaf - who in the early 1980s moved to Iran because of anti-Shi'ite persecution by Saddam's Sunni/Ba'thist dictatorship.

Eventually, Hakim became a grand ayatullah in Iran, where his SCIRI's military arm trained by the IRGC became known as the Badr Brigade. He and the other members of his clan, including his younger brother Abdul-Aziz (also a theologian) returned to Iraq shortly after the March 2003 US invasion. But the grand ayatollah was killed in a Qaeda suicide bombing as he was just leaving the Imam Ali shrine and mosque in Najaf.

As head of SCIRI, the grand ayatullah was succeeded by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, an equally moderate religious leader close to Grand Ayatullah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf. The highest religious authority in the Ja'fari Shi'ite world, Sistani heads the Quietist School whose theologians do not indulge in the political affairs of state and do not take governmental office. Years later, Shaikh Abdul-Aziz changed the party's name to Supreme Iraqi Islamic Party (SIIC). But eventually he died of cancer and was succeeded as SIIC's head by his brilliant son Ammar, among the moderate theologians.

In 1994, Adel became SCIRI's representative and, as such, moved to the eastern Kurdish city of Suleimaniya, where he stayed until 2001 and developed strong bonds of friendship with Jalal Talabani, the founder and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the then Eastern Kurdistan PM Barham Saleh. He also developed friendly relations with Western Kurdistan's head and chief of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP) Mass'oud Barzani.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi became a senior member of SIIC's leadership both under Abdul-Aziz and under his succeeding son Ammar al-Hakim. Both Hakim leaders promoted Abdul-Mahdi as SIIC's candidate to the post of independent Iraq's PM after the 2005 legislative elections, competing with Dr Ibrahim al-Ja'fari who headed a faction of the Ja'fari al-Da'wa al-Islamiya (Da'wa) movement. Dr Ja'fari was selected as PM - to succeed interim PM Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite of the same Ja'fari order which is the sect of Iraq's Shi'ite majority. But Ja'fari's government did not last long.

In May 2006, after another round of legislative elections, Dr Abdul-Mahdi as No. 2 in SIIC's leadership and one of Iraq's three vice-presidents, was al-Hakim's candidate for the post of PM to succeed Dr Ja'fari. But his rival was Maleki, Ja'fari's deputy in the same Da'wa faction, who then won the post of PM.

Yet, like the late Shaikh Abdul-Aziz, Dr Abdul-Mahdi as vice-president since 2005 was received at the White House by the then Republican President George W. Bush - who had ordered the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq which toppled Saddam's dictatorship on April 9 of that year. Dr Abdul Mahdi was then heading Iraq's delegation to a UN conference on the country's re-construction.

Dr Abdul-Mahdi assumed the post of vice-president from 2005 to 2011. He was the finance minister in Allawi's interim government. In June 2004, Dr Allawi had taken over the rule of Iraq as PM from the US-dominated occupation entity called Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) under senior American diplomat L. Paul Bremer-III. Bremer had taken charge of Iraq in May 2003.
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Publication:APS Review Oil Market Trends
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jun 1, 2015
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