Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is under increasing political pressure to step aside as Sunni militants led by fighters from the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant overrun much of northwestern Iraq. Al-Maliki, a Shiite who is looking to secure a third consecutive term after winning April elections, has proven himself to be a skilled politician and hard-nosed negotiator. But there are growing calls from all quarters — including fellow Shiite and senior clerics — for him to step aside. Here’s a look at some of the names being mentioned to possibly replace him:
— Ibrahim al-Jaafari: From the Shiite holy city of Karbala, al-Jaafari heads the National Reform Trend, which is part of the broad Shiite coalition. He has played a prominent role in Iraqi politics since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, serving on the American-appointed governing council and later as vice president in the interim government. He then served as prime minister in 2005 after the Shiite coalition won Iraq’s first elections after Saddam Hussein’s ouster. Iraq ratified a new constitution under his watch in the fall of 2005, and held fresh parliamentary elections that December. Al-Jaafari secured Shiite backing to remain prime minister after that vote, but Kurds and Sunnis rejected his candidacy as the sectarian violence in the country surged in early 2006. The Shiite coalition agreed to drop al-Jaafari and picked a politician who was viewed at the time as a compromise candidate: Nouri al-Maliki.