Tense times in Baghdad: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki deployed troops at strategic locations in the Iraqi capital amid a power struggle with newly elected President Fouad Massoum. Maliki accuses Massoum of carrying out "a coup against the constitution and the political process" by failing to nominate him for a third term, despite having the largest bloc in parliament. The New York Times says Massoum will most likely appoint someone from Maliki's bloc, but not Maliki himself. (Update: He did just that.) "The risk is, if he clings to power, he will control the country by force," says an unnamed Iraqi politician of Maliki. "This would be a military coup." More:
- Maliki is facing many calls to step down, but "it's not in his DNA to go without a fight," a CNN analyst says. "This is a man who's really feeling besieged at the moment. He's cornered on all sides, if you like. He's got ISIS on his doorstep, in a military sense. He even had the Grand Ayatollah the other day saying politicians should not cling to their posts. But this is a guy who seizes onto power. He holds it."
- John Kerry says the US stands with Massoum and urges the people of Iraq to stay calm amid the political crisis. "We believe that the government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq," he said in a statement. "And our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters."
- In the north of the country, meanwhile, some 20,000 of the Yazidis trapped on a mountain by fighting have managed to escape as the effects of American airstrikes on ISIS militants became apparent. Kurdish fighters supported by American drones and fighter jets went on the offensive against the militants and managed to recapture two towns, the New York Times reports.
- Beyond air power, the US has also started directly supplying Kurdish forces with weapons instead of merely aiding deliveries from the Iraqi government, officials tell the AP. It's not clear which US agency is supplying the weapons.
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