Iraq was destined to be a mess after the Iraq War but the utter disaster that it is today may have been avoided if its first leader as a democracy, or what passes for one, had been a true statesmen interested in justice for all of that artificially constructed country’s constituencies. Instead, it got Nouri al-Maliki.

To paraphrase George W. Bush, the prime minister has been a divider, not a uniter. Elected eight years ago by the Shiite majority, Mr. al-Maliki’s objective in office has to be assure supremacy for Shiites and to further assure that minority Sunnis were ostracized. Iraq was never allowed to heal, and the fault lines were cracked wider by al-Qaida and finally by the Sunni militants of the Islamic State organization. Iraq was largely secular under Saddam Hussein, and the reason Sunnis cast their lot with Sunni religious militants was because of frustration over the oppression of the al-Maliki government. The inevitable war between Sunnis will further rip apart the country.

The prime minister’s two terms are mercifully up at this tumultuous moment in Iraq’s history, but unfortunately he is insistent upon serving a third term. This political uncertainty has added to Iraq’s woes since April’s elections, but a measure of hope came Monday when Iraq’s president appointed Haider al-Abadi as prime minister. The first deputy speaker of Parliament and a member of Mr. al-Maliki’s Shiite party, Mr.


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al-Abadi may or may not be an improvement on his predecessor but after eight years the country must move on from Mr. al-Maliki.

President Obama and other world leaders have welcomed the appointment in a less-than-subtle signal that it is time for the Iraqi prime minister to exit the stage. If he fears repercussions from his opponents upon his departure from power, and he probably should, then he could be offered exile somewhere. But with Islamic extremists having swept across northern Iraq, prompting the United States to launch airstrikes to protect civilians and send arms to Kurds fighting the militants, Iraq needs political stability now, and countries with a vested interest in Iraq’s future, like the United States, must insist that Mr. al-Maliki depart this week so that stability has a chance to emerge.