Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sunnis Not Eager to Join Maliki's Government

There was a great deal of attention to the compromise struck the other day among leaders of Iraq's disparate factions, on legislation to promote reconciliation. It would be nice if the nation was swept up in a chorus of kumbayas and agreed lock, stock and barrel on a raft of consensus legislation. Regrettably, life doesn't work that way. Sunni leaders in Parliament are saying that there's been a first step, but there remains a long way to go:

Sunni leaders said on Monday that they would continue their boycott of Iraq’s national unity government, in spite of a deal reached late on Sunday by senior members of the country’s main ethnic and sectarian blocs...

Nouri al-Maliki, the country’s Shia Prime Minister, and Tareq al-Hashemi, its Sunni Arab vice-president, were both present at Sunday’s press conference in Baghdad at which the leaders announced plans to solve several problems that have long bedevilled sectarian relations.

Also present were Adel Abd al-Mahdi, Shia vice-president, Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s Kurdish President, and Massoud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region,

Together, Mr Maliki, Mr Abd al-Mahdi, Mr Talabani, and Mr Barzani represent the four main parties whose alliance has dominated Iraqi politics since 2003, while Mr Hashemi has often been one of their fiercest critics...

Several Sunni politicians said on Monday that they were not convinced Sunday’s deal would bring any concrete progress, suggesting that Mr Hashemi might be hard pressed to persuade the rest of his coalition of the merits of his deal.

Khalaf al-Alayan, and MP with the Front, was quoted by Reuters as saying that Mr Hashemi had dealt with the four other leaders in his capacity as ”vice-president and not as leader of the Front”.

He said the government lacked ”credibility” and that the Front would not return to the government until all its demands had been met...
Right now the Front probably has little incentive to return to the government. Maliki seems likely to have the opportunity to at least attempt to push these reforms through Parliament, and the Front can assist. If they continue to withhold full support, they maintain leverage on Maliki and his fragile coalition. If it appears that Maliki may fall, and the Front collectively decides it would be in their interest to see him survive, they can always lend support at a more critical time.

If this package of reforms makes headway in Parliament, the Front might see more reason to back Maliki's government. That outcome would be the best for all Iraqis.

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