No movement in Iraq after walkout
Obama praises Parliament despite new uncertainty
BAGHDAD — President Obama praised Iraqi moves to form an “inclusive’’ government yesterday, but the two-day-old deal was already looking fragile after Sunni lawmakers walked out of Parliament, clouding the possibilities for working with Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Members of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc have accused Maliki’s Shi’ite coalition of breaking promises under the deal, which aimed to overcome an eight-month deadlock and allow the creation of a new Iraqi government.
Jaber al-Jaberi, an Iraqiya lawmaker from the Sunni stronghold of Ramadi, said members of the bloc were meeting to decide whether to boycott the next session of Parliament, which is scheduled for today.
They were seeking assurances that Maliki’s loyalists will vote to reverse a ban on three Iraqiya lawmakers prevented from taking up government posts because of alleged ties to Saddam Hussein’s banned Ba’athist party.
Iraqiya has accused the Shi’ite alliance of violating an agreement to abolish the controversial de-Ba’athification law. A refusal to bring the issue up for a vote during Thursday’s Parliament session prompted most members of the Sunni-backed bloc to walk out, dampening the optimism about a power-sharing deal reached the day before.
Some Shi’ites in Baghdad celebrated with gunfire Thursday night after Maliki secured a second term. That was in contrast to the mood after the March 7 elections, when Sunnis took to the streets and waved Iraqi flags as they rejoiced over Ayad Allawi’s narrow election victory.
Iraqiya won 91 seats in the 325-member Parliament, two more than al-Maliki’s list but short of a majority.
Members of the Sunni minority said they were being squeezed out of a major role in power, fearing the new government would just be a continuation of the past four years of Shi’ite dominance, with a strong role for the Shi’ite parties’ ally Iran.
“We support the withdrawal of the Iraqiya list members from the Parliament session yesterday,’’ said Karim al-Obeidi, from the tribal council in Azamiyah, a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad. “We don’t want to repeat what had happened before when the former government gave promises . . . but didn’t fulfill its obligations.’’
The agreement ironed out Wednesday by representatives from all Iraq’s main ethnic and sectarian political groups paved the way for a Parliament session Thursday in which Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani was reelected president. But the session was marred by the walkout by most of Iraqiya’s lawmakers, including Allawi.
Talabani went ahead and asked Maliki to start putting together his Cabinet, a process that could take several weeks.
The agreement gave Iraqiya the Parliament speaker’s position and Allawi a position as head of a still-undefined council, although he has yet to publicly accept the post.
Washington has sought a greater Sunni role in the new government, fearing that otherwise disillusioned members of Iraq’s Sunni minority could turn toward the insurgency, fueling violence.
At a news conference in Seoul, Obama praised the progress, despite the Sunni walkout: “All indications are that the government will be representative, inclusive, and reflect the will of the Iraqi people who cast their ballots in the last election.’’