Four Months, No Government in Sight - Iraq’s Parliament Speaker - 04.17.2006

Over at Just World News, Helena Cobban maintains a “Democracy Denied” counter. As of today it reads “123.” That’s 123 days since the December elections for Iraq’s new interim government.

Rumors are circulating that the parliament will meet and decide a government on Monday or Tuesday. Omar told me late tonight (Monday morning in Baghdad) that he is hearing they will meet later today and form the government, or possibly tomorrow.

The press currently available doesn’t appear particularly optimistic, however.

REUTERS:

BAGHDAD, April 16 (Reuters) - Failure to reach a deal on key government posts before parliament meets on Monday could delay the formation of Iraq’s new government for at least another month, acting parliament speaker Adnan Pachachi said on Sunday.

After months of resisting pressure from Sunnis and Kurds to drop Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its nominee for prime minister, the powerful Shi’ite Alliance said on Sunday it was close to an agreement to replace Jaafari with a member of his Dawa party.

But if parties don’t agree before Monday on a parliament speaker and a presidential council they will have to do so in stages, further prolonging the political paralysis.

“The goal is to reach a mutual agreement for all the three important posts. If we fail to reach it the deal may be divided into stages and this means that we will vote for some posts and leave others for next time,” said Pachachi, a secular politician.

LOS ANGELES TIMES:

BAGHDAD — Iraqi leaders worked Saturday to resolve their impasse over who will rule the country, with a secular coalition proposing an emergency government that would supersede election results and Shiite clerics conferring on how best to preserve their sect’s newfound power.

Politicians remained deadlocked over Sunni Arab and Kurdish opposition to Ibrahim Jafari, the main Shiite Muslim coalition’s nominee for prime minister. The crisis has created a political vacuum, stalling crucial reconstruction projects and contributing to the country’s security woes.

Top Shiite clerics in Najaf were deep in discussion over whether to intervene more forcefully, an official at the clergy’s office said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The clergy’s aim, said the official, is to prevent the choice for prime minister from being made by the entire parliament, where Shiite politicians are short of a majority. The clerics also want to prevent the formation of a “salvation” government as proposed Saturday by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the official said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS:

Acting Speaker Adnan Pachachi had said the 275-member assembly would convene Monday to try to jump-start the stalled process of forming a new government four months after parliamentary elections. But the Sunni politician said Sunday that the session would be delayed “for a few days.”

Shiite officials did not want legislators to meet until all parties agreed on the new prime minister and other top posts requiring legislative approval. Sunni and Kurdish politicians oppose the Shiite choice of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for a second term.

Al-Jaafari has refused to step down, and Shiite officials have been reluctant to try to force him out for fear of shattering their political alliance. He also has the backing of influential anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

And now the BBC is already reporting that the attempts to open parliament’s fourth session in as many months has stalled. This certainly doesn’t bode well for hopes to form a government this week.

BBC:

A session of Iraq’s parliament planned for Monday has been postponed amid continuing deadlock over the PM.

MPs were to meet for only the second time since December’s election but the acting speaker said leaders needed more time to resolve their differences.

Kurdish and Sunni parties are refusing to back the Shia nominee for premier, the incumbent Ibrahim Jaafari.

Meanwhile violence shows no sign of abating, with at least 34 people killed across Iraq on Sunday.

The United States recently revealed it will engage in the “new liberation of Baghdad” at some point after the new government is formed. This certainly doesn’t bode well for hopes to form a new government either. These plans could well be serving to discourage Sunnis, Muqtada Sadr, and other anti-occupation Iraqis entrenched in the political process from reaching agreement on the Prime Minister dispute.

The battle for Baghdad is expected to entail a “carrot-and-stick” approach, offering the beleaguered population protection from sectarian violence in exchange for rooting out insurgent groups and Al-Qaeda.

Sources close to the Pentagon said Iraqi forces would take the lead, supported by American air power, special operations, intelligence, embedded officers and back-up troops.

The Iraqi government, when it is finally formed, will also need to demonstrate that it is in charge of its own seat of government. “It will be the second liberation of Baghdad,” said Daniel Gouré, a Pentagon adviser and vice-president of the Lexington Institute, a military think tank. “The new government will be able to claim it is taking back the streets.”

Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell at the State Department, said a crackdown in Baghdad was one of the few ways in which a fresh Iraqi government could bind the new national army and prove its mettle.

“They have to show they can liberate their own capital,” he said. “Baghdad is the key to stability in Iraq. It’s a chance for the new government to stand up and say, ‘Here we are’. They can’t do that if they are hunkered down in bunkers.”

The operation is likely to take place towards the end of the summer, giving the newly appointed government time to establish itself. If all goes to plan, US troop withdrawals could take place before the end of the year. In the absence of progress by then, the war may come to be seen by the American public as a lost cause.

The idea that any assault to retake Baghdad, no matter how many Iraqis are used on the frontline operations, will somehow herald a new legitimacy for Iraq’s government is laughable. It appears at least some of the “experts” such as Mr. Wilkerson, are still falling for old mistakes. Iraqis are angry with the ongoing operations by the United States, the recent scandals involving raids in Haditha and near the Shaab neighborhood in Baghdad are just two of the latest examples.

Finally, despite the ongoing militant resistance within Ramadi, US officials even believe that somehow local elections will help pacify the area.

RAMADI, Iraq — U.S. officials are pressing for early local election in troubled Anbar province, hoping it will produce a government that can undercut support for the insurgency in the region where it is strongest.

The effort has gained new urgency amid U.S. fears that Sunni Arab extremists are trying to fill a political vacuum created when tribal sheiks fled to Jordan in recent months. The sheiks got out after a suicide attack and assassinations of local figures who had worked with the Americans.

Past attempts to form a government in Anbar - including provincial councils and officials appointed by the Americans or the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad - have had little success in winning public confidence in this Sunni Arab-dominated province, a bastion of the insurgency since it erupted following the U.S.-led invasion three years ago.

Pittman at least notes some amount of cynicism about this plan. One of the most important issues to remember is that the United States, despite public overtures toward democracy, has repeatedly demonstrated it must be democracy on the United States’ terms.

I’ll go to sleep tonight hoping the situation will change as Monday progresses in Baghdad, but I’m not particularly hopeful.

Unfortunately the costs of continuing political unrest are painfully high, as Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed have recently written for Inter Press Service.


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