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April 14, 2006
Shiites Agree To Attend Assembly Session

A political crisis in Iraq has been averted, with Shi'ites reversing their earlier position and now agreeing to attend the National Assembly when it meets on Monday. The largest faction in the Iraqi parliament had previously insisted that until key ministerial positions had been filled, the session should not open and they would refuse to participate:

Leaders of Iraq's Shiite political alliance said Friday that they will attend next week's parliament session even if they haven't reached agreement on nominations for the top posts in the next government.

Members of the alliance will meet this weekend to discuss the posts — including the position of prime minister, which has been the core of the long-standing stalemate, said Sabah al-Saedi, a Shiite politician. He said alliance members would attend the parliament session, scheduled for Monday.

"We will meet Saturday and Sunday to discuss the matters of the prime minister nomination and the distribution of key posts," said al-Saedi, whose small Fadhila party is part of the alliance. "We are going to attend Monday, regardless of what happens at the internal meetings."

Ridha Jawad Taqi, a leading figure of the biggest Shiite party, also said the alliance planned to attend Monday's meeting.

A Shiite lawmaker had said a day earlier that members of the alliance were reluctant to attend the session until a deal had been struck on the premiership and other top government positions that require parliamentary approval.

Someone must have reminded the Shiiites that they have the most to gain through the democratic institutions of Iraq, and have the most to lose if they fail. After being repressed in Iraq for decades, the majority Shi'a finally have the ability to have real power, but only as long as they act within the framework of the elected government. They have overreacted to the refusal of the Kurds and Sunni to support their favorite candidate for Prime Minister, current PM Ibrahim al-Jafaari, and wanted to force the minority factions to retreat on the issue. Instead, they made themselves look like obstructionists and had they proceeded, would have given the Sunni a great excuse to pull out of the political process altogether.

At some point, the Shi'ite alliance will have to set al-Jafaari aside and come up with a compromise candidate. Neither the Kurds nor the Sunni have insisted on a non-Shi'ite PM, but they have made it clear that al-Jafaari will not get their support under any circumstances. The Shi'ites need to come to grips with the understanding that they cannot dictate the flow of Iraqi politics, no more than the Sunni can after the fall of Saddam. I predict that they will again reach an eleventh-hour compromise with another PM at the helm.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 14, 2006 6:23 AM

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