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April 22, 2006
Iraq Forms The Unity Government

The Iraqi National Assembly has wasted no time after the Shi'ite compromise on Ibrahim al-Jafaari's withdrawal and has begun forming the national-unity executive for which America has pressed since the December elections. The division of power among the top slots remains as it did before, with the Kurds holding the presidency and the Sunnis and Shi'a taking the two vice-presidential positions:

After months of political deadlock, Iraq's parliament convened Saturday to select top leadership posts, launching the process of putting together a new government aimed at pulling the country out of its sectarian strife.

Before the session, Shiite lawmaker Ridha Jawad Taqi said all sides agreed on a package deal for the top spots: Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, would remain as president for a second term, with Sunni Arab Tariq al-Hashimi and Shiite Adil Abdul-Mahdi holding the two vice-president spots.

In its first vote, lawmakers elected Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, parliament speaker.

This last position hold special import for the Sunnis, who presumably have the most influence with the native insurgents. The key to ending that part of the terrorist activity in Iraq will be to establish credible access to the political process for the Sunni minority in the central region of Iraq, where oil is scarce and their economic prospects look less engaging than in the Kurdish and Shi'ite regions. The Sunnis need Iraq to hold together to avoid having control of a rum consisting mostly of Baghdad and its environs, a development that likely would leave them destitute and stuck between two protostates that would recall Sunni domination in very unpleasant terms.

For this reason, I believe most Sunnis will grasp this opportunity to work within the system to maintain Iraqi unity. They know that a civil war and fracture of the nation impacts them most, and they need to find a way to keep the Kurds and the Shi'a from spinning away and taking the mineral resources of Iraq with them. The Shi'ites knew this as well, which is why they stuck with the highly unpopular Jafaari for so long. When the Kurds backed the Sunnis on Jafaari, the Shi'ites finally realized that they could not win the battle, but waited as long as possible to get as many concessions as they could. It took Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's rhetorical kick in the fanny to get the majority Shi'ite coalition to finally recognize reality.

One assumes that the parliamentary action this morning indicates that the Cabinet issues have been resolved and that portfolio assignments are set. If so, it delivers a long-delayed blow to both the foreign and native insurgencies in Iraq. The first permanent constitutional government in Iraq has shown that democracy can survive in a polarized Arab state, although it seemed a close-run thing. It also shows that the Sunnis can win a political battle when needed, a lesson that should encourage them to support the political process more enthusiastically than before. With those developments, the insurgents will find themselves ever more isolated and ineffective. The battle for Iraq has been lost by the insurgents.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 22, 2006 8:39 AM

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