Al-Maliki Forges a ‘Unity Government’ for Iraq

Though a government is finally in place, Iraq still has many problems ahead.

What happened

Iraq's parliament last week approved the first Cabinet formed under the country's new constitution, though several key ministries were left vacant. The 39-member 'œunity government' includes representatives of the country's major ethnic and religious groups'”Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and Christians'”and four ministers are women. Some Sunnis nonetheless complained that the Cabinet had too many Shiites, and would not safeguard their people from continuing reprisals by Shiite militias. Because Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could not resolve all tensions within the governing coalition, he left three key ministerial posts open'”interior, defense, and national security'”while negotiations continued.

President Bush hailed the formation of the new government as 'œa turning point in the struggle between freedom and terror,' and said that 'œas the new Iraqi government grows in confidence and capability, America will play an increasingly supporting role.' Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the London Guardian reported, will soon announce that troop withdrawals will begin in July. U.S. forces would be reduced from 135,000 troops to 100,000 by the end of 2006, the newspaper reported.

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What the editorials said

'œPurveyors of doom now have some explaining to do,' said National Review. If Iraq is in the midst of a full-scale civil war, how could the elected representatives of the major factions peacefully form a government representing all Iraqis? The road ahead will continue to be difficult, and 'œthe foreign jihadists aren't going away.' But as long as Iraq's leaders can solve their differences through compromise, 'œthe catastrophic collapse sought by the terrorists won't happen.'

Al-Maliki's coalition is a unity government in name only, said The New York Times. 'œOn the most important national issue'”reforming Iraq's corrupt, brutal, highly partisan security forces'”no unity has yet been achieved.' Above all, al-Maliki needs to get control of the Interior Ministry, which has allowed Shiite police units to run wild and murder hundreds of Sunnis.

What the columnists said

Well, it's a start, said Amir Taheri in the New York Post. The coalition looks like Iraq, and al-Maliki has proved himself to be more decisive and effective than Ibrahim al-Jaafari, his predecessor. But the prime minister has not yet forged a consensus on the biggest issues facing the country: how to combat the terrorist insurgency, what role the U.S.-led coalition should play, and how to stop the rampant corruption that's bleeding away valuable resources. Al-Maliki might be tempted to duck those questions, but fortunately, there's a vibrant opposition in parliament to keep him honest.

The formation of a new government proves the war's opponents are too gloomy, said Max Boot in the Los Angeles Times. 'œBut the aftermath also shows that the situation is not as sunny as some supporters of the war believe.' Bombings and sectarian killings remain daily occurrences, and Iraqi bloggers report that entire sections of Baghdad are now controlled by terrorists and murderous sectarian gangs. To bring the city under control, the U.S. needs to increase troop levels there from 8,600 soldiers to at least 35,000. 'œUnless the administration rethinks its dogmatic opposition to boots on the ground, the new Iraqi government will be hard-put to protect its people.'

The Washington Post

What next?

The New York Times

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