Iraq’s new, diverse leaders

Will Iraq embrace it’s new leaders?

Ending weeks of deadlock, the Iraqi National Assembly this week named its top government officials. The leadership positions have been carefully portioned out so that each major ethnic group is represented. The most powerful post, prime minister, is going to Shiite politician Ibrahim Jafari, who is expected to name his Cabinet soon. The new president is Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish party leader who was a fierce opponent of Saddam Hussein. His vice presidents are Ghazi Yawar, a Sunni tribal leader who was president of the outgoing interim government, and Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shiite who was finance minister in that government. The speaker of the National Assembly is Hachim Hassani, a Sunni who was industry minister in the outgoing government.

While the assembly was debating the appointments over the past two weeks, insurgent attacks increased. A large, coordinated assault on the notorious Abu Ghraib prison left 40 U.S. soldiers wounded, and marked the first time insurgents have engaged in open, head-on combat with coalition forces. Targeted assassinations picked up as well; a dozen prominent Iraqis, including local council members, were killed. Kidnappings, mostly for ransom, also continued. Iraq's top police official was nabbed off the street this week.

The violence won't stop just because a government is formed, said Trudy Rubin in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The ongoing insurgent attacks are largely a 'œSunni effort to regain power.' The Sunni minority was privileged under Saddam, and most Sunnis boycotted the January vote for this new assembly, afraid that the majority Shiites would want revenge. The way to end the insurgency is to convince the Sunnis that the new government will be fair to them.

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It's far from clear that this government can do that, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. Hassani, the new National Assembly speaker, may be a Sunni, but he is considered 'œsuspect' because of 'œhis secularity and U.S. education.' Many Sunnis already mistrust Hassani because he served in the U.S.'“appointed interim government. The latest developments are promising, but 'œfor now, Iraq's existence as a unified country is not assured.'

The Washington Post

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