New Iraqi leader seeks unity
The hard-line Shiite premier now leads the wrangling over another 32 cabinet posts.
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And if Maliki does move on the militias, he will also risk alienating his most important supporters. His nomination relied on the support of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the largest Shiite party, and the political movement of Moqtada al-Sadr.Skip to next paragraph
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Both groups have large militias of their own. Iraq's Sunni Arab politicians have complained in recent months that SCIRI has packed the Interior Ministry, which controls the police, with members of its Badr militia, which has been accused of killing scores of Sunni Arabs. Mr. Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, largely controls the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City.
How Maliki will work with the US is, for the moment, also uncertain. While his attitude has been accommodating, the US worked behind the scenes to help scuttle the nomination of his colleague Jaafari, and in the past Maliki has shown suspicion to US intentions.
His Dawa party was opposed to the US invasion and refused to participate in US-organized opposition conferences before the war. He told a Lebanese newspaper in December 2002 that the US was seeking to turn Iraqi opposition groups into "obedient tools to implement [US] designs."
To be sure, some Sunni leaders say they intend to give Maliki the benefit of the doubt.
"From the beginning we knew that al-Jaafari was a thinker and not a manager, while the hard work was done by others, like al-Maliki, so [Maliki] should be more able to do the job,'' says Iyad al-Sammarai, a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of the main Sunni groups. "Yes there was some sectarian talk in the past, but during our talks with him he showed goodwill, a willingness to achieve security, so we'll give him a chance."
Nevertheless, Mr. Sammarai says the honeymoon will be short, if Sunni's aren't satisfied the country is moving in the right direction. "We're giving him the same chance we gave Jaafari, we gave Jaafari support at first, but he didn't deliver."
Mashadani and Talabani could also prove divisive. Mashadani, an opponent of Iraq's Constitution, has in the past referred to the use of Shiite militias by the Interior Ministry as "terrorism."
Talabani leads the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of two main Kurdish parties whose constituents say they want full independence from Iraq and a dramatic increase in their semi-autonomous regions in the interim, something Shiites and Sunnis are opposed to.
For now, Iraqis hope the new government will be a significant step to ending the violence here.
"Security is everything,'' says Ahmed Abbas, a physical education teacher in central Baghdad, who says he watched the parliament session in frustration as politician after politician complained about the hall's malfunctioning air-conditioning.
"I guess it's a new Iraq in the Green Zone - at least they have air-conditioning,'' he says, explaining the portable generator he relies on isn't good enough for more than a fan. "When is it going to change out here?"