Iraq's new government raises hopes even as key ministries go unfilled
Iraq unveiled a broad-based government Tuesday that includes all the country's major religious and ethnic factions. The key security and military affairs ministries remain open.
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The Obama administration was more eager to celebrate nearing the end of months of behind-the-scenes wrangling that had left U.S. policy priorities in limbo.Skip to next paragraph
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"Today, Iraq's political leaders delivered what Iraq's people deserved and expected: an inclusive, national partnership government that reflects the results of Iraq's elections," Vice President Joe Biden, the White House's point man on Iraq, said in a statement.
Maliki's immediate challenges, experts said, are to create the post for Allawi and to name the ministers to handle defense, interior and national security.
Beyond that, it was unclear how Maliki — who alienated allies during his first term and was criticized for concentrating too much power with his Dawa Party of Shiite Islamists — would manage a coalition that spans the full spectrum of Iraqi politics, from staunch secularists to radical Islamists and northern Kurds.
"To get such a diverse group of individuals and parties together, that's not an easy thing to do," said Shadi Hamid, a Middle East expert with the Brookings Institution, a research center in Washington.
"But it's a very unwieldy thing they have here. How Maliki keeps all the different factions and individuals, a lot of them antagonistic and working at cross-purposes, under a central authority. ... It could be a very messy thing."
One key question mark is the role of Sadr, the hard-line cleric whose militiamen violently opposed U.S. forces but in recent years have tried to recast themselves as a political organization. Sadrists were named to head eight ministries, including the influential Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.
None of the ministers announced Tuesday were women, a fact that Alaa Talabani, a Kurdish parliamentarian, said amounted to a "slaughtering of democracy."
Tuesday evening, hours after the announcement, the streets of the Iraqi capital were subdued. Few seemed in a mood to celebrate the start of their new government. It wasn't clear whether this was because the wait had been so long, the task ahead was too monumental — or it wasn't itself much of an accomplishment.
"I see a government that (is) designed to serve political parties rather than a government that can serve people's needs right now," Rahman Aljebouri, an Iraq expert at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, wrote in an e-mail. "Also it seems this new democratic system in Iraq doesn't believe in women's leadership too."
(Dulaimy is a McClatchy special correspondent. Special correspondents Laith Hammoudi and Sahar Issa contributed to this article.)