Iraqi Vice President Khader al Khuzaei issued a decree for the country's new parliament to convene on July 1, a step towards creating a coalition government amid deepening international concern of a larger regional crisis.
Speaking in a televised speech Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to stick to the timeline to create a new government. However, as CNN reports, Mr. Maliki went on to blame his own political rivals for “coordinating” the ongoing conflict in Iraq, specifically accusing Sunnis of aiding the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Maliki has rebuffed calls for the creation of an inclusive emergency coalition as US diplomats and others have urged.
There are no guarantees that the process to create a new government will move forward swiftly. In 2010 it took nine months to seat a government. Reuters reports that after Parliament meets they “will then have 30 days to name a president and 15 days after that to name a prime minister although the process has been delayed in the past."
In an interview with BBC, Maliki confirmed today what many already suspected: Syrian fighter jets on Tuesday bombed militant areas near the town of Qaim, something that the leader said he “welcomed” but hadn’t asked for.
Syrian involvement in the conflict in Iraq has prompted warnings from international leaders that the Iraqi conflict could morph into a larger regional one. Speaking yesterday in Brussels, Secretary of State John Kerry said:
“We’ve made it clear to everyone in the region that we don't need anything to take place that might exacerbate the sectarian divisions that are already at a heightened level of tension. It's already important that nothing take place that contributes to the extremism or could act as a flash point with respect to the sectarian divide.”
The threat posed by ISIS has brought together an unlikely grouping of states with the US, Syria, and Iran all hoping for stability in Iraq. The BBC’s Jim Muir notes how the search for stability makes for strange bedfellows:
“The Syrian air strikes show how the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are merging together, with ISIS as a common factor. Once-rival fighters on the Syrian side of the border at Qaim have now pledged allegiance to ISIS, giving it control of both sides. If US drones are not yet involved, they soon could be, illustrating how the threat posed by ISIS is creating a convergence of interests between players who so far have been adversaries. That goes for Iran, too, which is deeply concerned about the sudden upheavals in Iraq.”
Maliki also revealed in the BBC interview that Iraq recently purchased used Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia and Belarus and they would shortly be used. Maliki said he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone last week.
The UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague arrived in Baghdad today. Mr. Hague was quoted by BBC Arabic saying, “As a friend of Iraq, the UK believes the urgent priority must be to form an inclusive government that can command the support of all Iraqi people and work to stop [ISIS] in its tracks.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reports today that militants seized a town an hour outside Baghdad, home to four natural gas fields.