Iraqis formed a coalition government, which took office yesterday. The agreement between party blocs representing the three major groups, the Shi’ite Arabs, the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds, ended eight months of negotiations after no one bloc won a majority of seats in the parliamentary elections. The party led by Sunni Arab leader, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, had won two more seats than the party led by Shi’ite Arab leader and current Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, but was unable to gain a majority.
The major point of contention was power-sharing with the minority Sunni Arabs, who were accustomed to being in power under the Baathist regime. Although they protested some of the details of the implementation of the agreement, one of the members of the Sunni Arab party will serve as Speaker of Parliament, while Allawi will head an agency on security, the powers of which are undetermined. Sunni Arab participation is critical to ending the Sunni Arab insurgency, while the pro-Iranian Arab Shi’ite faction led by Muqtada al-Sadr is part of al-Maliki’s coalition. Like the Sunni Arab insurgents, al-Sadr has suspended his insurgency. President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, continues in office.
Most Iraqis voted by ethnic affiliation. The near-plurality won by the incumbent al-Maliki suggests a lack of dissatisfaction for the Iraqi government’s policies. The al-Maliki government is credited with greatly improving Iraqi security.
The election again consummates Iraq’s parliamentary democracy, although the power-sharing agreement remains fragile. The parties must continue to work together to share power, just as they have been sharing revenue from Iraq’s oil industry, in order to avoid another outbreak of sectarian violence between them. They must also better protect other minorities, such as the several hundred thousand Iraqi Arab Christians, who have been under devastating attack recently by militant Muslims intending to rekindle sectarian violence in the hope of killing Iraq’s fledgling democracy.
I congratulate the Iraqis on their accomplishment. The Obama Administration also deserves credit for having encouraged the three Iraqi groups to share power. Ironically, United States President Barak Obama commemorated Veterans’ Day in South Korea yesterday. He rejected the notion that in the Korean War, American and allied troops had “played to a tie.” Observing South Korea’s thriving parliamentary democracy, Obama rightly declared that the Korean War was “a victory.” I wish that he would also refer to the Liberation of Iraq as “a victory.”