BAGHDAD: Iraq’s new parliament postponed its next session for five weeks yesterday, extending the country’s political paralysis in the face of a Sunni Islamist insurgency which claimed the life of an army general on the northwestern outskirts of Baghdad.
Citing the inability of political camps to reach “understanding and agreement” on nominations for the top three posts in government, the office of acting speaker Mehdi Al Hafidh said parliament would not meet again until August 12. Putting off the work of reaching consensus for five weeks is a slap in the face to efforts by Iraq’s Shi’ite clergy, the United States, the United Nations and Iran, who have urged the swift formation of an inclusive government to hold the country together.
With no signs that Shia Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki will abandon his bid for a third term, his Sunni, Shia and Kurdish opponents warn there is a risk that Iraq will fragment along ethnic and sectarian lines. “Things are moving faster than the politicians can make decisions,” a senior Shia member of parliament said.
The Islamic State, an Al Qaeda offshoot, and a patchwork of Sunni insurgents are holding territory they seized in northern and western Iraq, the majority of it taken last month.
Kurds, who run their own autonomous region in northern Iraq, have taken advantage of the chaos to expand their territory.
Maliki’s opponents blame him for last month’s military defeats and want him to step aside. They accuse him of ruling for the Shia majority at the expense of the Sunni and Kurdish minorities.
Maliki’s bid for a third term as prime minister appears to be hanging in the balance.
A senior Iraqi general was killed in fighting with insurgents close to Baghdad yesterday, as the army fights to hold militants back from the capital.
Major General Negm Abdullah Ali, commander of the army’s sixth division, responsible for defending part of Baghdad, was killed just 16km northwest of the capital. A few hours later, four policemen and three civilians were killed when a suicide bomber drove a minivan packed with explosives into a checkpoint in the mainly Shia Kadhimiya district of northern Baghdad.