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Parliamentary session concerning new Iraqi government fails

Refugees flee fallout of militant offensive in Iraq
Refugees flee fallout of militant offensive in Iraq
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It has become apparent that the formation of a new Iraqi government will not come to fruition in the very near future. The first parliamentary session failed miserably, before even reaching the two hour mark, when minority Kurds and Sunnis made a unified and speedy exit after the recess. The deadlock occurred as militant offensive continues across many areas of Iraq and Syria. According to the UN, a record high of civilian casualties was set in June.

The offensive was spearheaded over the last 21 days, led by fighters from the Levant and the Islamic State of Iraq, the latter of which is an al-Qaida breakaway group. This offensive has thrown Iraq into its worst crisis since 2011, when United States troops were withdrawn.

The Sunni militant group's victories have seemingly surged as of June, 2014, when it went head-to-head with majority Shiite regions, with plans to consolidate its control of major areas of land. This action has smoked out the many grievances between the country's Sunni minority and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite rule. The proceedings were ended by Acting Speaker, Mahdi al-Hafidh, after the majority of the 328 member legislature–made up of Kurdish and Sunni lawmakers–did not return after what was intended to be a brief recess. This deprived the parliament of a quorum and subsequently ended the session.

The deadlock, which was anticipated in spite of strong political pressure to come to a fast agreement, will only prolong what has already been an absolute political fiasco as blocs attempt to choose a new president, prime minister and speaker of parliament. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's top Shiite cleric, pleaded with legislators over a week ago to come to an agreement on the aforementioned posts prior to Tuesday's meeting for the purpose of avoiding additional months of deadlock that would only serve to cause further instability in the country.

The primary point is the position of prime minister, who controls the majority of power. Under an informal system created after the United States-led invasion in 2003, the Prime Minister of Iraq is selected from the Shiite community, the speaker of Parliament from the Sunni community, and the president from the Kurdish minority.

Al-Maliki, in power since 2006, has been unceasingly pressured to step down. Kurds and Sunnis are demanding that al-Maliki be replaced, citing broken promises and his alleged desire to monopolize power. However, al-Maliki has not indicated that he will even consider this course of action. His bloc won the most votes in April's elections, which gave him the option of forming a new government. Unfortunately, political calculations have been altered by the current Iraqi crisis, and many of those who formerly supported al-Maliki, up to and including his primary patron, Iran, are now exploring avenues through which he can be replaced.

Nevertheless, al-Maliki has quite an impressive track record with regard to outsmarting his enemies and retaining power. However, he must have allies to do so, which sets the stage for what could potentially be a long, complicated, negotiation process.

Before the brief session came to its abrupt end, Najiba Najib, a Kurdish lawmaker, told the government to reverse the embargo concerning the Kurdistan region, which has not received its share of the budget since the end of January.

As everyone filed out, Khazim al-Sayadi, a Shiite legislator from the al-Maliki bloc shouted that the heads of those who downed the flag of Iraq will be crushed. It was assumed that Kurshish forces were the individuals to whom he was referring. It was those forces that entered disputed territories south of their autonomous zone following the security collapses that took place during the militant offensive.

Obviously, there is now an urgent need for new government that can keep the country intact after this Islamic State of Iraq/Levant offensive that has now overrun the majority of western and northern Iraq. It remains to be seen when and if such a government can be established.