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A Fragile Coalition Holds Iraq Together

Author: Mohamad Bazzi, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
December 25, 2010
New Straits Times

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After nine months of political paralysis and bickering, Iraq finally has a new government. On Tuesday, the Iraqi Parliament approved the cabinet put forth by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Unfortunately, this is not the end of Iraq's political troubles. The recent compromise that allowed Maliki to secure a second term as prime minister will lead to continued instability because Maliki had to cobble together a government out of factions that are distrustful of him and one another. There is little hope that Iraqis will be able to govern themselves without falling prey to political deadlock, proxy battles and foreign interference.

Maliki was forced to divvy up positions to satisfy the political partners that kept him in power. Under pressure from Iran, the anti-American Shia ulama Moqtada al-Sadr finally agreed to support Maliki's bid for a second term on Oct 1, the day that Iraq surpassed the world record -- 207 days -- for the time between a parliamentary election and the formation of a government.

With Sadr's support, Maliki was able to reach a deal with other factions, especially the Kurds. That allowed Maliki to secure a majority in the 325-seat Parliament, which is necessary to approve a new cabinet.

Under the agreement that finally ended the political standoff, Maliki's main rival, Iyad Allawi -- a former premier whose Iraqiya coalition won two more seats in the election than Maliki's slate -- grudgingly agreed to drop his bid for the prime minister's post.

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