Iraqi Cabinet suspends Sunni-backed ministers
Al-Maliki waves during the celebrations for the anniversary of the Iraqi Army. REUTERS PhotoIraq’s Shiite-dominated Cabinet suspended boycotting Sunni-backed ministers on Jan. 17, an official said, deepening a sectarian conflict of politics and violence that has raised fears of civil war in Iraq now that U.S. troops are gone.
The Sunni-based Iraqiya bloc started its boycott last month to protest an arrest warrant against the Sunni vice president on terrorism charges. The official, Tareq al-Hashemi, denied the allegations and fled to the autonomous Kurdish area of northern Iraq, out of reach of authorities in Baghdad a move that itself underlines the sectarian divisions in Iraq and the challenge of keeping the country together after the exit of U.S. forces a month ago. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the Cabinet decided that the ministers who have failed to attend sessions are no longer “allowed to manage ministries, and all decisions that will be signed by them are invalid.” The Iraqiya ministers would be allowed back into the Cabinet if they end their boycott, al-Dabbagh said.
Iraqiya spokeswoman Maysoun Damluji charged that the suspension is part of the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s efforts to sideline the Sunni-backed alliance and cement his own grip on power. Only one of nine Iraqiya ministers broke with the bloc’s boycott and attended Cabinet session on Jan. 17, Damluji said. “It’s an escalation by al-Maliki to push Iraqiya away,” Damluji said. Meanwhile, the leader of Iraq’s main Sunni-backed bloc, Iyad Allawi, called on Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki yesterday to respect a power-sharing agreement or step down. He said that Iraq needs a new prime minister or new elections to prevent the country from falling apart just weeks after the U.S. military withdrawal.
The political crisis is the worst since the power-sharing government was formed a year ago following an inconclusive 2010 election. It divided posts in government and the presidency among Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims and ethnic Kurds.