On Tuesday, acting speaker Mehdi al-Hafidh said parliament would hold its next session on Sunday, July 14, instead of August 12. US State Department officials had cited the "dire situation on the ground" and urged the lawmakers to resolve their impasse, and in the end it seemed that the members of parliament agreed.
"Any delay in this could jeopardize the security of Iraq and its democratic course and increase the suffering of the Iraqi people," Hafidh said on Tuesday.
Political opponents of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have warned that his bid for a third term risks contributing to Iraq's fragmenting along ethnic and sectarian lines. The reasons for the deadlock over the nomination of the top three posts in government - prime minister, president, and speaker, normally held by a Shiite, a Kurd and a Sunni, respectively - coincide with sectarian violence in the country.
'Islamic State' advances
Compared to other regions of Iraq hit in an offensive launched in June by a well-financed group then called the "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant" (ISIS), but now shortened to simply the "Islamic State," Baghdad has seen few attacks. That changed Tuesday, when the predominately Sunni Muslim ISIS posted photos online of two men with scarves covering their faces and posing in front of its black and white flag. ISIS identified the men as bombers in two recent attacks in Baghdad and said they came from Lebanon and Libya.
A blast at a cafe in Baghdad's Washash district killed five Sunday. On Monday, an explosion killed four police and three civilians at a checkpoint in Kadhimiya, a northern neighborhood of the capital.
ISIS and affiliated groups have also arrived in the western Baghdad suburbs and cities to the north. Clashes have also erupted to the south. On Tuesday, two bombs just north of Baghdad killed at least eight people, six of them police.
The military, backed by Shiite militias and volunteers, has yet to take back any major city but has made efforts since late June to advance on Tikrit, the longtime dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown in the Salahuddin province. On Tuesday, the army announced that it had "cleansed" the road from Baghdad to Samarra, 100 kilometers to the north, but that ISIS and affiliated groups continued to launch attacks on security forces on the road.
Last week, the United Nations announced that violence had led to the deaths of more than 2,400 Iraqis in June, over half of them civilians.
mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)