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Iraq's government on ice, again

July 7, 2014

Iraq won't have a government for over a month, after lawmakers delayed a key parliament session. The ongoing political bickering highlights fears that prospects for fighting off an Islamist-led advance are distant.

Iraq's parliament meets July 1
Image: Reuters

Iraqi lawmakers have postponed a parliament session scheduled for Tuesday, once again delaying the formation of the country's government.

The setback comes as one of the latest regional terror groups, "the Islamic State," or ISIS in its former acronym until a June 30 name change, continues its swift advance, having already overrun swaths of territory across five provinces and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

The UN's special envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, has warned that further delays in forming a government would risk plunging Iraq into "Syria-like chaos." On Monday, he called for political blocs to "limit the number of days for final negotiations, and work within constitutionally mandated timelines for the necessary nominations."

Over two months after elections in which Maliki's camp won the most seats, though not a majority, the current parliament has yet to make progress on filling the top three positions - split, according to an unofficial deal, among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities. The parliament met for the first time on July 1. One session last week saw lawmakers threaten and heckle each other, eventually adjourning as members of parliament walked out.

Rebels led by the ISIS group appeared have advanced on Baghdad. Iraq's military lost a senior general on Monday.

Lieutenant General Qassem Atta told the news agency AFP that Staff Major General Najim Abdullah Ali, commander of the army's 6th division, died just 16 kilometers (10 miles) west of Baghdad Monday in "hostile shelling."

Since late June, security forces have tried to retake the Sunni stronghold of Tikrit from a loose alliance of ISIS fighters, other groups and former Saddam Hussein loyalists, but have so far failed to do so.
On Monday in Baghdad, a suicide bomber struck the northern entrance to the Shiite-majority Kazimiyah area on Monday, killing at least eight people and wounding about 15, officials said.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)