Through the Wire

Iraq: Sunni-backed Bloc Boycotts Parliament

December 18, 2011
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi Sunni-backed political bloc suspended its participation in parliament to protest the control of key posts by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a reminder of the fragile political and sectarian situation as last U.S. soldiers rolled out of the country on Sunday.

Also in Baghdad, a bomb exploded near shops selling car parts in an eastern neighborhood, killing two people and wounding four others, police and hospital officials said. The attack was the latest in the nearly daily violence — low-level but still deadly — that continues to bleed Iraq as the Americans end their nearly 9-year war here.

The boycott decision by Iraqiya bloc, headed by Ayad Allawi, was in response to the government's failure to share more powers, particularly the authorities over the security forces, said Sunni lawmaker Hamid al-Mutlaq, a member of the bloc.

"We are against the concentration of security powers in the hands of one person, that is the prime minister," said al-Mutlaq.

The Iraqiya bloc narrowly won the most seats in last year's parliamentary election, but Allawi was outmaneuvered by al-Maliki, who kept the premier's post after cobbling together key support from Shiite parties.

For over a year now, al-Maliki has effectively controlled the Interior and Defense Ministries, which oversee the police and military, while conflicts between Sunni and Shiite politicians have delayed the appointment of permanent ministers.

The dispute underlines how the U.S. is leaving behind an Iraq still riven by sectarian division. The United States completed its withdrawal from the country, with the last troops crossing the border into neighboring Kuwait early Sunday. Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated Baath party regime, the Sunni minority has constantly complained of attempts by the Shiite majority to sideline them.

Al-Mutlaq warned that Iraqiya could take a further step if its demands are not met — pulling its seven ministers out of al-Maliki's coalition government.

In a statement issued Saturday, Iraiqya bloc criticized the "unjustified" random arrests conducted by the government's security forces against Sunni areas.

The boycott decision came as the parliament is preparing to discuss a series of important laws such as oil and gas law and the budget.

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