Sunnis and Kurds staged a walkout of Iraq’s first parliamentary meeting on Tuesday after Shiites could not name a prime minister to replace Nuri al-Maliki. The move diminishes Iraq’s chances of establishing a unity government. Al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated State of Law Coalition declined to make any meaningful compromises during Iraq’s first parliamentary gathering since elections earlier this spring. About 255 out of the 328 Parliamentarians joined the meeting, however 90 of them failed to return after a 30-minute morning recess. According to Iraq’s constitution, lawmakers must now select a new prime minister within 75 days. With no party holding a majority of the seats in parliament, Iraq’s diverse political parties must unite to elect the country’s new leader.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waits to take an oath at the parliament building in Baghdad, Dec. 21, 2010. (Photo: Reuters)
As the politicians squabbled, armed extremists continue to consolidate their grip over western Iraq. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) urged his militants to increase their attacks during the month of Ramadan, which began Sunday, and declared himself “the caliph” and “leader for Muslims everywhere.” An estimated 2,417 Iraqis, including 1,531 civilians, were killed in June.
In response to ISIS’s advance, the Obama Administration has sent an additional 300 troops to Iraq, reportedly to secure the U.S. Embassy, the Baghdad airport, and other facilities. Another 300 U.S. advisers will also train the country’s security forces. President Obama stated in his letter to the House of Representatives on Monday that the “force is deploying for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property” and that it will “remain in Iraq until…it is no longer needed.” The president did not specify direct U.S. action in Iraq, even as Baghdad has called for American-led airstrikes on ISIS targets.