Iraqi Govt Patchwork Alliance May Struggle to Survive

Lasting peace and stability depends on resolving outstanding disputes with the Kurds on oil, revenue-sharing, security and the disputed territories (Kirkuk in particular). The Kurds, rather than exploiting their kingmaker position to take a stronger proportion of ministries in Baghdad (they are taking just one major portfolio – the foreign ministry), are instead banking on guarantees from Maliki to implement their list of 19 demands that includes resolving the above disputes in their favour.

They may have been naive, though. With their historical and federalist partners, the Islamic supreme council of Iraq in decline, the Kurds may be isolated in the new government – a government dominated by the nationalistic and centrist characteristics of the INM, the Sadrists and indeed State of Law.

Maliki may, therefore, turn out to be unable to grant concessions even if he wanted to and could use Osama Nujayfi, the new ultra-nationalist speaker of parliament and Kurdish foe, to absorb the Kurdish criticism and insulate himself from any attacks.

Then comes the role of Iraq's empowered Sunni representatives, the INM. Their complaints have centred on under-representation and what they called the dominance of the Iranian-backed Shia. Whether they intend to play a positive or obstructive role in government will depend on the extent to which their own agenda has changed.

It is a question of whether they still harbour suspicions towards Maliki and contest his legitimacy (in which case they will seek to utilise their newfound power to undermine him and the country) or, alternatively, whether they are now seriously committed to bridging the sectarian divide and steering Iraq away from instability.

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