Well, So Much For That Unity Government In Iraq

At least for now, it doesn’t appear that efforts to form a unity government in Iraq are going anywhere:

BAGHDAD — Sunnis and Kurds walked out of the first session of the Iraqi Parliament on Tuesday, imperiling efforts to form a new government in the face of a bitter offensive by Sunni militants.

After the new Parliament took a short recess after less than an hour of debate, Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers did not return. There were not enough lawmakers present for a quorum, forcing the session to be adjourned for at least a week.

Spokesmen for the party of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki blamed Kurds and Sunnis for the impasse, provoking countercharges that Shiite leaders were not ready to make a serious deal. The day’s events also ended hopes of an early resolution to Iraq’s political crisis, even as insurgents mount a violent challenge north and west of the capital.

The walkout represented a rejection of calls by Shiite religious leaders who had demanded agreement on the speedy formation of a government that included Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites.


Underscoring the threat from the militants, the United Nations announced that June had been the deadliest month in Iraq for many years.

The violent death toll in Iraq, except Anbar Province, during June was 2,417 people. By far the largest category of fatalities was civilians, with more than 1,500 dead, followed by 886 members of Iraq’s beleaguered security forces, according to United Nations statistics.

The fatalities were four times higher than in May, before the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria began its offensive to take Mosul and much of northern Iraq on June 10.

The death toll was one of the highest monthly figures for Iraq, reaching a level of violence not seen there since 2008, according to the United Nations. In May, according to the data, 799 people were killed in Iraq, including 240 members of the security forces. The figures do not take into account Anbar Province, much of which has been under the control of ISIS-led insurgents and where the United Nations has no presence. The United Nations cited Health Ministry officials in Anbar as recording 244 civilians killed and 588 injured from June 1-29, bringing the total violent death toll for the country in June to at least 2,661.

At this point, one can only think that things will get worse, especially if Iraqis are unable to form a government that at least makes an effort to solve some of the sectarian problems that have fueled the current crisis. In that case, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider that partition idea that Joe Biden had about six or seven years ago.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    This might be a good time for me to repeat what I said several weeks ago. The problem isn’t just Maliki. Any foreseeable Shi’ite Iraqi politician would have done just what he has done.

    The potential roles for us with respect to Iraq are colonial governor, referee/punching bag, customer, or critic from a distance. The other roles being discussed including midwife to a partitioned Iraq are just not in the cards. If the Iraqis don’t want Iraq to be partitioned, our partitioning it for them will be quite a chore in the absence of role #1.

    I think the available evidence suggests that both Sunni and Shi’ite Arab Iraqis want national unity on their own terms.

    As to how benign a Kurdish state might be we can only guess. I think the picture the Kurds have been painting for the last several years has been, well, somewhat exaggerated. That is, unless it’s just a coincidence that the leaders of the two Kurdish political parties are also the hereditary leaders of their two most powerful tribal factions.

  2. @Dave Schuler:

    The real problem with a Kurdish state is that there are significant Kurdish populations in the bordering areas of Iran and Turkey, so neither country is going to permit Kurdish separatism to succeed in Iraq.

  3. Tillman says:

    At this point, the Sunnis don’t really trust the Shiites anyway. Maliki has made promises before that he has reneged on over and over again.

  4. bill says:

    oh, this is immaterial- obama’s still prez and none of this is his responsibility. hey look, the scotus just dissed women…..idiots.

  5. Robin Cohen says:

    Maliki has already said he does not want a unified government.
    If he remains in power, continued tribal warfare will prevail.
    If he is ousted, who has the skill to create a functioning government?
    Our current mission creep is unacceptable. Time for the Middle East to
    attempt to unify the many nations in a common bond to create peace in the region.
    If they cannot or will not stand up as a region of common goals, it is time for the US to walk away. Far too many Americans have been injured or killed because the broken Middle East is unwilling to repair itself.

  6. CET says:

    I’m with Doug – I have yet to hear a credible argument for why partition would be significantly worse than the status quo (or rather, where the status quo is headed absent partition). Sure, the Kurds might not be a liberal democracy, but if whatever they have works for them, so be it. It sounds like Turkey might be coming around to the possibility of a semi-autonomous Kurdish region, and Iran has plenty of other things to worry about right now.

    As for the Shiite/Sunni fighting, it’s absurd and horrifying, but history pretty strongly indicates that when both sides are determined to have a war, it’s going to happen. Westerners have this funny notion that just because many of our nations managed to cobble together relatively peaceful democratic systems in the last century or two*, that it’s somehow a normal state of being, and not an exceptional and fragile aberration from millennia of war and conquest and ethnic or religious cleansing. But I guess that’s what comes from having a short cultural memory and a woefully under-performing public education system . . .

    *Peaceful, other than that one war that devastated most of Europe, and that other war that also laid waste to continental Europe, along with the massive ethnic cleansing of Europe’s Jews, and where the US used atomic weapons to wipe a couple of Japanese cities off the map. And the Franco-Prussian war, and the American Civil war, and so on, back as far as history is recorded.

  7. Robin Cohen says:

    Isn’t the real issue why we are getting involved again, for a third time in this backward country’s internal struggles? Obama is obtuse. He refuses to admit previous involvements have achieved nothing and he’s back to the old mission creep. If I were Maliki, I would let the US drain it’s military and it’s treasury for no useful purpose too. Why not? Costs Iraq nothing. Two heads of Government incompetent at their jobs. Both deserve to be thrown out of office.