We have some very good news from Iraq. The Iraqi parliament met today to choose its leaders:
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq’s president formally designated Shiite politician Jawad al-Maliki to form a new government Saturday, starting a process aimed at healing ethnic and religious wounds and pulling the nation out of insurgency and sectarian strife.
The move ends months of political deadlock among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds that threatened to drag the nation into civil war. Al-Maliki has 30 days to present his Cabinet to parliament for approval.
Parliament elected President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to a second term and gave the post of parliament speaker to Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab. Al-Mashhadani’s two deputies were to be Khalid al-Attiyah, a Shiite, and Aref Tayfour, a Kurd.
The tough-talking al-Maliki was nominated by the Shiites on Friday after outgoing Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari gave up his bid for another term. Al-Jaafari’s attempt to stay in office was adamantly opposed by Sunnis and Kurds, causing a monthslong deadlock while the country’s security crisis worsened in the wake of December’s election.
U.S. and Iraqi officials hope that a national unity government representing Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds will be able to quell both the Sunni-led insurgency and bloody Shiite-Sunni violence that has raged during the political uncertainty. If it succeeds, it could enable the U.S. to begin withdrawing its 133,000 troops.
The Sunnis and Kurds said they would support al Maliki’s nomination.
Secretary Rice reacted positively:
WASHINGTON (Reuters)– U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Saturday the announcement that Jawad al-Maliki had been asked to head Iraq’s government was an “important milestone” and the Shi’ite politician was someone the United States could work with.
“This is a good day for Iraq. It is an important day for Iraq,” said Rice in a conference call with reporters.
“This is someone with whom we can work and we are looking forward to working with him,” added Rice, who personally traveled to Iraq this month to try and break the deadlock in forming Iraq’s first full-term government since U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein.
“There is finally going to be a permanent Iraqi government,” said Rice.
Rice said she had not met personally with Maliki but he was thought to be a strong figure capable of getting things done. She described him as an “Iraqi patriot” who was concerned with Iraq’s sovereignty.
This formation of a permanent unity government is not good news for the insurgents who have tried to spark a civil war between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. The Sunnis and Kurds are realizing that they do in fact have a say in how the government will be run and the Shi’ites have learned they don’t have supreme power even though they are the majority in Iraq.
Gateway Pundit reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani was the guiding force in this government coming together by telling the Shi’ites to get themselves in gear. This meant that Ibrahim al-Jaafari had to step down.
Update: Omar at Iraq the Model live blogged the Iraqi Parliament meeting.