An Iraqi woman stands next to a cafe destroyed Wednesday by a car bomb attack in Baghdad's al-Shaab neighborhood. This week rapid-fire bombings and mortar strikes killed 62 and wounded about 300 across Baghdad. Now, Iraqi politicians are calling for parliament to convene, a potential sign that they are ready to form a government after months of political stalemate.
An Iraqi woman stands next to a cafe destroyed Wednesday by a car bomb attack in Baghdad's al-Shaab neighborhood. This week rapid-fire bombings and mortar strikes killed 62 and wounded about 300 across Baghdad. Now, Iraqi politicians are calling for parliament to convene, a potential sign that they are ready to form a government after months of political stalemate. Karim Kadim/AP
The temporary speaker of Iraq's parliament has called legislators into session next week, in a move that could finally end the long stalemate over how to form a government.
A rash of recent bombings and other violence in the capital might be what is jarring lawmakers into action.
The results of parliamentary elections in March were inconclusive, and politicians have been wrangling ever since over who will hold key posts, including prime minister. The Iraqi parliament has held only one official session since the elections. That session lasted 17 minutes.
Since then, politicians can be seen at parliament from time to time. But those are mostly meetings about meetings.
No party won a clear majority of seats in the March elections. And in the eight months of political wrangling since, a coalition has yet to emerge.
Now, it appears that a group including the Shiite parties of current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, along with Kurdish parties, could form a governing coalition.
But that scenario might exclude the party of Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite who has the backing of the country's Sunnis, and who took the most votes in the election.
The U.S. and regional powers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia worry that excluding Allawi would anger his secular and Sunni supporters and would prompt fresh sectarian violence.
This week a series of coordinated bombings targeting more than a dozen mostly Shiite neighborhoods shook Baghdad. The explosions killed 62 people and wounded some 300 more.
Maliki toured hospitals the day after the attacks, kissing survivors on the cheek. He promised patients that he would investigate the attacks, saying they were meant to disrupt the political process.
Hisham al-Hashemi, a historian who is writing a book about militant groups in Iraq, advises Iraqi security forces on militant behavior. He says the bombs in these attacks, most of which were planted in parked cars, did not bear the hallmark of al-Qaida.
"Because al-Qaida would bring the car bombs from outside the areas and into the areas, and also the ammunition or the explosives used were very primitive, they were like old," he says.
These explosives targeted Shiite civilians, Hashemi says, as a way to re-ignite sectarian violence and threaten the delicate alliance between Maliki and Sadr, whose militia, the Mahdi Army, was a key player in earlier civil strife. This could be why Maliki is pushing to form a government in the coming days, Hashemi says.
A deadly attack earlier this week, when militants seized a Catholic church, taking more than 100 people hostage, was the work of al-Qaida, Hashemi says. Fifty-eight people died during the takeover of the church and a subsequent raid by Iraqi counterterrorism forces.
At a recent funeral for the victims, survivors wondered aloud how the attack happened in the first place. If Maliki stays in power, they said, will he be able to provide security for his people?