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Iraq: New Cabinet Expected As Attacks Mount

Prague, 25 April 2005 (RFE/RL) – As Iraqi politicians continue to wrangle over the makeup of a cabinet nearly three months after historic national voting, violence is on the rise again following the relative lull that followed the parliamentary elections.

At least 15 people were reported killed in a double bombing in Baghdad's al-Shoula neighborhood yesterday. At least seven people were killed in a similar double bombing to the north in Tikrit.

Analysts link the increase of violence with the political stalemate, which has dragged on for three months.

Jeremy Binnie, a Middle East analyst with "Jane's Sentinel" in London, said that insurgents have managed to regroup after the psychological blow dealt them by the success of elections on 30 January.

"They [insurgents] might have taken a bit of encouragement from the delays in forming the new Iraqi government and maybe they might capitalize on that," Binnie said.

Politicians have said they hope appointing a new cabinet will decrease the number of attacks. But Binnie said a lot depends on whether the government will be inclusive of all Iraq’s communities.

The U.S. administration appears impatient with a political stalemate. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney are reported to be urging Shi'ite and Kurdish politicians to come together and form a new government.
"I saw a report today saying that there are now almost 90 candidates for the 31 ministerial posts. So they will have to choose from them."

Kamran al-Karadaghi, an Iraq expert at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in London, said that Iraqi voters are also impatient with the delay.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for Prime Minister-designate al-Ja'fari to get a cabinet or face a challenge to his position. Under Iraq's transitional law, a new prime minister would have to be chosen if al-Ja'fari fails to name a cabinet by 7 May. The 275-member Iraqi National Assembly must approve the cabinet.

However, al-Karadaghi said there is no sign when the squabbling will end. He said many political parties and sectarian groups are claiming the same cabinet posts.

"I saw a report today saying that there are now almost 90 candidates for the 31 ministerial posts," al-Karadaghi said. "So, they will have to choose from them."

Al-Karadaghi said that the main competing groups are Sunnis and Shi’a.

The analyst says that Sunni groups both inside and outside the parliament are seeking ministerial posts and their interests are strongly pushed by Iraqi Vice President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir. The analyst says that despite the fact the Sunni boycotted the elections, they still might get some important cabinet seats for the sake of stability in the country.

A political struggle is also under way between different Shi'ite groups.

In interview Sunday, Ali al-Adib, a Shiite member of the National Assembly and a leader of the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, said that the group led by outgoing Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is excluded from the negotiations. Many Shi’a in the ruling Iraqi Alliance believe Allawi is too sympathetic to Sunnis and also proved to be too soft on former members of Ba'ath Party.

However, al-Karadaghi said the composition of the cabinet might be announced soon.

"There is a real sense of frustration among the public in Iraq in general," al-Karadaghi said. "So I think the political parties themselves are also concerned about the delay. They understand that it is creating problems. So everybody suddenly is now talking about really a few days [until the composition of the government is announced]."

Binnie said the appointment of the cabinet will provide no magic wand. He said it is difficult to believe that the Sunnis --- the former rulers of the country -- will be represented in the cabinet as strongly as they want. He also said it is likely the cabinet will be involved in in-fighting and unlikely that daily life and security will suddenly get better.

Binnie warned that such problems could provide continued good recruiting conditions for the insurgency which, so far, shows no signs of going away.