Iraq’s new Prime Minister may be more popular than the divisive Mr. Maliki, but he has his work cut out for him in forming a new government. Both the Kurdish and Sunni members of Iraq’s Parliament have a long list of conditions they expect Mr. Abadi to meet in return for their support, the Financial Times writes:
The list of grievances and demands of Iraq’s Kurds and Sunnis, who feel they were discriminated against and sidelined by former premier Nouri al-Maliki, is endless, and some politicians say they expect some 300 to 400 laws to amended, issued or abolished. […]Most crucially, the Kurds are eager to get back eight months of budget revenues that Mr Maliki withheld over a dispute on oil exports. They want a modified oil and gas law that would allow independent Kurdish exports. And they want Baghdad to help fund their peshmerga forces, who, despite setbacks, are still more intact than Iraq’s army, which melted away during Isis’s June blitz.
Iraq’s Sunnis have their own wish list:
They want Mr Abadi to give them a greater share in Iraq’s Shia-dominated political and legal branches. They are also demanding an amnesty for tens of thousands of Sunnis arrested without trial, the formation of militias to help fight Isis, and a pledge for greater Sunni self-rule in a more regionalised federal system.
According to the FT, the Kurds are playing “hardball,” while the Sunnis may be more amenable to compromise. Even so, Abadi may be more willing to work with the Sunnis, as he needs their help to eradicate ISIS from Sunni-majority areas.
The Kurds may be glad to have some leverage after the many months during which Baghdad used its oil might to thwart Kurdistan’s bid for independence bid. However, as one pundit opines to the FT, the Kurds’ intransigence may only be for show; Baghdad still controls their budget, and they may eventually fall back into line despite their dreams of independence.
Mr. Abadi’s ascent to power presents Iraq with a great opportunity for unity and, ultimately, victory over ISIS. But even the threat of psychotic militants raging through the country can’t put a stop to political infighting. As Iraq’s factions try to get the best deal possible out of this new government, Abadi will have to work hard to keep the country from becoming even more divided than it already is.