This thing is going nowhere. From the Chicago Tribune:
Tuesday’s session was called off because of an electricity blackout. Wednesday’s was dominated by a debate on whether to sue Al Jazeera TV network over comments deemed insulting to the top Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Thursday’s was adjourned in an uproar after only 30 minutes when the speaker accused the parliamentarians of responsibility for the violence raging in Iraq, prompting an angry walkout.
At no point were any of the core issues on which U.S. officials are demanding progress addressed—because they haven’t even been presented yet.
“When the Shiites agree, the Kurds say no. When the Sunnis agree, the Shiites say no. When the Kurds agree, the Sunnis say no,” said Christian parliament member Yonadem Kanna. “This is the problem we have. Everything is stuck.”
Since President Bush first spelled out the benchmarks in a speech announcing his new Iraq strategy in January, there has been little discernible progress on any of them. Draft laws languish in government offices, or on al-Maliki’s desk, or in the office of the speaker of parliament, awaiting the still elusive consensus between Iraq’s factions that would be required for them to be enacted.
Some of the issues have been lingering for months. Though a draft oil law was approved by Iraq’s Cabinet in February, it has yet to be presented to parliament. Sunnis and Kurds say they will oppose the law as it is written because of clauses attached later by the government to the draft.
A new de-Baathification law that went a long way toward meeting some of the chief grievances of Iraq’s Sunnis by allowing former senior Baathists to resume their jobs was announced with much fanfare by al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani in March. It too has dropped out of sight, amid an outpouring of opposition from Shiite parliamentarians who regard its clauses as too lenient on those they suspect of sympathizing with the former regime.
A review of Iraq’s Constitution, promised in 2005 as a means of persuading Iraq’s Sunnis to participate in the political process, is already a year behind schedule. A new deadline of Tuesday is unlikely to be met.
For any bill to be presented to parliament, it must be signed by the Sunni speaker and by each of his Kurdish and Shiite deputies. Without a consensus, laws simply don’t reach the legislature, Kanna said.
With little in the way of substantive business before it, Iraq’s parliament has become little more than “a parliament coffee house,” in the words of the Deputy Speaker Khalid al-Attiyah, addressing one recent session.