Five ministers suspended their participation in meetings of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's cabinet on Monday, sending a warning signal that they may pull out of his increasingly isolated government if their demands are not met.
The five are members of the secular Iraqiya coalition led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a moderate group whose lawmakers are drawn from across sectarian lines. Their move, coupled with the largest Sunni Arab bloc's decision to withdraw its six ministers last week, struck yet another blow to Mr. Maliki's faltering efforts to present his religious Shiite-led coalition as a "national unity" government.
The above is from Stephen Farrell's "5 Ministers Threaten to Leave Iraq’s Cabinet" in this morning's New York Times. Staying with this topic Alexandra Zavis and Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) report the walkout is by "the fourth-largest [bloc] in parliament," reduces the cabinet to "21 of 38 members" when combined with Sadr bloc from last week, and quotes Salim Abudllah Jabouri (of the Sadr bloc that walked out) saying:
Jabouri said that the next few weeks would be Maliki's "last chance to show goodwill" and negotiate with the absent ministers. Maliki is expected to attend a leadership summit soon that will include national leaders and heads of political blocs.
If Maliki fails to reach out to the marginalized ministers, Jabouri said, Tawafiq will continue talks with the Iraqi National List and Kurdish and Shiite politicians in Maliki's own bloc to bring a vote of no confidence against him.
But Maliki does not plan to negotiate with ministers who have left the Cabinet, spokesman Basam Ridha said. Instead, Maliki was talking Monday about replacing the absent ministers through special elections.
Whether he can replace them or not (the puppet's 'power' grows more limited every day), Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) notes that the five who have walked out say they will
"continue to run their ministries but not attend any cabinet meetings. They cited as reasons for their action a lack of progress on issues such as the status of Iraqi detainees, the repatriation of displaced Iraqis and the return of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to government jobs." (Martha noted Raghavan's article). And Polly notes this from the BBC:
The BBC's Andy Gallacher in Baghdad says it is a serious setback for any attempts at reconciliation between Shia and Sunni factions.
Our correspondent says the latest events leave the administration of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki looking more fragile than ever.
Meanwhile the puppet's in Turkey for meetings.
On the New York Times, a number of e-mails came in yesterday on the size reduction of the physical, print version of the paper (Rachel hates it, others are a bit more hopeful). I didn't even notice the size was reduced (it's most obvious, as Jonah pointed out, on the op-ed pages, which I skipped Monday). What I did immediately notice was that the print repeatedly gets on your hands everytime you handle it. That's not been a problem before with the Times. (And wasn't with yesterday or today's Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times or Finacial Times of London).
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