Welcome Back Sunnis

Our guest blogger is Peter Juul, a national security consultant at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

talabani1.JPGGood news everybody! The main Sunni Arab parliamentary bloc, Tawafuq, is rejoining the Maliki government after a nine month long boycott. The bloc cited the favorable implementation of the recently-passed amnesty law and the crackdown on Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia as the main reasons for its decision to re-up with Maliki. Tawafuq’s justification is especially ironic given the fact that it partnered with Sadr’s parliamentary bloc to pass the amnesty law.

While Tawafuq’s return is a positive development in Iraqi politics, it remains to be seen whether it will have any long-term impact. After all, Tawafuq was a member of the Maliki government during the worst of the sectarian violence during 2006 and 2007. Its presence seemed to do little to move toward meaningful political progress then, and as noted key legislative initiatives were passed when it was outside government.

More important, however, is the extent to which Tawafuq actually represents Iraq’s Sunni Arabs. With the rise of the Awakening movement, Sunni politics have become more fractured. These tribal and insurgent groups are not answerable to the bloc and are seeking to enter politics on their own terms, if at all. Members of the Anbar Awakening have even threatened to fight members of the Tawafuq bloc. So Tawafuq’s return to the Maliki government does not augur full-blow Sunni-Shi’a reconciliation.

Tawafuq’s primary motivation in returning to government may be to politically outmaneuver the Awakenings, who are poised to take power in provincial elections later this year. In this respect, Tawafuq’s return may lead to heightened intra-Sunni tensions as the bloc seeks to consolidate its power at the national level and the newly-empowered Awakenings seek increased devolution of authority to local levels.