Finally, nonsectarian politics in Iraq?

Amid renewed sectarian violence, the New York Times reports that a unity bloc is poised to shake up the Iraqi Parliament.

Published March 7, 2007 10:06PM (EST)

As Iraqi Shiites attempt to continue their pilgrimage amid attacks that have now killed at least 170 people over the past two days, the New York Times reports the possible rise of a new faction in the Iraqi Parliament: a nonsectarian unity coalition.

Iraq has been plagued by sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shiite since the U.S. invasion in 2003, and that division has extended to government, where radical elements of the Shiite majority currently hold considerable sway, especially with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But a split in the ruling bloc seems as if it may throw that calculus into question. The element that broke off from the majority coalition, a group called Fadhila, has expressed a willingness to work in a nonsectarian way, possibly with the now-forming nonsectarian bloc that includes former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. If Fadhila did join, that would give the new unity bloc nearly as many seats as the current ruling coalition.

Unfortunately, it may not be time to break out the victory banners for a united Iraq just yet: According to the Times, Fadhila leader Bassim Sharif says that "for now we will try to work alone to prove there is a Shia party that can work in a non-sectarian way."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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