Sunnis and Kurds Walk Out of Iraq Parliament

Members of the Iraqi Parliament pointed fingers after an argument broke out on Tuesday in Baghdad

BAGHDAD — Sunnis and Kurds walked out of the first session of the Iraqi Parliament on Tuesday, imperiling efforts to form a new government in the face of a bitter offensive by Sunni militants.

After the new Parliament took a short recess after less than an hour of debate, Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers did not return. There were not enough lawmakers present for a quorum, forcing the session to be adjourned for at least a week.

Spokesmen for the party of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki blamed Kurds and Sunnis for the impasse, provoking countercharges that Shiite leaders were not ready to make a serious deal. The day’s events also ended hopes of an early resolution to Iraq’s political crisis, even as insurgents mount a violent challenge north and west of the capital.

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The walkout represented a rejection of calls by Shiite religious leaders who had demanded agreement on the speedy formation of a government that included Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites.

The Iraqi government had declared a national holiday for the convening of Parliament. Many shops and businesses were closed as large numbers of troops and police officers patrolled the city and established checkpoints at most major intersections, as well as around neighborhoods with large Sunni populations.

Map as of June 28

Underscoring the threat from the militants, the United Nations announced that June had been the deadliest month in Iraq for many years.

The violent death toll in Iraq, except Anbar Province, during June was 2,417 people. By far the largest category of fatalities was civilians, with more than 1,500 dead, followed by 886 members of Iraq’s beleaguered security forces, according to United Nations statistics.

The fatalities were four times higher than in May, before the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria began its offensive to take Mosul and much of northern Iraq on June 10.

The death toll was one of the highest monthly figures for Iraq, reaching a level of violence not seen there since 2008, according to the United Nations. In May, according to the data, 799 people were killed in Iraq, including 240 members of the security forces. The figures do not take into account Anbar Province, much of which has been under the control of ISIS-led insurgents and where the United Nations has no presence. The United Nations cited Health Ministry officials in Anbar as recording 244 civilians killed and 588 injured from June 1-29, bringing the total violent death toll for the country in June to at least 2,661.

In 2008, one of the worst years of sectarian violence, 7,000 people were killed in the entire year.

The top United Nations official in Iraq, Nikolay E. Mladenov, called the civilian casualties in June a “staggering number” and connected the violence to Iraq’s stalled political process.

With large parts of the country under the control of ISIS militants and armed groups, Mr. Mladenov said in a statement issued by his office: “It is imperative that national leaders work together to foil attempts to destroy the social fabric of Iraqi society.”

“What can be achieved through a Constitutional political process cannot be achieved through an exclusively military response,” he added. “Security must be restored but the root causes of violence must be addressed.”

Late Monday night, ISIS militants fired mortars into the Askari shrine in Samarra, killing six people, according to hospital officials.

An Iraqi government official said the shrine, where many worshipers had gathered to celebrate the first day of Ramadan, was not hit, but a security official at the scene said two mortars hit the dome, causing minor damage.

Such attacks on the shrine by Qaeda-related groups in 2006 set off a wave of sectarian violence in Iraq that lasted for years.

The Iraqi government has heavily reinforced Samarra, about 80 miles north of Baghdad, to prevent ISIS insurgents from carrying out attacks on the shrine.

ISIS has made no secret of its intention to spark a sectarian war in Iraq, as Al Qaeda did in 2006. The group has been formed from the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which was defeated by a Sunni uprising against the extremists, aided by support from the American and Iraqi militaries.

The assault on the shrine aroused fears of a wave of retaliatory attacks in an atmosphere in which Sunnis have already begun to be the target of random, apparently sectarian killings in Baghdad and elsewhere, as a response to the advances by ISIS in Sunni-dominated parts of the country.