The Obama administration is putting the pressure on Iraq’s political leaders to form a coalition government, according to the New York Times. The recent support of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s bid for a second term in office from the followers of Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has raised concerns internationally and has pushed efforts to encourage a broad coalition government. With the Sadrists joining Mr. Maliki, Mr. Maliki is in reach of a majority, increasing fears of a Shiite-dominated government alienating Iraq’s Sunnis. After nearly eight months, the U.S. government is growing impatient with Iraq’s political deadlock.
Administration officials are also resisting efforts by Congress to cut the State Department’s budget for operations in Iraq by over $1 billion, according to the New York Times. Budget cuts have already forced reductions in the U.S. training programs for Iraqi police officers, which may be a factor in the struggling Iraqi security forces. Defense Secretary Gates recently expressed concern over the impact that slashing resources could have on the “kind of conclusion” that the U.S. wants.
All of this uncertainty comes at a time when officials of the first American trade delegation to Iraq is encouraging U.S. investors to create new partnerships and engage in the country. However, fears of the future stability of the country seem to outweigh the desire to invest. We can only hope that Iraq’s leaders see the long-term benefits of shared power, which could lead to decreased violence and give the Iraqi security forces a better chance to gain experience and confidence.