Iraq’s stalemate persists as rebels raid town near capital

BAGHDAD — As Iraq’s deadlocked Parliament was again unable to reach a deal to name a new speaker Sunday, Sunni militants carried out a raid near Baghdad — a symbolically significant attack signaling their intent to move closer, even if only by a few miles, toward the city.

A sandstorm delayed flights, preventing northern Iraq’s Kurdish lawmakers from traveling to Baghdad. The sand was so thick at times it was hard to see across the Tigris River.

Inside Parliament, the atmosphere was similarly gloomy as last-minute deals between the largest Shi’ite bloc and the Sunnis appeared to be falling apart.


The post of Parliament speaker, which by custom is occupied by a Sunni, had been expected to go to Salim al-Jubouri, who in turn would name two deputies, a Kurd and a Shi’ite.

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But it seems that a previous commitment by Jubouri to consider supporting Nouri al-Maliki for a third term as prime minister is beginning to fray. That, in turn, means that Jubouri can no longer count on the support of Maliki’s bloc of lawmakers. With such a hazy outlook, the inability of the Kurds to make it through the brown sandy fog provided a useful excuse for the postponement of the negotiating session.

Just 30 minutes into Sunday’s Parliament session, acting speaker Mahdi al-Hafidh announced he was breaking off the proceedings until Tuesday ‘‘due to the absence of any agreement on the names of the nominees for the three posts.’’

‘‘There are still deep differences,’’ he said. ‘‘We need more discussions to agree on the names.’’

Sunni lawmaker Saleh al-Mutlaq said Maliki agreed to support Jubouri’s candidacy on the condition that Sunnis back Maliki. ‘‘This will not happen as we do not accept that,’’ Mutlaq told the Associated Press.


Mohammed Saadoun, a lawmaker from Maliki’s State of Law bloc, confirmed that Jubouri will not receive support without Sunnis first guaranteeing they will back Maliki for prime minister.

As lawmakers took stock of their options, militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria were moving into Dhuluiya, a Sunni town 46 miles northeast of Baghdad.

They bombed a crucial bridge over the Tigris to prevent soldiers at the nearest base from reaching the town and then overwhelmed the police station, killing six officers, according to a town resident and an official at the Interior Ministry, who declined to be named because he was not allowed to speak to the news media.