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The future of Iraq, in the hands of too many

Few good options for a new Iraq government.

The second scenario, and more plausible scenario, is that Maliki will form a government that includes the Iraqiya bloc. Even so, such a compromise after months of increasingly acrimonious fights over who will rule Iraq will also present almost insurmountable challenges. Iraqiya bloc members will likely endorse Maliki for a second term only if he agrees to support their inflexible demands for shared power. Maliki would face similar pressure from the Kurds and the Shiite parties.

The United States and Arab countries are calling for an inclusive government that consists of Shiite, Sunni and Kurds, but if Maliki were to create this kind of government, it might not have the desired effect of unifying the country.

As the Iraqi political system is now conceived, there is simply not enough power to be shared among the blocs. Maliki would have to give up much of his power and authority, and would not be stronger during his second term than during the first term. In other words, the government will either fail to be inclusive or will be inclusive but not effective.

The way ahead for Malilki is still long and arduous. He needs to work hard to garner the support of the swinging parties, and that might cost part of his power. Because the balance is delicate and the stakes high, Maliki might still fail in his efforts to form the government.

Razzaq al-Saiedi was a reporter for the New York Times in Baghdad. He is now a fellow and researcher at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.