The power of Sunni politicians was greatly diminished by the power-sharing agreement adopted after the American invasion. Under its formula, the prime minister’s post, along with the interior and foreign ministries, are reserved for Shiites. Kurds get the presidency and finance ministry. Sunni Arabs get Parliament speaker and defense minister, but the prime minister is commander in chief, and Shiite army commanders and militia leaders wield significant influence.
Iranian-trained Shiite militias are part of Iraq’s armed forces and have battled Islamic State militants since they seized nearly a third of Iraq in 2014. The militias have been accused of atrocities against Sunni civilians, and their presence near Sunni areas has alarmed many residents. A Shiite religious flag fluttered last week at an Iraqi military checkpoint outside Karmah.
Kurds have their own army as well, known as the pesh merga. But Sunnis have no national armed force, only tribal militias blended into Iraqi security forces to fight the militants.
Some Sunni politicians have advocated an autonomous Sunni region, but those proposals have gone nowhere amid partisan bickering.
“Sunnis have no unified leadership,” said Wathiq al-Hashimi, the head of the Iraqi Group for Strategic Studies, an independent research group in Baghdad. “And Sunni politicians seem to care only about narrow personal interests.”
A Kurdish referendum on independence last month further divided Sunnis. Most opposed it, preferring to keep Kurds inside Iraq as a counterweight against Shiite domination; virtually all Iraqi Kurds are Sunni. Many Sunnis cheered the government takeover of contested areas, where Sunni Arabs had seethed under Kurdish control.
But even Sunnis opposed to the Kurdish vote were alarmed when Iraqi forces conducted military maneuvers with Iranian troops inside Iran along the Iraq border.
“We won’t tolerate that kind of foreign interference on top of everything else,” said Sheikh Ahmed al-Karim, a Sunni lawmaker who generally supports the government of Mr. Abadi, the prime minister.
In Parliament, the Sunni-led bloc has 78 seats, roughly proportionate to their share of the population, but is dwarfed by the Shiite bloc, with 182. The Kurdish bloc has 65 seats. Parliament has fallen increasingly under the sway of Iran, which is locked in a regional power struggle with Sunni countries led by Saudi Arabia.
Mithal al-Alusi, a Sunni lawmaker, has called the government “a cardboard state” because of its ties to Iran. He has asked, acidly, whether Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite overseas military forces who has advised Iraq’s Shiite militias, had a proper visa to enter Iraq.
Shiites seem driven by a sense of religious grievance and a pan-Shiite destiny. Kurds are motivated by nationalism and dreams of independence. And Sunnis?
“For the Sunnis, there’s a lack of political cohesion about exactly what they want,” said Maria Fantappie, a senior analyst for Iraq at the International Crisis Group.
David L. Phillips, a former State Department adviser who has worked on Iraq for 30 years, said Sunnis had failed to organize as effectively as Shiites and Kurds.
“Baghdad is perfectly content to see the Sunnis in disarray,” he said.
There are a few hopeful signs. Because some Shiite factions will oppose Mr. Abadi in April, and Kurdish politics are in upheaval, he will have to court the Sunni bloc to help ensure re-election.
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