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Could bigger Sunni role stop attacks?

Insurgent violence following the formation of Iraq's new government continued Thursday, killing at least 20 people.

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Sunni Arab politicians, increasingly frustrated at being shut out of key cabinet posts, say that a meaningful role in Iraq's new government would help them restrain insurgent violence.

Spectacular bombings and other attacks, mostly directed at Iraqi security forces, have overshadowed hopes of political progress in the week since Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari formed his partial cabinet.

Sunni moderates are eager to distance themselves from the "terrorists" behind the bombing campaign, which intensified following the formation of Iraq's new government last Thursday. But they also blame the sustained violence on continual disappointments for their community ever since Iraq's Jan. 30 elections.

Adding to frustrations among Sunnis is the fact that 10 of their nominees for the coveted post of defense minister apparently have been turned down by Shiite leaders.

Mishan al-Jabbouri, a Sunni Arab member of the National Assembly, says that the latest political impasse was "definitely related" to the surge in violence, although those Sunnis who signed on for the political process more than three months ago still remain "fully committed to it."

Prime Minister Jaafari says he wants his government to include the Sunni minority, whose disaffected ranks form the main support base for the insurgency. But three months of haggling between the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance and the second-place Kurdistan Alliance has seemingly left a shortage of political capital to throw the Sunnis' way.

Potentially influential Sunnis, meanwhile, are often tainted by association with former ruler Saddam Hussein.

Mindful of bringing middle-class army officers and restive tribes inside the government tent, Jaafari promised to assign the defense ministry to a Sunni.

The defense ministry nearly went to Sadoun Dulaymi, a former Saddam Hussein-era general with roots in western Iraq's tribal Sunni heartland. But last-minute objections from within the Shiite bloc forced Jaafari to instead bring an incomplete cabinet list to the National Assembly, with himself as acting defense minister, while negotiations with a small and loosely organized Sunni faction continued.

Analysts say that the bombs exploding around Baghdad starting the next morning probably came in response to the government's limited progress, rather than its lack of completeness. Nevertheless, repeated rejections of nominees for the defense portfolio have deepened the Sunni's sense of underrepresentation.


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