The Sunni Arab bloc of Iraq's Parliament returned from a year-long absence today, Reuters reports, as the government approved several Sunni ministerial candidates. The move is a major breakthrough for national reconciliation; "It is a real step forward for political reform," a senior lawmaker in the bloc said. Rafie al-Esawi, a prominent Accordance Front member, will join a Kurdish politician as the second deputy prime minister to Nouri al-Maliki.
The Accordance Front had pulled out after demanding more say in the Shiite-dominated government, especially over security issues, and the release of Sunni Arab detainees. An amnesty law passed in February has begun the process of releasing prisoners, and the government crackdown on Shiite militias in Basra in March was also welcomed. The Front "very quickly rallied around the prime minister, post Basra," said a senior US official in Baghdad. "There's a new and more welcome spirit of unity."