Irbil: Iraq`s top Kurdish leader warned visiting Secretary of State John Kerry today that a rapid Sunni insurgent advance has already created "a new reality and a new Iraq," signaling that the US faces major difficulties in its efforts to promote unity among the country`s divided factions.
The UN, meanwhile, said more than 1,000 people, most civilians, have been killed in Iraq so far this month, the highest death toll since the US military withdrew from the country in December 2011.
Massoud Barzani, whose powerful minority bloc has long functioned as kingmaker in Iraqi politics, did not directly mention Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is facing the strongest challenge to his rule since he assumed power in 2006.
But al-Maliki has made little effort beyond rhetoric to win the trust of his critics, who are led by disaffected Sunnis, Kurds and even several former Shiite allies.
Instead the Kurds have deployed their own well-trained security forces known as peshmerga and seized long-coveted ground of their own in the name of defending it from the al-Qaida breakaway group and other Sunni insurgents who have swept through the north.
The Kurds are unlikely to be eager to give up that territory, including the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, regardless of the status of the fighting.
Al-Maliki, meanwhile, has been entirely focused on the security situation, spending hours each day in the main military command center, rather than politics, officials close to his inner circle say, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren`t authorised to release such details.
Despite the attention, Iraq`s mainly Shiite security forces have failed to successfully wage any successful counteroffensives against the insurgents.
Kerry traveled to Irbil, the capital of the self-rule Kurdish region today, a day after meeting with al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials in Baghdad where he pushed for them to adopt new policies that would give more authority to Iraq`s minority Sunnis and Kurds.
Kerry said after the Baghdad meetings that all the leaders agreed to start the process of seating a new parliament by July 1, which will advance a constitutionally required timetable for naming a president, prime minister and a new Cabinet.
Al-Maliki`s political bloc won the most seats in parliamentary elections in April but must assemble a majority coalition in the legislature in order to secure a third term for the Shiite leader.