"Iraq's political system is increasingly characterized by peaceful competition and formation of cross-sectarian alliances, although ethnic and sectarian infighting continues, sometimes involving the questionable use of key levers of power and legal institutions. This infighting--and the belief that holding political power may mean the difference between life and death for the various political communities--significantly delayed agreement on a new government that was to be selected following the March 7, 2010, national elections for the Council of Representatives (COR, parliament). With U.S. intervention, on November 10, 2010, major ethnic and sectarian factions agreed on a framework for a new government, breaking the long deadlock. Their agreement, under which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would serve another term, was implemented in the presentation by him of a broad-based cabinet on December 21, 2010, in advance of a December 25 constitutional deadline. The participation of all major factions in the new government is stabilizing politically and may have created political momentum to act on key outstanding legislation crucial to attracting foreign investment, such as national hydrocarbon laws. There may be early indications that the new government is acting on long-stalled initiatives, including year-long tensions over Kurdish exports of oil. Still, delayed action on improving key services, such as electricity, has created popular frustration that manifested as protests during February 2011, possibly inspired by the wave of unrest that has broken out in many other Middle Eastern countries."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21968
United States Department of State, Foreign Press Center: http://fpc.state.gov/