BAGHDAD -- Legislators joked and chatted, showing no sense of urgency yesterday about breaking a deadlock between Sunnis and Shiites over national reconciliation as Iraq's parliament held its final session before a monthlong recess.
Adjourning until Sept. 4, despite complaints from U.S. critics, the parliament failed to pass laws on oil investment and revenue-sharing, the reintegration of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime into government and on holding provincial elections.
Men in suits, Shiite Muslim clerics in white turbans and black robes, women in Western blouses and others shrouded in veils participated in the 275-seat National Assembly's final session before its recess. Some gripped their leather brief cases in the lobby of the fortified parliament building, which is decorated with posters of Mohammed Awad, the lawmaker killed this year in a suicide bomb attack on parliament, and pictures of three guards who had been killed.
Parliament had extended its session for a month in an unsuccessful effort to pass the legislation that Washington has designated as benchmarks for Iraq's progress on healing its sectarian divide.
Four weeks later, Iraq's politics appear as acrimonious as ever. The 44-seat Sunni political bloc Tawafiq was boycotting the government and threatening to pull its six members from the Cabinet permanently if its demands were not met by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on the dissolution of militias and release of innocent detainees.
Leading Shiite lawmakers, representing the country's majority population, which was long oppressed before Hussein's fall, suspected that the Sunnis simply wanted to bring down the government of al-Maliki, a Shiite.
"The problem in Iraq is, how can we make a decision that serves all Iraqis by not just looking at one's own interests?" said Aqil Abed Chali, a political science professor at Mustansariyah University in Baghdad. "Regretfully, there is a narrow-mindedness."
Such was the state of affairs when 180 lawmakers walked into parliament yesterday. Some rued the lack of trust among the factions and their own standing as bit players in a drama orchestrated by powerbrokers outside the legislature. By the end of the three-hour session, only 130 members remained in the hall.
Parliament member Wael Abdul Latif lamented the body's seeming irrelevance, pointing out the failure of any important Iraqi leaders, who head political blocs, to come to the assembly, including his party leader, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
"We know the democracy being practiced in Iraq has nothing to do with the parliament," Latif said, describing decisions as being made in the "shadowy corners."
Nothing was more contentious than the oil legislation, which elicited an outcry from moderate Sunnis for giving too much control to the Kurds over signing contracts in northern Iraq with international corporations. Also opposed were some Shiites and more nationalist Sunnis who complained of the possible ceding of Iraq's wealth to foreigners. In the end, the Kurds were concerned that last-minute changes would dilute their rights on contracts and revenue-sharing.
In violence yesterday, a minibus blew up by Tayaran Square in central Baghdad, killing at least six people. The attack came less than 24 hours after Iraqis rejoiced over their soccer team's first victory in the Asian Cup tournament.
Twenty-five bodies were found in Baghdad, 18 in the city's western Karkh district.
The U.S. military said three soldiers were killed Thursday in fighting in Anbar province.
Ned Parker writes for the Los Angeles Times.