Iraqi parliament passes three "crucial" laws in "significant achievement"

So sayeth a famously pollyannaish neocon news source:

The three laws are the 2008 budget, a law outlining the scope of provincial powers — a crucial aspect of Iraq’s self-definition as a federal state — and an amnesty that will cover thousands of the detainees held in Iraqi jails. They were put to a vote as a single package and passed Wednesday afternoon…

Passage of the measures represent a significant achievement for the Iraqi Parliament, which on many days could not muster a quorum. The approach of voting on the three laws together broke the logjam because it allowed every group to boast that they had a win. Leaders of the blocs — Shiite, Sunni and Kurd — realized that while no one of the laws could pass on its own, together, they offered something for each political constituency. So factions would swallow the measures they liked less in order to get the one they wanted.

Read to the end for the caveats. The provincial powers law is part of the Shiites’ push for decentralization, to give groups like SCIRI dominion over the oil areas in the south. The amnesty for prisoners, most of whom are Sunni, is good news for sectarian reconciliation but there’s a subplot there too involving the Sunni bloc in parliament and the Anbar Awakening movement, which enjoys much more grassroots support. The short section about the “important wrinkle” in Sunni politics in Ardolino’s new piece will catch you up quickly on that. In brief, the parliamentarians are trying to build popular legitimacy by forging an alliance with influential members of the Awakening — to the dismay of other members of the Awakening who don’t want their own influence diminished. CSM:

[Sheikh Ali] Hatem was among the leaders of the executive body of the Anbar Salvation Council, which predates today’s version of the movement, but that body was dissolved by Abdul-Sattar before his death.

Now, he claims, Iraqi Vice President Hashemi is attempting to undermine the movement by joining forces with Sheikh Ahmed. The vice president’s real goal, he says, is to bolster his standing among Sunni Arabs and gaining a hand in lucrative Anbar contracts…

Omar Abdul-Sattar, a senior IIP [i.e. Sunni parliamentarian] leader and member of the National Assembly from Anbar Province, laughs off the charges that his party is corrupt. “There are people that are trying to find an alternative to the Islamic Party but they will never succeed.”

In fact, the position of Hashemi’s Sunni bloc, of which the IIP has the largest share, has been greatly bolstered by its new allies among the Sahwa in its negotiations with the government.

“We have a common goal,” says Mr. Abdul-Sattar.

Hatem’s been talking smack for awhile, accusing since-assassinated Awakening leader Abu Risha last June of corruption and threatening the Shiite government with open war in September. Someone tried to kill him two days ago in Baghdad, an attack he blamed on Al Qaeda but which somehow involved penetration of “heavy security.” Hopefully he’s just making noise to ensure he’s part of any deal involving reconstruction funds for Anbar; if not, the prisoner amnesty at least takes away part of his grassroots leverage.

Update: Encouraging. It’s only a primary phenomenon now but more news like this can’t hurt.