The Tawafaq Front - a coalition of Sunni parties in Iraq - has agreed to return to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The coalition walked out last summer after the parliament failed to pass a revenue sharing bill for oil exports and after the government refused to release thousands of Sunnis held in jails.
Since then, the government has initiated revenue sharing (despite the fact the bill authorizing it still languishes in parliament) and also passed an amnesty bill that freed more than half the Sunnis being detained:
Sunni leaders now say the government has done enough to address their core conditions, including passing an amnesty law that has freed thousands of Sunni detainees this year. The leaders said they were also encouraged by the government's efforts in tackling Shiite militias, especially the Mahdi Army of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
"We feel that a great deal of them have been fulfilled," said Salim Abdullah al-Jubori, a spokesmen for the Sunni bloc, referring to the conditions.
If the Sunni bloc returns, it will mark a political victory for Maliki as well achieve a key U.S. policy goal. Sunnis would have a greater voice in a cabinet currently dominated by Shiites and Kurds.
But previous deals to bring the bloc back into the government have crumbled because of dissension over which Sunnis should lead which ministries. Sunni leaders said they are seeking control over the ministries of culture, higher education, planning, and women's affairs, as well as the state ministry for foreign affairs. Jubori said the Sunni bloc had also nominated candidates to lead the justice and communications ministries.
There is some concern that candidates for the ministeries will not meet with the approval of all Sunnis but at this point, that seems a minor concern compared with the effort to get the Sunnis back into the government in time for the elections coming up in October.
Those elections will be the first in which the Sunnis will be wholeheartedly participating. Giving them a larger voice in parliament means they will have more ministers in any new government that is formed. This can only be good news for the Sunni tribes who have cast their lot with the government and with the US military.