U.S. leaders are pushing Iraqis hard to resolve the deadlock over a new prime minister and form a unity government. But getting that done will offer no guarantee of a quick end to the country's violence.
It's a fact often obscured in the appeals by American officials for the Iraqis to settle their bickering and install a government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds as the best hope for getting the country on track and moving away from sectarian violence.
At best, however, it will take the new government months to win public confidence. At worst, new leaders will be no more successful than the old in reining in Shiite militias and persuading Sunni Arab insurgents to lay down their arms.
The reality is that having Sunni Arabs and Kurds in the new government is not enough to calm Iraq's political storm. Members of those minorities have held key posts in every Iraqi administration since the first one set up by U.S. officials after Saddam Hussein fell in 2003.
The outgoing government includes a Kurdish president, a Sunni Arab vice president, a Sunni defense minister and a Kurdish parliament speaker.
Their presence was not enough to prevent a sharp rise in tensions between Iraq's majority Shiites, who hold the prime ministership and the biggest bloc in parliament, and the minority Sunni Arabs, who are fearful of losing the power they enjoyed under Saddam.
So far, much of the blame for the impasse has focused on the Shiite decision to nominate Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to stay on as head of the new government.
Sunni and Kurdish politicians refuse to accept him, and the Shiites need them as governing partners because no group has a majority in parliament. Al-Jaafari so far has refused to step aside and the Shiites cannot decide whether to replace him.
Without the others, the Shiites cannot count on enough votes in parliament to win approval for al-Jaafari and his Cabinet. But the Sunnis and Kurds lack the votes to push through an alternative.
Talks are continuing in hopes of breaking the deadlock in time for a planned parliament meeting Monday, reports AP.