Iraqi Parliament Faces Major Challenges

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki speaks during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, July 14, 2007. Al-Maliki said that Iraqi forces were getting ready to take over security responsibility in Iraq but they still needed more training and equipment.
AP Photo/Ali Yusuff, Pool
Iraq's parliament reconvened today after a one-month vacation. More than a third of the members did not show up, but it was an improvement and a quorum. As CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Katie Couric reports from Iraq, they have much to do and much pressure to do it.

President Bush has expressed his frustration time and time again.

Jan. 10, 2007: "If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people…"

April 19, 2007: "You have an obligation to your people and our people, for that matter, to do the hard work necessary."

May 2, 2007: "Iraq's leaders still have got a lot to do, don't get me wrong."

CBS News talked to the man at the center of the storm, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"Those who look from the outside want results. Those on the ground, however, know the true scale of the challenges. That's why they confront those challenges one by one," he said.

"We get frustrated. He gets frustrated, too," says U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. "We encourage him to do more. We push him. We press him. But I think he is making a genuine effort to move his country to a better place."

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It's been a slow and painful process. The Iraqi government has yet to build an army and a police force that can protect its people. Its national unity government is neither. So far, it has failed to share power or reconcile differences, and almost half the cabinet is boycotting the government.

Sunnis, who make up 20 percent of the population, feel excluded after the overthrow of Saddam, also a Sunni. Thousands have lost their jobs, have been forced from their homes and feel the Shiite-dominated central government doesn't care about them.

Shiites, who make up 60 percent of the population, are afraid of going back to a time when they were repressed by the Sunni government of Saddam.

"Most of the Shia are afraid that Sunnis or Baathists will control things again," says Iraqi parliament member Shatha al Musawi.

The government has failed to agree on how to distribute billions of dollars of oil revenue across the country. But perhaps its biggest failure is its inability to restore basic services.

"I asked people what their problems are, and the answer is almost always the same: 'Where is the water? Where is the electricity? Where is the trash pickup?'" says Crocker.

These failures have led some members of Congress to say al-Maliki should go.

"You don't want to interfere with the affairs of the government that has been elected by 12 million Iraqis," al-Maliki said.

Last week, reports Couric, the major parties in the government pledged to work together and set a number of goals. Whether that will happen - and when that will happen - remain to be seen.