PROGRESS IN IRAQ….American pressure? Ennui from being cooped up for so long? A deep seated desire for democracy? Whatever the reason, the Iraqi interim assembly has finally made some progress:

Iraqi lawmakers elected a Sunni Arab as parliament speaker and Shiite and Kurdish leaders as his deputies on Sunday, ending days of deadlock and clearing the way for the formation of a new government two months after the country’s historic elections.

The selection of Industry Minister Hajim al-Hassani as parliament speaker was a step toward repairing the tattered image of the newly elected National Assembly, which had bickered for days over the post. A session Tuesday disintegrated into shouts and accusations.

….Lawmakers had hoped to also name a new interim president — expected to be Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani — but officials said that would be put off until a session planned for Wednesday.

Once in his post, Talabani and his two vice presidents have two weeks to name the new interim prime minister, expected to be Shiite politician Ibrahim al-Jaafari. After that, the legislative body has until mid-August to write a new constitution that will pave the way for new elections and a permanent government.

This is still a fairly small step, but it’s a step. Maybe Jim Hoagland is wrong after all. Maybe.