Iraq Moves Toward New Sectarian Conflict

Bombings Raise Stakes as PM Moves to Oust Major Sunnis

A new surge in sectarian violence went from a fear to a reality today, as bombings killed at least 74 people across Baghdad’s Shi’ite neighborhoods, leaving growing doubts about Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s attempts to centralize power.

Maliki, for his part, blamed the bombings on the nation’s Sunni politicians, which he has been moving against over the past few weeks. Today he doubled down on that effort, accusing the nation’s finance minister of supporting assassinations.

The finance minister is just the latest in a number of Sunni politicians being targeted, with Maliki still seeking to arrest Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is in hiding in Kurdistan, and is demanding parliament oust Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq for publicly criticizing him.

Hashemi, for his part, dismissed rumors that he was going to flee the country, saying he was waiting for Maliki to be removed from office. With every Kurdish and Sunni Arab bloc out of the government, and Maliki indicating yesterday that they are permanently out of the political picture, the effort to centralize power is going to be increasingly unwelcome, fueling more discontent and calls for autonomous regions.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.