What started over the weekend as a few thousand demonstrators in Anbar Province has grown into a full-fledged protest movement, with tens of thousands of Sunnis taking to the streets in mass rallies, blocking the highway and cutting off a key trade route for Iraq through Syria and Jordan.
“The people want to bring down the regime” was the chant of the day, reflecting similar chants in the successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and suggesting that for many, these protests go well beyond the simple matter of a few arrested government officials.
Looking back, that’s clearly how this latest round started, with the Maliki government moving against Finance Minister Rafie Issawi and arresting 150 members of his staff, including most of his bodyguards, as “terrorists.”
The claim that high-ranking Sunni politicians must be running terrorist operations out of their offices goes much deeper, with Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi still in exile and facing immediate execution if he returns to Iraq, and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq facing similar allegations based seemingly only on his public displeasure with Prime Minister Maliki’s centralization of power.
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