The Sunni Arab minority in Najaf Province are fearing an effort by provincial officials to purge them, after the provincial government ordered all Ba’athists to leave within 24 hours.
The largely Shi’ite province has been generally quiet, but a massive bombing late last week left 27 people dead and 111 wounded, and the public looking for answers. Officials blamed Ba’athists for the strike, and provincial government vows to rid Najaf of all Ba’athist ideas.
But Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority is already feeling the squeeze from the Shi’ite government equating it with the Ba’athist remnants, as the Maliki government has already sought to ban hundreds of Sunni politicians from the elections, ostensibly for Ba’athist ties.
Tensions are palpably rising in a nation that saw sectarian purges on a nation-wide level over the past several years. If the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf is to see a displacement of Sunnis, it could be the first shot in a resurgent civil war in Iraq.