According to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi troops will soon withdraw from cities in the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, where they played a role in a Monday crackdown on political protesters that left 17 dead.
The move suggests Maliki is either trying to reconcile with Sunni politicians, who resigned en masse last night to protest the bloodshed, or at least recognizes that the military presence is only making matters worse.
Fighting continued today in Ramadi, where an Iraqi military sniper was killed by unnamed gunmen. Three others, all labeled “militants,” were also killed.
The initial Ramadi protests were calling for the release of a Sunni MP arrested as a “terrorist” by Maliki, and the prime minister then declared the protest to be “al-Qaeda headquarters,” ordering troops to dismantle it.
Maliki has regularly labeled rival politicians, particularly Sunnis, as “terrorists,” and the country’s sitting Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is still living in exile after a similar declaration came against him.
Though there is a big difference between Sunni politicians and al-Qaeda, it’s a distinction Maliki prefers not to acknowledge, and in conflating the two he is fueling more sympathy for the later across Iraq’s Sunni-dominated West, where the general consensus is that winning elections, as the Sunnis did in 2010, won’t actually mean gaining any political influence so long as Maliki remains in power.