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Decoding Iraq's Sectarian Rivalries

Baghdad's Political Blocs Threaten to Split Apart

Courtesy Reuters

By many accounts, Iraq appears to again be in the throes of sectarian conflict. Last month, the country’s judiciary issued an arrest warrant for its Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, for his alleged involvement in terrorism. At the same time, Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite Prime Minister, sought to remove another high-profile Sunni official from office, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, who had accused Maliki of being a dictator. Critics accuse the prime minister of deliberately targeting his Sunni political opponents to consolidate his power.

But Iraq is not suffering traditional sectarian strife, whereby political disagreements among the elite lead to bloodshed on the streets. Rather, it is afflicted by what could be called intra-sectarian conflict, as rivals within both the country’s Shiite- and Sunni-dominated parties reposition themselves amid the political fray. On the one hand, several members of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc have defected, suggesting political, not sectarian,

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