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Is Iraq Slipping into Civil War?

Incident: On 22 January, 17 people were killed and dozens wounded in a series of attacks in and around Baghdad and in Northern Iraq. Explosions targeted a military checkpoint in Baghdad, a military base in Taji (just north of Baghdad), a predominately Shi’ite neighborhood in Baghdad (Shula), and in the multi-sectarian town of Mahmudiyah (south of Bagdad). The previous week, more than 80 people were killed in a series of attacks later claimed by an al-Qaeda-linked network. Protesters continue to block the highway leading from Baghdad to Amman and Damascus, and the prime minister has threatened to use force to break the blockade.

Bottom Line: The conflict in Syria and the overall rise to power of Salafists across the region is having a negative effect on Iraq and helping to exacerbate already seething sectarian tensions. Feeding on this is Prime Minister Maliki’s own policies of targeting Sunni officials. It is not clear that Maliki can contain this protest momentum, and his attempts at quelling it by calling early elections have so far been stymied by the Kurds (who want a new census and electoral reform first). This, coupled with the intensifying situation between the Kurds and the central government over Northern Iraq’s oil resources could tip the balance towards another all-out conflict. 

Analysis: In late December, a new wave of protests erupted across the country and shows no sign of abating. There are two different perspectives on…

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