Iraq is facing difficult days. For the past month anti-government protests have been continuous, mainly among Sunnis, who feel they are being targeted by the sectarian policies of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. But the opposition to Mr Maliki is not limited to Sunnis. It also includes the Kurds, who believe that he is seeking a central rather than federal state, as stipulated in the constitution, and the charismatic and popular Shi’a leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who has called for policy changes and the formation of a new cabinet.

Thus a formidable opposition movement has come into being which advocates an end to Mr Maliki’s rule, either through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence or by preventing him from winning a third term as prime minister. The reasons for this growing public opposition are multiple: government inefficiency; the corruption that has tainted most public transactions; the imprisonment of hundreds of Sunnis without trial; reports of the rape of imprisoned women (mainly Sunnis); and the recent arrest of Finance Minister Rafi’ al-Isawi’s security guards, who are being accused of terrorism. Dr ‘Isawi is a member of the ‘Iraqiya Block led by Ayad ‘Allawi, and a colleague of the former Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, whose security guards have also been arrested and accused of terrorism. He has been sentenced to death four times and is currently a fugitive. These accusations triggered the latest protests, which spread through four Sunni provinces, including Baghdad. The demonstrators called for Mr Maliki’s removal amid fears that his policies will promote sectarianism and even the possible partition of the country. (CONTINUED - 985 WORDS)