The Ramadi rallies
are causing significant problems for the Maliki regime, as demonstrators are continuing for the second day to block the highway connecting Baghdad transport routes to Jordan and Syria.
The al-Maliki government some time ago condemned former Sunni Vice President Tareq Hashemi to death for allegedly being involved with death squads. Hashemi has taken refuge in Turkey. More recently as reported in Digital Journal
, security forces raided the home and offices of the Sunni Finance Minister Raifie Issawi and arrested up to 150 members of his staff.
The protests are expected to grow even larger today as protesters often gather after Friday prayers. Al-Maliki seems bound and determined to grasp more power and neutralize the opposition. However, his actions also fan the flames of sectarian conflict. Violence by Al Qaeda linked Sunni insurgents has increased dramatically. The situation is becoming so strained that many of the Sunni protesters
"The people want to bring down the regime."
This is the slogan protesters used in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere during the Arab Spring. The Sunni protesters have the support of the radical anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr
who rejected what he called Maliki's sectarian policies.
The situation is exacerbated by continuing conflict between the Baghdad government and the Kurdish autonomous region. The two are in conflict over disputed territory but also over other issues such as oil revenues and contracts. The war in Syria
also splits Iraq, as the Sunnis on the whole support the rebels against Assad who is a member of a minority Shia sect. The Kurds hope that if the Assad regime falls, they can set up an autonomous area in northern Syria. Iraq seems destined to continue in turmoil unless al-Maliki is more accommodating to the Sunni minority. At the Anbar demonstrations, a number of protesters carried the old Iraqi flag from the time of Saddam Hussein.