Embattled Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki came under growing pressure on Friday to do more to overcome Iraq’s sectarian divisions.
At Friday prayers in Kerbala, Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric appeared to criticise Maliki’s rule calling for a new government of ‘broad acceptance’ and one that would remedy ‘past mistakes’ following April’s elections.
Outside Iraq, Washington also increasingly seems to view Maliki as part of the problem rather than the solution.
President Obama has so far failed to give the Shia prime minister the lifeline he so desperately craves. Obama has stressed US combat troops will not return to Iraq, a popular move back home.
Middle East expert Kenneth Pollack said: “It would be a very significant mistake on the part of the United States to embark on a military campaign in Iraq, either unilaterally or in conjunction with the current government of Baghdad, because it has been so badly discredited in the eyes of Iraq’s Sunni community, its Kurdish community, even important elements of Iraq’s own Shia community.”
US firepower remains on stand-by in the Gulf, but it could be the diplomatic front which decides Maliki’s fate.
America’s Secretary of State John Kerry is due to travel to Iraq in the coming days in the hope of easing the country’s sectarian tensions.