15:57 03 January 2014
Al-Qaeda has launched attacks in key western Iraq cities in their attempt to topple the government.
Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador to Iraq has described the attack as “the perfect storm that’s been brewing for a long time.”
The Shiite-led government of Nouri al-Maliki has "taken a very serious and unfortunate step toward pushing a large percentage of the Sunni population to feel disenfranchised," said James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq now residing at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Last week, a prominent Sunni was arrested by government forces, which led to a firefight that took the life of the lawmaker’s brother and some of his bodyguards. This incident has raised major concerns from Sunnis.
The government responded by agreeing to withdraw its forces from Anbar cities. However, as soon as the forces left, al-Qaeda surfaced in Ramadi and Fallujah, influential cities west of Baghdad.
According to Sterling Jensen, an analyst at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Centre for Strategic Studies, the violence erupted just as a number of tribal leaders in recent weeks were trying to work out a political compromise with Maliki’s government. He added: "They were about to get a negotiated settlement. For some reason, Maliki chose this time to go against the protesters."
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