“Sectarianism remains the dominant brand in political fashion,” said Mr. [Ramzy] Mardini [a fellow at the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies]. “Many Iraqis are dissatisfied with sectarianism but when it comes to voting they have no other choice. They’re fearful of the other side dominating.”Even Saturday’s voting process showed the painful scars left by sectarian conflict. Two large Sunni-majority provinces in western Iraq were prevented from voting Saturday after the Shiite-dominated cabinet said anti-Maliki protests made holding the polls a security risk. Before the weekend vote, Mr. Maliki said the local elections in Anbar and Nenevah provinces would be postponed “until security is restored”—giving officials an opportunity to keep the current Maliki-aligned councils in place.Mr. Maliki’s coalition, meanwhile, has included four new Shiite-backed parties in its coalition, including two strongly Shiite nationalist groups.Politicians in Mr. Maliki’s party say that hostile sectarian rhetoric remains the dominant flavor in politics, particularly as violence in Syria escalates and Iran’s influence expands across Sunni-dominated western Iraq.
Grim. Sectarianism is taking its toll, and with the Syrian civil war continuing unabated next door and occasionally spilling across the border into Anbar and Nineveh, things don’t look all that good for Iraq’s future.Iraq is a complicated country going through a difficult time in its history, so the blame should not be laid squarely at President Obama’s feet. But the very visible administration policy drift in the Middle East has certainly played its part.[Image courtesy of Getty Images.]