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Iraq Teeters on the Edge as Political Violence Spikes

44 Iraqi MPs announced their resignation Monday demanding 'the withdrawal of the army... and the release of MP Ahmed al-Alwani'

- Common Dreams staff

Residents inspect a bullet-riddled car outside the house of prominent Sunni Muslim MP Ahmed Alwani in the center of Ramadi (Reuters)Growing instability and political tension in Iraq spiked sharply this week following the violent arrest of a prominent Sunni lawmaker, a deadly raid on a protest camp in Anbar province, and the resignation of over 40 Sunni members of parliament on Monday in protest of the actions of President Nuri al-Maliki.

The events come at the end of a year of violence comparable to levels seen during the height of the U.S. occupation.

Starting on Saturday, Iraqi security forces invaded the home of MP Ahmed Alwani, a spokesman for Iraq's Sunni minority and known critic of Maliki, in what officials claim was a raid aimed at Alani's brother.

Five people within the residence were killed during the raid, including Alani's brother, and roughly 18 were injured.

The raid sparked anger across the country, which was only fueled on Monday when government forces raided a Sunni protest camp in Anbar province—leading to heavy fighting between local fighters and security forces which left up to 17 dead.

Reuters reports:

Fighting erupted when Iraqi police broke up a Sunni Muslim protest camp in the western Anbar province on Monday, leaving at least 13 people dead, police and medical sources said.

The camp has been an irritant to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite Muslim-led government since Sunni protesters set it up a year ago to demonstrate against what they see as marginalization of their sect. [...]

Police sources said Monday's clashes broke out when gunmen opened fire on police special forces trying to enter Ramadi, the western city where the protest camp is located. [...]

Sheikh Abdul Malik Al-Saadi, an influential Sunni cleric who had called on protesters to remain peaceful, denounced the operation and called on security forces to withdraw immediately to prevent further bloodshed.

Following the clashes, 44 Iraqi MPs announced their resignation Monday during a televised news conference, demanding "the withdrawal of the army... and the release of MP Ahmed al-Alwani."

"Although not effective unless accepted by parliament's speaker," Reuters reports, "the resignations put further pressure on Maliki."

Monday's clashes are just the latest in a series of incidents that observers think are leading to the possible dissolution of the already fragile state and furthering long-held fears of an all out civil war in the country.

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