Even if Maliki goes, a peace deal is uncertain
Widely blamed for provoking a Sunni uprising led by the Islamic State (Isis), and for presiding over a corrupt and authoritarian government, Nouri al-Maliki may genuinely believe he can remain as Iraqi leader.
Alternatively, his refusal to leave the office of Prime Minister may be motivated by a determination to exact the highest possible price for his departure, including immunity from corruption charges.
Mr Maliki still retains popular support among Iraq's Shia majority because he has presented himself as the victim of a Sunni counter-revolution and a Kurdish stab in the back. His critics hold that he created a sectarian state that persecuted the country's six million Sunni and provoked them into a rebellion led by Isis.
Western allies of Iraq have been demanding the departure of Mr Maliki and a more inclusive government. But it is by no means certain that a more conciliatory regime will be able to cut a deal with the Sunni community who have seized power in their own provinces. Sunni politicians in Baghdad who are bidding for jobs no longer dare return to their own cities, which are ruled by the Isis. Isis has never expressed interest in negotiations and is pledged to extend its caliphate across the world, and its forces continue to advance near Baghdad.
- The Jihadis Return: Isis And The New Sunni Uprising by Patrick Cockburn is available on orbooks.com