Last updated: February 20. 2013 12:12AM - 125 Views

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The stroke suffered by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is a cause for serious concern. The Iraqi government of Nuri Al-Maliki, a Shiite, has been sleepwalking back toward chaos and inter-communal strife. Since an arrest warrant was issued for deputy Vice President Tareq Al-Hashimi, a Sunni who then fled abroad, Al-Maliki has led national unity government in name only.

As a result of what was seen as an attempt by Al-Maliki to consolidate the Shiite hold on power most leading Sunni politicians have been marginalized.

A veteran politician, Talabani, as a Kurd, has been a powerful symbol of the aspiration for Iraqi unity. Indeed, some believe that had it not been for his influence, Iraq's Kurdish region would have gone far further in its quest for greater, if not complete, independence.

For those Shiites who, with Iranian encouragement, are thinking that payback time is fast approaching, for all the humiliations their community suffered under Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated dictatorship, a terrible reality is waiting.

It is probably not too late for the Al-Maliki government to avert a new tragedy through a substantial change of direction. With a more stable political and economic picture in place, the re-vitalized National Unity government could then turn its mind to the pressing issue of tackling the rising tide of terrorism.

Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

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