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Once again violence has broken out among Iraq’s competing sects, and once again the country appears poised on the brink of civil war. The key Sunni towns of Fallujah and Ramadi have fallen to Salafi terrorists led by al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Iraq’s Sunni community itself seems torn between its fear of the Shi’a-dominated government in Baghdad and its memory of al Qaeda’s brutal excesses. The United States has urged restraint on both sides, but by providing weapons and other support to the central government, has provoked cries of backing the Shi’a against the Sunnis. Meanwhile, Iraq’s neighbors look on in consternation, anxious to avoid another front in the internecine conflict creeping across the region.
On January 23, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings hosted Usama al-Nujayfi, the speaker of Iraq’s Council of Representatives for a discussion to help Americans understand the travails of Iraq and the perspective of Iraq’s Sunni community in particular. Mr. al-Nujayfi discussed the current crisis of Iraq and the role that the United States might play in helping to avoid a further descent into all-out civil war. Saban Center Senior Fellow Kenneth M. Pollack moderated a question and answer session with Speaker al-Nujayfi following his formal remarks.