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Iraqi Prime Minister steps down as state is fracturing

Vast swathes of Iraqi territory are under Islamist insurgent control, the chasm between the Kurds and Baghdad has widened again, and the country's divisive prime minister has stepped down. Kirk Sowell explains how Iraq has reached the brink

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, head of government since 2006, announced he was stepping down on 14 August after it had become clear that he had lost the support of the remainder of the Shia political class, as well as the country's senior clerical leadership. He is handing power to prime minister-designate Hayder al-Abadi, a fellow member of the Shia Islamist Dawa Party, at a time when the country's future as a united state is threatened. A renewed Sunni insurgency has overrun most Sunni Arab-populated areas in the west and north of the country, the security services are in a shambles, and a conflict with the autonomous Kurdish region in the north over its independent oil exports throu

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