BAGHDAD — A half year after the U.S. military left Iraq, dire predictions seem to be coming true: The country is mired in violence and the government is on the verge of collapsing. With no relief in sight, there's growing talk of Iraq being a failed state as al-Qaida's local wing staged numerous attacks that killed at least 234 people in June.
Iraq no longer suffers widespread retaliatory killings between Sunni and Shiite extremists that brought the country to the brink of civil war. But the spike in violence heightens fears that Iraq could limp along for years as an unstable and dangerous country.
June was the second-deadliest month since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in mid December as insurgents exploited the political struggles between the country's ethnic and sectarian factions. There was a major deadly bombing or shooting rampage almost every three days, many targeting Shiite pilgrims.
"The state is almost paralyzed and dysfunctional due to political feuds. In such circumstances, the security forces also will be paralyzed and the insurgents groups are making use of this chaos," said Haider al-Saadi, the Shiite owner of an Internet cafe in Baghdad. "I do not think that al-Qaida is getting any stronger — it is the state that is getting weaker."
The situation deteriorated shortly after American troops left Iraq on Dec. 18.
The next day Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government issued terror charges against Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq's highest-ranking Sunnis, who fled Baghdad. Sunni lawmakers briefly boycotted parliament and Maliki's Cabinet in protest. By spring, leaders of the self-ruled Kurdish northern region joined the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya political coalition against Maliki, whom they accused of refusing to share power.
And last week, in the first major defection by an influential Shiite leader, anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said he would direct his followers to join efforts to oust Maliki if a power-sharing agreement is not reached.
Maliki followed with a threat to call for early elections that would dissolve parliament if government infighting does not stop.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh agreed Saturday that the political crisis has fueled June's violent surge.