A senior Shia politician told parliament on Tuesday that Iraq was “fast sliding towards civil war” as sectarian attacks across the country killed 47 people.
Ali al-Adeeb, a senior member of the Dawa party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, made his statement after a spate of violence which has seen unusually brazen attacks even by Iraq’s standards.
There was no sign of a let-up in the bloodshed on Tuesday. Amid other attacks, gunmen killed 10 members of the majority Shia community as they were passing through a rival Sunni neighborhood of south Baghdad on their return from a funeral, while a suicide bomber killed five people outside the capital’s fortified Green Zone.
However, in a rare sign of sectarian conciliation, Sunni leaders ended a boycott of parliament to protest the abduction of a colleague.
Adnan al-Dulaimi of the Iraqi Consensus Front told news agencies that their group would return to meetings, after having withdrawn from the assembly in response to the abduction earlier this month of Tayseer al-Mashhadani by presumed Shia militiamen.
Mr Dulaimi credited a call for national unity from Moqtada al-Sadr, whose followers are suspected of having carried out the kidnapping. Mr Sadr however is thought to have little control over many factions within his loosely-structured movement.
Mr Dulaimi told Reuters that the kidnappers had also promised to release Ms Mashhadani soon. The abductors had demanded a release of detainees and an end to an attack on Shia mosques. Since the abduction, Iraqi security forces have fought several battles with Shia militants in an apparent crackdown on the militias.
They were not able to prevent however the Sunday massacre of 40 Sunnis by Shia gunmen who took over part of a Baghdad neighborhood and reportedly checked IDs to determine the sectarian identity of passers-by.
The Sunni climbdown over Ms Mashhadani’s abduction suggests that while Sunni leaders feel pressured to stage protests to appease their constituents, they also are willing to work with Mr Maliki’s government to try to ease tensions.
However, the recent bloodshed also suggests that the politicians are struggling to have any influence on the situation on the ground.