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"The stunning gains this week by Iraq's Sunni insurgents carry a crucial political message: Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, is a polarizing sectarian politician who has lost the confidence of his army and nation. He cannot put a splintered Iraq together again, no matter how many weapons the Obama administration sends him," Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote today.

"Maliki's failure has been increasingly obvious since the elections of 2010, when the Iraqi people in their wisdom elected a broader, less-sectarian coalition. But the Obama administration, bizarrely working in tandem with Iran, brokered a deal that allowed Maliki to continue and has worked with him as an ally against al-Qaeda. Maliki's coalition triumphed in April's elections, but the balloting was boycotted by Sunnis.

"Given Maliki's sectarian and authoritarian style, a growing number of Iraq experts are questioning why the Obama administration continues to provide him billions in military aid -- and is said to be weighing his plea for lethal Predator drones. The skeptics include some who were once among Maliki's champions," Ignatius adds.

"As the fabric of the Middle East rips apart along sectarian lines, the United States and its allies face a fundamental strategic choice: Can they convene a regional peace conference -- which would seek to reconcile Sunni and Shiite forces and their key backers, Saudi Arabia and Iran -- in some new security architecture?

"Re-stitching the fabric of Iraq and Syria may be Mission Impossible. But with its focus on counterterrorism and weapons supplies, the Obama administration seems to have decided to treat the region simply as a shooting gallery," Ignatius says.

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