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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.A retired U.S. four-star commander asks in an interview: "How in the world can you keep betting on this number [Maliki] given what's happened?" He believes Maliki is incapable of retaking the territory he has lost, and he wonders when Iran's Quds Force will intervene to rescue Maliki's collapsing army.Maliki's U.S.-trained army has suffered a series of crushing defeats, as Sunni insurgents from an offshoot of Al-Qaeda captured the northern Sunni cities of Mosul and Tikrit and swept toward Baghdad. Maliki's forces are said to be drawing their battle lines just above a huge arms depot at Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad, a key U.S. logistics base during the American occupation, from 2003-10 . By consolidating his forces so far south, Maliki is, in effect, conceding the northern cities.
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