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Iraq's death knell

Iraqis carry a bombing victim in the city of Kirkuk in May.          (MARWAN IBRAHIM AFP/Getty Image)

 Almost daily, there is a deadly suicide bombing or attack in Iraq. The Agence France- Presse has counted only 16 days this year when one hasn't happened. Sixteen days.

There has been a particularly violent surge in the last two days, but it is estimated that  5,400 people have died this year alone. There were 700 deaths in October, according to AFP.

This week, as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki left for Washington, the finger pointing about Iraq's decline began. An influential group of senators wrote U.S. President Barack Obama warning of al-Maliki's "mismanagement" of Iraq's politics and his unwillingness to share power with the country's Kurdish and Sunni minorities, the New York Times reported.

In Foreign Policy, retired U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus also argued "this was not a road that Iraqis had to travel" since the last American troops left at the end of 2011.

 Al-Maliki, who will meet with Obama on Friday, wrote a column in the New York Times urging patience and asking for help, noting that "Syria has become a magnet that attracts sectarian extremists and terrorists from various parts of the world and gathers them in our neighbourhood." As Syria's conflict began, the U.S. walked out of Iraq - nearly nine years after their invasion.

"Despite the terrorist threats we face, we are not asking for American boots on the ground," he writes. "Rather, we urgently want to equip our own forces with the weapons they need to fight terrorism, including helicopters and other military aircraft, so that we can secure our borders and protect our people. Hard as it is to believe, Iraq doesn’t have a single fighter jet to protect its airspace.

"Iraq has matured into a country with democratic institutions. But we are in need of more training, education, practice — and patience. We are on the road to security, democracy and prosperity. While we still have a long way to go, we want to walk that road together with the United States."

Michelle Shephard is the Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recipient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm


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