(BAGHDAD) -- A new wave of sectarian-related violence in Iraq that began last week continued Monday with reports of at least 23 deaths by car bombings in predominantly Shiite areas.
Well over 200 people have been killed since a military raid on a Sunni protest encampment stirred up old resentments that threaten Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's goal of a unified Iraq.
Critics contend that al-Maliki is trying to consolidate power by marginalizing Sunnis and Kurds ahead of next year's parliamentary elections that would potentially give him a third term in office.
Sunni tribesman have vowed to resist any crackdown by the Shiite majority as several violent skirmishes have resulted since the encampment raid. Meanwhile, al Qaeda in Iraq remains an active insurgency that threatens the government's stability.
Even under the best case scenario, being that sectarian tensions are eased over time, al-Maliki also faces the possibility of Shiite contenders vying for his job next year.
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