Iraq PM faces major crisis just months ahead of elections
BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is facing one of the biggest challenges of his eight-year rule, with key areas on Baghdad's doorstep outside government control just months before general elections.
He is also often accused of marginalising and targeting Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, many members of which oppose his government, and has presided over a sharp increase in violence in the country to levels not seen in five years.
The city of Fallujah, just 60 kilometres west of Baghdad, has been out of government hands for days, while parts of Anbar provincial capital Ramadi, farther west, are also under the control of militants.
But analysts believe that if the 64-year-old Mr Maliki is able to obtain some type of security victory, he may yet be able to emerge relatively unscathed and focus attention away from other failings, as he has done in the past.