There have been no signs of improvement since, and the fears that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies would continue to seek to consolidate security and political power in their own hands have quickly borne out, just days after the last US combat troops departed the country.
Mr. Maliki has had an arrest warrant issued for Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who has fled to autonomous Kurdistan. Mr. Hashemi has been charged with running a death squad. Whatever the merits of the charges against him -- few Iraqi politicians are more than one or two degrees separated from the sectarian violence at the height of Iraq's civil war – the timing of the charges sent a strong message that political consolidation, not reconciliation, is the order of the day.
Since then, the largely Sunni Iraqiya bloc has withdrawn its legislators, Maliki has begun parliamentary proceedings to remove the Sunni Saleh al-Mutlaq from his post as deputy prime minister (a position granted last year in recognition of the strong showing of Iraqiyya at the polls), and the prime minister has threatened to dismiss all of his political rivals from the cabinet and pack the government with Shiite loyalists.
As this paper wrote a few days ago, all of this strongly increases the odds that Iraq could plunge back into a sectarian civil war.
This is not, however, inevitable. The massive scale of Iraq's violence and the cleansing of whole neighborhoods of Christians, Shiites, and Sunnis will reverberate and create challenges for years. At minimum, 100,000 have died from violence in the war. Adjusted for population, that's the equivalent of one million Americans killed, or more than 300 9-11s, since 2003.