Barbara Slavin reports for Al Monitor on the violent flare-up in Iraq’s Anbar province and how the Obama administration is pressuring Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to defuse the crisis:

The Barack Obama administration is using the current crisis in Iraq’s Anbar province to try to push Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government to take steps to shore up the country’s tattered unity, including reaching a new oil agreement with the Kurds.

Comments made in recent days by Vice President Joe Biden and by a senior US official in a conference call with a handful of journalists on Jan. 9 suggest that the Obama administration — accused by critics of being hands-off since US forces left Iraq three years ago — is trying to shape Baghdad’s response to extremist Sunni forces in Anbar in proactive ways. How successful the United States will be in the current polarized environment in Iraq and throughout the region remains to be seen, however.

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