Who's who in Iraq after the US exit?

The next year is probably going to be the most crucial for determining the future of Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003. Here are a few of the major players.

3. Iyad Allawi and the Iraqiyya bloc

Former Iraqi premier and head of the secular Iraqiyya coalition Iyad Allawi, right, sits beside Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a parliament session in Baghdad on Nov. 11, 2010.

The Iraqiyya electoral bloc, led by the former Baathist Iyad Allawi, was the great Sunni Arab hope in the last election and the group won a plurality of the vote as the Shiite vote split between three different lists. The bloc is very much a big tent, with Tariq al-Hashemi of the Iraqi Islamic Party (similar in outlook to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood) working with Mr. Allawi (a not particularly religious Shiite) and Saleh Mutlaq, a secular-leaning former Baathist who broke with the party 30 years ago over its discrimination against Shiites.

But the group was stymied in its effort to form a government, and is now under seige. Mr. Hashemi is in Kurdistan avoiding an arrest warrant on what he says are trumped up charges of running a death squad, Mr. Mutlaq is facing a no confidence vote from Maliki's allies in parliament, and Allawi – one of the closest allies the US has left in Iraq – near the end of his rope. He told Al Arabiya satellite channel that he favors early elections now as a way out of Iraq's growing political crisis.

A reminder of the dangers of sectarian competition heating up again was multiple bombings in Baghdad in mid-December that killed 72 people, one of the two bloodiest days in the country of 2011. The attack was almost certainly carried out by Sunni Arabs, given the targets, and the Islamic State in Iraq, a group loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda, claimed it was responsible.

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