THE news from Iraq is bad and must be very worrying for President Obama whose intention of getting almost all US troops out of the country by this September is looking threatened. Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister who won the March election by a very narrow margin said yesterday that the country risks descending into a new sectarian war. The re-counting of votes demanded by the incumbent prime minister al-Maliki continues at a snail's pace but of greater importance is the breakdown of support for Allawi's aim of a non-sectarian coalition government which, he claims, is being caused by advice and funding from Iran which would greatly prefer a Shia-led government. Allawi is also disappointed at the lack of US involvement in present developments and thinks that unless the growing influence of Shia-backed interests is halted internal conflict is unavoidable and that it will not remain within Iraq's borders. A series of suicide bombings from Mosul in the north to Basra in the south took more than 100 lives on Monday served to underline Iyad Allawi's anxieties.

At the present time the US troops still in Iraq are confined to baracks but it is unlikely that they would stay there if the internal security situation continues to deteriorate. If they had to be redeployed on the streets of Baghdad and other towns it would exacerbate internal tensions and make an American withdrawal very difficult.