'The American appeal — described by General Hamdani and not previously reported — illustrates what could become one of the biggest obstacles to stability in Iraq. Mr. Maliki’s pledges to reconcile with some of the most ardent opponents of his government have given way to what some say is a hardening sectarianism that threatens to stoke already simmering political tensions and rising anger over a recent spate of bombings aimed at Shiites.
On March 28, Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-led government arrested a prominent Sunni leader on charges of heading a secret armed wing of Mr. Hussein’s Baath Party. A week later, the prime minister accused Baathists of orchestrating car bombings that killed more than 40 people. On Monday, he lashed out again, saying the Baath Party was “filled with hate from head to toe.”
Mr. Maliki’s earlier effort to reunite the country was one of Washington’s primary benchmarks for measuring political progress in Iraq. The goal was to separate Baathist opponents of the government who were considered more willing to trade violence for political power from intractable extremists, many of them religious.
Early last year, under intense American pressure, Mr. Maliki pushed through Parliament a law to ease restrictions on the return of Baath Party members to public life. But 15 months later, the law has yet to be put into effect.'