US general: Iraq political limbo fuels violence

The top U.S. commander for Baghdad warned Wednesday that Iraq’s prolonged political crisis has encouraged militants to step up attacks and left civilians so frustrated they could be holding back crucial tips on suspected insurgent cells.

The assessment by U.S. Brig. Gen. Rob Baker is the most direct link by American military brass between Iraq’s nearly seven-month impasse on forming a government and a recent spike in violence that has included rocket strikes blamed on  militias and targeted killings by suspected squads against security officials and government workers.

Baker’s comments also boost U.S. pressure on Iraqi political leaders to finally pull together after March elections, which were narrowly won by a Sunni-backed coalition but without enough parliament seats to push aside the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — who seeks to hold on to power.

Vice President Joe Biden called the Sunni bloc leader, Ayad Allawi, on Tuesday to urge a compromise that would satisfy all Iraq’s rival groups.