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Haider al-Abadi is not the first Iraqi prime minister on whom Washington has pinned its hopes for a new era of reconciliation among Sunnis and Shias to stem rising violence and turmoil. A similar wave of U.S. optimism followed the election of Nouri al-Maliki to the job in 2006, as Iraq careened towards all-out civil war. The outgoing prime minister at the time, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was accused of either aiding or failing to restrain Shia militia engaged in ethnic cleansing of Sunni neighborhoods after the bombing of a critical Shia religious shrine. Maliki was hailed as the no-nonsense pragmatist who...

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