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Nouri Al-Maliki Focuses on Baghdad’s Defenses Amid ISIS Gains

BAGHDAD - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is ready to concede, at least temporarily, the loss of much of Iraq to Sunni insurgents and is instead deploying his best troops to defend Baghdad, Iraqi officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The number of troops normally deployed in Baghdad has doubled, the officials said. Significant numbers are defending the Green Zone, the sprawling area on the west bank of the Tigris River that is home to Maliki's office, as well as the U.S. Embassy.

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"Maliki is tense. He is up working until 4 a.m. every day. He angrily ordered staff at his office to stop watching TV news channels hostile to his government," one of the officials said. With Iraq's bitterly divided sects focused on self-interests, the situation on the ground is increasingly looking like the fractured state the Americans have hoped to avoid. On Tuesday, top Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani told Secretary of State John Kerry – who was visiting Erbil - that Kurds have gained considerable territory against ISIS and could carve out an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq.

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- The Associated Press