Iraq's Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, embattled by the militant offensive sweeping his country's north, faces growing calls for him to be forced out of office as Al-Qaeda inspired insurgents press closer to Baghdad. Nouri al-Maliki, who rose from relative obscurity to the country's top political office in 2006, has seen his credibility challenged by the Sunni militants of the Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). The insurgents launched a stunning offensive last week that swallowed up a large chunk of northern Iraq, together with the nation's second-largest city, Mosul. With the country now in turmoil, al-Maliki's rivals have mounted a campaign to force him out of office, with some angling for support from Western backers and regional heavyweights. On Thursday, their effort received a massive boost from President Barack Obama. Obama stopped short of calling for Nouri al-Maliki to resign, saying "it's not our job to choose Iraq's leaders." But, his carefully worded comments did all but that. Full story >>
The cartoon by Dave Simmonds from The Observer shows al-Maliki in a shot-up armoured vehicle. The Iraq flag is in tatters and the vehicle's twisted gun, which is labelled 'Sectarianism', is pointing right at his head (a reference to al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government). Behind him, a group of Iraqi civilians are anxiously waiting to see what happens. Meanwhile, heavily-armed Isis insurgents are advancing on Baghdad ...
The cartoon caption is a play on words. If someone is caught between a rock and a hard place, they are to be in a very difficult situation and to have to make a hard decision. The cartoonist has just changed the words "a rock" to "Iraq". See here for the origin of this expression.