ANBAR, Iraq - Tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims blocked Iraq's main trade route to neighboring Syria and Jordan in a fourth day of demonstrations on Wednesday against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The massive show of force marks an escalation in protests that erupted last week after troops detained the bodyguards of Sunni Finance Minister Rafaie Esawi, threatening to plunge Iraq deeper into political turmoil.
"The people want to bring down the regime," chanted thousands of protesters in the Sunni stronghold of Anbar, echoing the slogan used in popular revolts that ended in the toppling of the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
Waving the old flag of Iraq that was changed after Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the US-led invasion of 2003, protesters sat in the road, choking off the main trade route between Iraq, Jordan and Syria.
Iraq's fragile power-sharing government has lurched from crisis to crisis and the conflict in Syria risks reigniting sectarian tensions that brought the country to the brink of all-out civil war in 2005-2007.