Protests in the last two weeks led tens of thousands of Sunni Iraqis to block a main highway in the western province of Anbar  and call for Maliki to step down. His critics charge him with marginalizing minority Sunnis and monopolizing power.
In his speech on Sunday Maliki warned Iraq’s neighbors against sowing unrest, praised the army and warned that foreign conspiracies were behind the demonstrations, much as Syria’s President Assad had said earlier on Sunday of militants fighting against his rule.
The Prime Minister used the example of Syria  as a warning to protesters. Syria’s revolt has led to an estimated 60,000 deaths since protests broke out in March 2011.
Maliki also urged politicians to stop “bickering” and “leave the army to itself”.
Some protesters waved Ba’ath Party flags and chanted in support of the late dictator Saddam Hussein during the protests. The head of the now banned party, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, also leant his support to the demonstrators .