The top U.S. commander in the Middle East said Iraq has entered a downward spiral of violence that threatens to drive the country’s leader further into the hands of Iran and heighten sectarian tensions across the region. With Iraqi security forces responding inadequately, U.S. officials are concerned that al Qaeda will develop a haven stretching from western Iraq into Syria. “If left unchecked, we could find ourselves in a regional sectarian struggle that could last a decade,” Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview here. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders on Wednesday, at the start of a visit to Washington and is set to meet President Barack Obama on Friday. The Washington visit comes at a pivotal moment. Gen. Austin and other U.S. officials have blamed […]