Iraq’s Shiite-led government paused on Wednesday on the brink of a military assault against al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants that posed the risk of exacting a high civilian toll and plunging the country deeper into sectarian conflict. Senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, have urged Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to secure the support of local Sunni leaders before attacking to drive the extremists from Fallujah, which sits in the heartland of Iraq’s Sunni minority. Many Sunni tribal leaders, alienated and angered by Mr. Maliki, have refused. The standoff tests the U.S.’s remaining leverage in Iraq, which has declined since American forces fought alongside Iraqis to subdue Islamist fighters in Fallujah in two large battles during the nearly decadelong U.S.-led occupation. In the latest incursion, armed Sunni extremists seized control of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, more than a week ago. The fighting has […]