Crisis Looms in Iraq With Arrest Order of
Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi
By Sam Dagher - WSJ
December 20, 2011
Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki (left) speaking with
Vice President al-Hashimi on May 10, 2011. Photo:
BAGHDAD, — Iraq's political crisis
took an ominous turn Monday with the issue of an
arrest warrant against Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi,
a leading Sunni Arab figure, for his alleged role in
ordering and funding the assassinations of rival
A judicial panel, which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's
rivals said was under his sway, ordered the arrest
of Mr. Hashemi, a day after the last convoy of U.S.
soldiers left Iraq.
The development boded the possible end to the
unwieldy government coalition of Shiite, Sunni and
Kurdish factions that was assembled with U.S. help a
year ago after a long and acrimonious process that
followed the deadlocked March 2010 elections.
The arrest warrant puts Mr. Maliki on a possible
collision course with the Kurds, who run their own
semiautonomous region in the north and participate
in the central government but have longstanding
disputes with Baghdad over oil and land; and with
Sunni Arabs in provinces like Anbar, Diyala, Nineveh
and Salahuddin who have pressed in recent weeks for
more autonomy from Baghdad with the backing of the
"Unfortunately the situation is heading toward a
deep crisis and the government partnership is under
threat," said Masoud al-Barzani, president of the
Kurdistan regional government and one of
Washington's staunchest allies in Iraq. Mr. Barzani
played a pivotal role in brokering last year's
government coalition, with prodding from Vice
President Joe Biden.
The deal came after he received written guarantees
from Mr. Maliki that he would implement a government
partnership and work toward resolving the issues
including the disputed internal boundaries and
oil-revenue sharing between the central and Kurdish
"We call for an urgent national conference to
prevent the collapse of the political process and
the country's exposure to what could be worse," he
said, criticizing the government for "politicizing
Mr. Maliki's spokesman, Ali al-Mussawi, said Mr.
Barzani's call for a conference was inappropriate
and an insult to those who lost loved ones in acts
ordered by Mr. Hashemi.
Maysoun al-Damalouji, a spokeswoman for Mr.
Hashemi's Iraqiya political bloc, on TV said the
bloc will prove Mr. Hashemi's innocence. She
described Mr. Maliki's move as a "political game"
aimed at taking over all reins of power in Iraq.
"Is everyone who opposes Maliki a terrorist?" asked
In a move bound to widen the split with Mr. Barzani,
Mr. Maliki met on Monday with a delegation from
Nineveh province's government, which complained
about the recent award by the Kurdistan region of
six oil exploration blocks including in disputed
areas of Nineveh to Exxon Mobil Corp.
The head of the Nineveh provincial council, Dildar
Zebari, who comes from a family with an old feud
with Mr. Barzani's clan, said Mr. Maliki said he has
warned Exxon that it could be "responsible for a war
in the area."
The warrant against Mr. Hashemi, which was issued by
a special five-member judicial panel, came one day
after he flew to the Kurdistan region for meetings
with President Jalal Talabani.
Mr. Maliki's spokesman said three of Mr. Hashemi's
assistants were arrested on Sunday night in
connection with the case while they were trying to
board a flight to Kurdistan with Mr. Hashemi and
other officials. Mr. Hashemi's whereabouts were
unknown and repeated calls to his assistants were
A further seven members of Mr. Hashemi's staff were
arrested Monday and his office in Baghdad's Green
Zone area, home to top government officials and the
U.S. Embassy, has been cordoned off by troops and
military vehicles, said Mr. Maliki's spokesman, Mr.
"The arrest warrant has been issued against the vice
president of the republic Tariq al-Hashemi in
accordance to Article Four Terror and this warrant
is signed by five honorable judges," said Brig. Gen.
Adel Daham, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior,www.ekurd.net
in a news conference in Baghdad on Monday night,
referring to a controversial and loosely defined
antiterrorism law from 2005. Officials played
prerecorded confessions by the three members of Mr.
Hashemi's personal security detail, who Mr. Maliki's
opponents say were arrested by the government and
forced to confess.
"I want to expose this criminal Tariq al-Hashemi in
front of the whole nation and in front of all Iraqis
who were fooled and misled by him and some who are
still fooled by him," said Ahmed Shawqi, a major in
the Iraqi army and member of Mr. Hashemi's security
team, on a grainy video.
For about 30 minutes, Mr. Shawqi described how he
received orders from Mr. Hashemi personally and
through senior members of his office, including
Ahmed Qahtan, the vice president's personal
secretary and son-in-law, to carry out attacks
against several public figures.
Mr. Shawqi said Mr. Hashemi's office supplied him
and other members of his group with
silencer-equipped pistols and improvised explosive
devices that were kept in one of Mr. Hashemi's homes
in the Yarmouk district on Baghdad's western side.
Those attacks allegedly resulted in at least 10
deaths plus others injured.
Mr. Shawqi said he personally received an envelope
stuffed with $3,000 in cash from Mr. Hashemi for the
first hit that he allegedly carried out in 2009,
which he said involved planting an improvised
explosive device in the path of the head of the
heath directorate of Baghdad's Rusafa district, who
The State Department in Washington said it was
"closely monitoring these reports" and "urging all
political sides in Iraq to work out their
differences peaceably, politically, through
Mr. Hashemi's political bloc Iraqiya, which is
headed by Mr. Maliki's main rival Ayad Allawi, held
an urgent meeting in Baghdad to consider its moves.
Participants said Iraqiya was considering pulling
out from Mr. Maliki's government coalition after
suspending its participation in Parliament over the
On Sunday Mr. Maliki asked Parliament to take up a
no-confidence motion against Deputy Prime Minister
Saleh al-Mutlaq, another senior member of the bloc,
for calling Mr. Maliki a "dictator" in an interview
with CNN television network last week.
—Jabbar Yaseenand Ali Nabhan contributed to this
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