Iraq Sunni VP Tareq al-Hashemi says
charges could reignite sectarian war
Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. Photo:
December 26, 2011
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Iraq's Sunni Vice
President Tareq al-Hashemi, wanted on charges he led
death squads, called the case a plot to destroy
opponents of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that
could reignite the sectarian slaughter of 2006-07.
Iraq has been plunged into a political crisis in the
week since the final U.S. troops withdrew, after
Maliki's Shi'ite-led government unveiled an arrest
warrant for Hashemi, who left Baghdad for the
semi-autonomous Kurdish north of the country.
Maliki also asked parliament to fire his Sunni
deputy prime minister, sidelining Iraq's two most
powerful Sunni Arab leaders and potentially undoing
a shaky power-sharing deal that Washington hoped
would keep peace after nine years of war.
"Today the outcome of this crisis, which was
unfortunately blown up by the prime minister, is
very dangerous," Hashemi told Reuters in an
interview at a guesthouse of Iraq's President Jalal
Talabani, in the Kurdish north's Sulaimaniyah
"Today Iraqis live under the atmosphere of sectarian
tension that we lived through in the hard years of
2005-2007," he said.
Speaking about himself and his Sunni Arab community,
Hashemi added: "Mr Maliki knows the supporters of
Tareq al-Hashemi and which community he belongs to,
and therefore he should have thought about the
negative consequences of these issues."
Violence in Iraq has subsided since the sectarian
civil war of 2006-07, when Sunni insurgents and
Shi'ite militia killed thousands of civilians each
month, but without U.S. troops to act as a buffer,
many Iraqis now fear a return to those days.
At least 72 people were killed in bombings across
Baghdad in mainly Shi'ite neighbourhoods on
Thursday, in the first sign of a possible violent
backlash against Maliki's moves.
The main goal of U.S. policymakers in the final
years of the war was to prevent a recurrence of that
bloodshed by ensuring that Sunnis, Shi'ites and
Kurds all remained represented in the government in
A power-sharing deal reached a year ago kept Maliki
in office at the helm of a fragile unity coalition.
But that appears to have unravelled just as the
final U.S. troops pulled out a week ago. Hashemi's
Iraqiya bloc, the main Sunni-backed group has
suspended its participation in parliament.
Hashemi said the timing of the accusations against
him to coincide with the U.S. withdrawal was
"The target is clear, a political hit for Tareq al-Hashemi...
The political dimension for this is to get rid of
all those who oppose Nuri al-Maliki, it is clear. So
Iraq can stay in the grip of one-man rule and
Shi'ite leaders say the case against Hashemi is
criminal and not motivated by politics. It cannot be
negotiated because it is now with the courts.
Iraq's interior ministry broadcast taped confessions
it said were from Hashemi's security detail, talking
about payments Hashemi made to them to carry out
assassinations and bombings.
Hashemi denied all charges which he said were
"fabricated". He said the three bodyguards worked
for him but the confessions showed on Iraqi TV were
"taken by force".
Hashemi said he had no plans to seek political
asylum or flee Iraq, but had requested that the case
against him be moved to a court in the
semi-autonomous Kurdish region,www.ekurd.net
rather than Baghdad where "the executive power
controls the judiciary".
"If they are seeking justice, let them agree to my
request and I will stand trial and will accept any
verdict by Kurdistan's courts," he said. "They are
not part of Maliki's project and they are not part
of Hashemi's project. Kurdistan will be the fair
judge in this issue."
Asked if he would consider leaving Iraq or seeking
asylum, he said: "This is my country, these are not
my thoughts and not in my plans... I will not run
Looking weary during the interview, Hashemi said he
had initially come to Sulaimaniyah with a small
suitcase and two suits - and had told his wife he
would be back in Baghdad after 48 hours.
He planned to stay in the semi-autonomous Kurdish
zone for now, and his family had left Iraq after a
wave of raids by security forces on his house and
office and arrests of his staff, he said.
By Rania El Gamal - Reuters
Copyright ©, respective
author or news agency,
does not take credit for and is not responsible for the
content of news information on this page