The Iraqi equivalent of the supreme court issued an order Monday forbidding Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi from leaving Iraq, according to al-Hayat writing in Arabic. The order came on the heels of the issuance of a warrant against him, accusing the Sunni Arab politician of involvement in a bomb plot in the Green Zone aimed at assassinating PM Nouri al-Maliki.
Hashimi’s office issued a press release Monday confirming that three members of his security detail had been arrested.
Hashimi’s web site explained that he had been harassed at Baghdad airport, such that his flight was delayed 3 hours, on his way to Sulaymaniya.
Hashimi’s bodyguards have been put on television confessing to terrorist attacks and implicating the vice president. They seem to me sleep deprived and soulless as they speak and the performance did not fill me with confidence.
The Iraqiya Party (or National Iraqi Movement) to which al-Hashimi belongs holds 91 seats in a parliament of 325, and had been part of the national unity government cobbled together in November of 2010. Some 80% of Iraqi Sunni Arabs voted for Iraqiya in 2010, so that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s attack on its leaders is viewed by many Iraqis as an assertion of a tyranny of the Shiite majority.
The Iraqiya ministers have announced a boycott of cabinet meetings.
If it happens, the total withdrawal of the Iraqi National Movement from the government will not cause it to fall. First, al-Maliki still has a majority in parliament as long as the Kurds continue to stand with him (and they probably will). Second, the Iraqi system doesn’t seem to envision governments falling and snap elections being held, as happens in the UK and other parliamentary systems. The prime minister can lose majority of support, but continue till the next election as head of a minority government. In summer of 2007, al-Maliki lost the support of all the major parties but his own, but his government did not fall.
On the other hand, al-Maliki is in danger of provoking very bad relations between Shiites and Sunni Arabs. He not only is dragging the Sunni vice president before the courts as a common terrorist, but he is trying to strong-arm vice premier Saleh Mutlak out of office for complaining that al-Maliki has begun acting dictatorially and is becoming worse than Saddam.
The USG Open Source Center paraphrases the Iraqi press on the unfolding crisis:
“Iraq: Al-Maliki Adviser, Others Cited on Arrest Warrant Against Al-Hashimi
Iraq — OSC Summary
Monday, December 19, 2011 …
Document Type: OSC Summary
… Iraq websites on 18 and 19 December were observed to post the following reports on the arrest warrant reportedly issued against Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and some of his security guards: On 19 December
Ak News posts a 300-word report citing a statement issued by the Media Office of Prime Minister Nuril al-Maliki on the arrest warrant issued against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. The report cites Maryam Al-Rayyis, adviser at Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Media Office, as saying that “the announcing of the arrest warrant issued against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi has been postponed following political mediations.” She added that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki agreed to give Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi 48 hours “to present credible evidence that he is not involved in the charges brought against officers in his office.” [The warrant was issued on Monday.]
The report further cites Al-Rayyis as saying: “The political mediations will not stop Al-Maliki from implementing the arrest warrant that was issued against Al-Hashimi. Therefore, Al-Hashimi has to turn himself in to the judicial authority.” She noted that “the arrest warrant does not necessarily mean that Al-Hashimi is guilty.” (AKnews in Arabic – Website of the privately owned Kurdistan News Agency, providing coverage of domestic Iraqi issues with special focus on Kurdistan; Chief Editor Abd-al-Razzaq Mahmud; URL: http://www.aknews.com/)
On 18 December, Al-Amarah News Network posts a 200-word report on the arrest warrant issued against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. The report says: “A high-level source revealed that former Parliament Speaker Mahmud al-Mashhadani and National Alliance leader Ibrahim al-Ja’fari mediated between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi to stop the arrest warrant against the latter.”
The report adds that Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi told Al-Mashhadani that “he has no information about the confessions made by officers affiliated with his office and that he has nothing to do with their intentions or actions.” The report adds that Al-Mashhadani conveyed this statement to the prime minister. (Al-Amarah Militant Al-Amarah News Network in Arabic — Website associated with the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, url:http://al3marh.net/news/ )
On 19 December, Al-Sumariyah News posts a 500-word report saying that “Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi stressed today that he is exercising the highest level of patience and waiting for a ‘rational’ behavior on the part of the government after his delegation was stopped at the Baghdad International Airport yesterday and seven of his escorts were arrested, one of whom is his son-in-law.”
The report says that Al-Hashimi accused some sides of “escalating the situation” and demanded the release of three of his security guards.
The report also cites a statement issued by Al-Hashimi’s Media Office today in which it said: “Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi was exposed to intentional harassment at the Baghdad International Airport yesterday evening. This led to a three-hour delay of the take-off of the plane that was scheduled to leave to Al-Sulaymaniyah. Al-Hashimi’s visit (to Al-Sulaymaniyah) was in response to an invitation to him and his first deputy Khudayyir al-Khuza’i from the president of the republic to hold a meeting there.” The statement added that “a military force that was stationed on the airport highway stopped the convoy on its way back and arrested two of Al-Hashimi’s security guards. His personal car, escorting officer, and driver were also taken to the Intelligence Department of the Ministry of Defense without stating the reasons.”
The statement added that “the car and the driver were released after three hours, while the three other security guards remain in detention, which conflicts with the statements of Major General Qasim Ata, official spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command, who claimed that they were released.”
The statement said: “The military force that has been surrounding Al-Hashimi’s residence for weeks has been reinforced, while another force surrounded the office of the Al-Tajdid Movement in Al-Yarmuk and Al-Hashimi’s Citizens’ Affairs Office in Al-Qadisiyah. The force withdrew a few hours later.” The statement demanded the release of the three security guards “immediately,” stressing that the detention was not based on an official or judicial order.” (Beirut Al-Sumariyah News in Arabic – Iraqi news agency affiliated with Al-Sumariyah Television, private Iraqi satellite television, broadcasting from Beirut; URL:
On 19 December, Al-Sumariyah News posts the following report: “The Higher Judicial Council issued an order today banning Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and his security guards from traveling outside the country.” ”