Iraq’s al-Maliki Seeks Arrest of Sunni VP as Terrorist, Parliament in Uproar

Only a couple days after US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta declared the Iraq War over and turned the last US base in Iraq over to the Iraqi military, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has struck against a Sunni Arab vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi. Iraqi police have issued an arrest warrant for Hashimi, a member of the now Sunni-dominated Iraqiya Party. The Ministry of the Interior, which al-Maliki controls, confirmed the warrant.

Three members of the VP’s security detail had been under investigation in recent days, charged with engineering a car bombing inside Iraq’s Green Zone on November 28, allegedly in hopes of assassinating al-Maliki. The car bomb had been constructed inside the Green Zone (a protected area in downtown Baghdad encircling government offices and embassies) which admittedly does point to a member of the political elite. It is alleged to have gone off prematurely. Apparently Hashimi is now being fingered as the mastermind of the car bombing.

If the country’s vice president really is a terrorist, it is a sad commentary on the state of Iraqi politics. If he isn’t, then al-Maliki is deploying ‘war on terror’ accusations to grab complete power for his coalition of Shiite parties.

The announcement of the warrant came just after the Iraqiya Party walked out of parliament (according to al-Hayat writing in Arabic), announcing a legislators’ boycott. Iraqiya holds 91 of 320 seats and is the single largest party in that body.

The largely Sunni Arab members of parliament had been angry by what they described as PM al-Maliki’s tendency to dominate power centers, rule extra-constitutionally, and to deny Sunni provinces the right to form federated regions on the model of the Kurds’ Kurdistan Regional Government. The 2005 Iraqi constitution contains provisions for the formation of further confederated super-provinces.

Hashimi, born in 1942, is a former officer in the Iraqi military and had been part of the Iraqi version of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2009 he switched to the largely secular Iraqiya Party led by ex-Baathist Ayad Allawi, a former CIA asset among the expatriate Iraqis in London.

Iraq has a presidential council with three members, which functions as a sort of senate. It consists of a president (currently Jalal Talabani, a Kurd), a vice president (Shiite politician Adel Abd al-Mahdi) and another vice president. Hashimi has in the past been accused of holding up legislation for sectarian reasons. The ability of the presidential council to block laws, however, has been weakened.

Hashimi gave an interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat on December 7, which was translated by the USG Open Source Center. In it, he supported the formation of further regional governments in Sunni provinces, despite al-Maliki’ . He also expressed disagreement with al-Maliki over the latter’s support for the Syrian government, saying that Iraq should stand with the Syrian revolutionaries. Excerpts follow:

“(Mustafa) So you also in the Presidency of the Republic are complaining of marginalization and exclusion…
(Al-Hashimi) The issue of marginalization, exclusion, and limiting the decision-making to the prime minister and the State of Law has unfortunately become a noticeable phenomenon. Today they are talking about this in a completely open manner. Let us give an example: the security file. The security file represents a great concern and is currently suffering from many failures. Today, there are violations taking place and they happen from time to time. Silencers are used in killings such as the one that took place recently in the parliament within the Green Zone. This represents a major infiltration and a great violation in the administration of the security file. Therefore, at the end of the day you do not know why such and such a thing happened and what measures are adopted to prevent such issues from happening in the future. You are not included in the investigation, you do not look at the investigation reports, and all you hear is one-sided. Here I would like to point out that the press does not necessarily publish what is actually going on. This is the reason why the state of anger, dissatisfaction, and political squabbling exists.

Regrettably, partnership has not been achieved until now. Partnership occurs when the prime minister decides and calls for a meeting of the political bloc leaders, and even in these events the leaders do not hesitate and respond positively to discussions and dialogue and so on. However, we want this matter to expand to the issues that concern everyone, that concern the nation and that pertain to the higher national interests…”

and this one is ironic:

“(Mustafa) There has been talk of a coup or plans by some Ba’thists and former officers to carry out a coup, how do you view this matter?
(Al-Hashimi) All indications confirm that this information is baseless. Of course I cannot talk about others or defend them. Al-Maliki accused the Ba’thists and I have nothing to do with the Ba’thists. The Ba’thists can speak for themselves. However, I can say that this information that was leaked to the media does not reach the level of being firm evidence or strong information about a coup or anything like that. Therefore, I ask the prime minister and the general commander of the Armed Forces to release those who have been arrested so that all these allegations and claims are announced to the Iraqi people.

I believe that those arrested are innocent and that this matter has been fabricated. Many of the names that were mentioned were of people who were already dead, the second section were people who were ill, the third section were people who were handicapped, the fourth were people who have been displaced outside Iraq for many years, and the fifth were trying to make a living under these harsh circumstances. I have previously said on other occasions that the government unfortunately creates crises from time to time…this is a completely fabricated matter in every sense of the word. We have a source within the National Alliance regarding the source of this information and why it was brought up at this point in time.”

18 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    There seems to be a disturbing wave of assasination and insurrection attempts across an arc that runs from Lebanon to Isfahan and Baluchistan.

    One wonders idly if it is being centrally coordinated and if so where and by whom?

  2. Even if he was behind the bombing would that necessarily make him a terrorist? Are there no plain old political murders anymore?

  3. So much for “bringing democracy to Iraq,” which was the fourth or fifth lie used by Bush to justify invading a soverign nation who’d done no harm to the US or any other country when we sent in missiles and the Marines.

    I’m not sure if I am relieved or saddened by the fact that I won’t be alive when historians get around to writing the sad chapter on this period of the American experiment. We destroyed a nation, killed nearly 5,000 of our own people plus another 100,000 Iraqi men, women and children, displaced another million or so, were responsible for triggering a massive ethnic cleansing and a civil war, and became a poster child for terrorist recruiters everywhere. Oh, yeah, and squandered nearly $1-trillion that would have been better spent on feeding, housing, educating and providing health care to our own people.

    Shame on us.

  4. Charley James-
    I am not sure the Iranians, Bahrainis, Kuwaitis and Israelis would agree with you that Saddam’s Iraq had “done no harm” to them, being the recipients of invasions and missile attacks by Iraq.
    Fuad Ajami (whom you probably don’t like but who does know something about these matters) says that the ousting of Saddam showed the Arab peoples that their leaders are not invincible supermen and this led directly to the “Arab Spring” ousting of the dictators.
    Finally, if Iraq has not set up a truly functioning democracy, who is more at fault….Bush or the Iraqis themselves?

      • the ousting of Saddam showed the Arab peoples that their leaders are not invincible supermen and this led directly to the “Arab Spring” ousting of the dictators

        I never knew that “directly” meant “eight years later,
        or “after a period in which democratic agitation in the region was all but shut down,” or “only after the mission and the people who who ordered it had been thoroughly repudiated both at home and around the globe.”

        Foud Ajami, like most people who were wrong about the Iraq War, is trying to cover his butt.

  5. Ike-baby, that’s just silly. The US cheered Saddam on when he bombed and gassed the our mutual enemy the Iranians. Saddam posed no significant risk to the Israelis and, from what I’ve read, the Kuwaitis were kind of asking for it by drilling horizontal wells under Iraq (could Saddam have been blamed for thinking the west would turn a blind eye. George Bush the Elder was going all wobbly ’til the Iron Lady set him straight). Bahrainis? Dunno. You’ll have to educate me. One thing I do know, though, is that no reputable analyst ties the Arab Spring to our dim-witted invasion of Iraq

    • Saddam fired SCUD missiles at Israel and Bahrain. IIRC the missile that hit a barracks and killed something like 29 GI’s was in Bahrain.
      I see that you view Saddam as more an object of pity than many others. I recall his 1979 celebration where he got a lot of bigwigs from his BA’ATH party in an auditorium. Saddam had somebody get up and spoil the party atmosphere by announcing he was part of a conspiracy and he would name names of fellow conspirators who were in the audience. As each name was read out, a policeman would go up and lead the poor guy away. Saddam had the thing filmed and you can see everyone in the audience sweating it out hoping they wouldn’t be named. I presume those arrested were shot. I guess it in necessary to do things like this once in a while to keep everyone on their toes.
      Add that to the massacre of Kurds, use of poison gas in the war with Iran which was a war crime, the massacres of Shi’ites, the suppression of their religion and other various activities such as mass execution of real and imaginary opponents, I just don’t think most people do view him as a helpless object of pity.

      • Ike

        You’re not putting words in my mouth, are you? Did I say I pitied Saddam or did I merely point out that he had plenty of winking and nodding from the US while he was doing what he was doing. -just google the photo of Rumsfeld and Saddam shaking hands if you’re in doubt. No, I said that Fuad Ajami is not a reputable middle-eastern analyst and that damage Saddam inflicted on the victims you described in your initial post was mild by the standards of the region (a sad commentary, but a reasonable one). I also recall that the Kuwaitis were hated by most in the region and few felt the need to come to their defense-hence my comment that their drilling practices provoked Saddam.

        Please, your defense of Fuad Ajami. I’d love to hear it.

      • Ike – those SCUD attacks you were referring to were during the first iraq war (right?) I’ll never defend S.H., but it’s a poor argument that he was a bad guy specifically because he fought back during a war.

      • Point is, Ike, America allied with Saddam AFTER 1979. 60 Minutes presented evidence that the US Navy coordinated Iraqi attacks on Iranian oil platforms in the Gulf. You’ve seen the pictures of Bush-1 era Rumsfeld with Saddam, haven’t you? How many of the industrial contracts he thus signed with American firms enabled his attacks on the Kurds?

        Most of all, don’t you recall Saddam trying to get Ambassador Glaspey to give a US stamp of approval on his invasion of Kuwait?

        There are allegations that the CIA was involved in the Baath coup against the previous Marxist government, during which time Saddam tortured the defeated leftists for his superiors. My God, half the things the bastard has done in his career seemed to be with US approval and support, as long as he killed the Marxists and Shiites we wanted killed. So he followed orders, ended up bankrupt fighting our mutual enemy, and then expected a ridiculous quid pro quo in Kuwait, so we’ve been destroying his country ever since. When does our foreign policy get held responsible for all our Saddams the world over?

  6. I am well aware of how the US supported Saddam when it suited them, just the way the US was allied with Stalin in World War II. I can understand the complaint that the US was being “hypocritical” in ousting him after supporting him previously. But this has nothing to do with portraying him as a “pathetic, misunderstood” leader. If Kuwait was slant drilling his oil, there are ways of dealing with these disputes short of invasion, particularly among brother Arab states. The fact that Kuwait was “hated” in the neighborhood is still not a justification for invading them. As I recall, Kuwait (like the US) supported him in his war with Iraq and gave him a lot of money for it. They cut if off when the war ended and he didn’t like that, and felt entitled to more.
    Regarding Fuad Ajami, I knew you wouldn’t like him, but that doesn’t mean he is necessarily wrong about the ousting of Saddam leading to the Arab Spring.
    In summary, I can understand the objections to the American invasion of Iraq, but this does not necessarily extrapolate to Saddam being a nice person.

    • Um, Ike.

      Are you putting words in people’s mouths again? Who on this site has called Saddam “pathetic and misunderstood”? Please explain how how brother Arab states would resolve the slant drilling besides war? The Arab League, perhaps? Given its success in Syria, we see it has real teeth.

      Regarding Fuad Ajami, you’re absolutely correct that I don’t like him. Why would I? He’s Dick Cheney’s favorite middle east “expert” and I insist that he IS “necessarily wrong about ousting Saddam leading to the Arab Spring”.

      I asked you for a defense of Fuad Ajami. Is that really the best you can do?

  7. If I might make one more comment:
    Prof Cole-I would be interested to hear your opinion about Fuad Ajami’s thesis about the ousting of Saddam as paving the way for the Arab Spring.

    The inconsistincies of American policy towards Saddam were known for a long time. Bush I said, in the run-up to the first Gulf War that “Saddam is worse than Hitler”. That means that Hitler had some good side to him that was lacking in Saddam. I am still wondering what that is and am waiting for Papa Bush to explain that. Obviously this statement was made along with others, such as the phony claim made that Iraq soldiers went into a hospital and threw out premature babies from their incubators in order to get public opinion aroused. American policy makers were obviously aware that their reversal of policy from supporting him to fighting him was hard to explain so emotional arguments had to be used. I recall that after Bush I stopped the offensive after calling on the Shi’ites to rise up and then abandoning, a commentator pointed out that a statement like the “worse than Hitler” one has policy implications because Hitler was pursued all the way to his bunker.
    In spite of all the flip-flops, Bush II was able to get broad support for his invasion. Maybe there’s a lesson there.

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