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.”